Trade unionist calls for investigation into Public Service Department

May Day 2018

A senior female trade unionist has called on Government to investigate the operations of the Department of Public Service within the Ministry of the Presidency, claiming that it is not treating workers and their unions fairly, while criticising trade union leaders on a number of issues.
In a fiery address at the Labour Day rally held at the National Park on Tuesday, Head of the Women’s Advisory Committee of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), Karen Van Sluytman, said she has evidence to support her calls for an urgent investigation to be launched at the Department.

Head of the GPSU’s Women Advisory Committee, Karen Van Sluytman

“I believe there is an urgent need for an investigation to be launched into the operations of the Department of Public Service. The Department of Public Service ought to be functioning to the benefit of all public servants. It is not happening. It is functioning for certain public servant, friends and cronies of a few… I am asking our national leaders to please look into to that,” she stated.

Sidelining women
Van Sluytman, who was passionate throughout her address to the hundreds of workers in attendance at the rally also noted that women make up close to 60 per cent of the total workforce, and stressed the need for them to be given equal opportunities like their male counterparts.
“You have to take into consideration, the concerns and needs of use women workers. When we place people in authority… you have to put people of integrity and good character,” she said referring to a senior official of the Public Service Commission. The trade unionist claimed that the individual is known to have a certain agenda and does not have the best interest of public servants, particularly women, at heart.
“There are many women who have committed their career as public servants in this country and 20-30 years after we are stagnated because we are being denied upward mobility by males who have been placed in positions of authority in the public service. We need to stop it. We’ve had enough of it. We have the competence, the capacity, the skills and knowledge and intellectual capacity just like the men.”
Van Sluytman argued that for far too long working women have been sidelined and this must not continue to happen. The trade unionist also lashed out at the leaders of various trade unions, saying that many of them hold on to positions for decades, and it is clear that they have no intention of letting go nor making way or creating opportunities for others, especially women in the movement.
“We’ve had enough of those trade union leaders who want to hold on to those unions, as though the unions belong to them, as though the property of the union belongs to them, personally. The unions belong to the membership. The property of the union belongs to the membership,” she posited.
Van Sluytman was one of two trade union activists that have called for the removal of the GPSU President Patrick Yarde and some members of the union’s executive who have held on to those positions for several years.
She spared no effort in criticising trade union leaders also for providing lip service to issues relating to decent work. The trade unionist says this must start at home, if leaders are to demand from employers decent conditions for workers. “You going and talk about decent work for public servants and decent work for other workers, and the people who’re working with you, you don’t have any regard for their conditions of work. You have them working overtime and not paying them…what is decent about that.”
Van Sluytman captured the crowd’s attention throughout her entire speech and even offered advice to women workers to walk away and stay away from abusive relationships. She said domestic violence is becoming a major issue and women in the workforce must place their hands in the effort to combat this scourge which is taking place in many communities countrywide.
The issue of sexual harassment in the work place was also discussed. She urged women to stand up to bosses who make sexual advances towards them and don’t be afraid to speak out. The trade unionist’s advice to women in these situations, is never to compromise and speak to someone.