The Guyana Sugar Corporation’s recent refusal to release with pay several sugar workers to attend the 21st Delegates’ Congress of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has been deemed as an attack on the Union’s constitutionality and union democracy.GTUC President Lincoln LewisThis is according to the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) and the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), both of which in a joint statement of protest on Wednesday, condemned GuySuCo for its “discriminatory stance” regarding GAWU’s recently-concluded 21st Delegates’ Congress, an event which is held once every three years.FITUG and GTUC posited that attending the Congress has been a tradition that has existed for decades, noting that it was in the interest of workers’ welfare. However, the Sugar Corporation had reportedly disallowed sugar workers from obtaining paid release to attend the Congress as delegates.“GuySuCo decided to disrespect in denying the worker-delegates to the GAWU Congress paid release and transportation. In previous Congresses, the requisite number of workers who are members of GAWU and were formally selected as Congress Delegates would receive paid release for the duration of the Union’s Congress and assistance with transportation to the Congress venue,” the trade union umbrella bodies pointed out.GAWU President Komal ChandThe unions noted that GuySuCo’s approach was “vexatious” and “unhelpful to good industrial relations” and contemptuous of the institution of trade unionism”, adding that workers were allowed to attend the Congress, despite the Corporation’s financial difficulties, in the 1980s and 1990s.“FITUG-GTUC, now having been alerted by this travesty, is duty-bound to ensure that such undermining of trade union democracy does not continue nor affect the trade union movement,” the bodies added.On August 21, the Delegates Congress was held at the Bath Primary School, West Coast Berbice. However, on August 20, GAWU had registered its concern, having sent a letter since July 7, 2016, to GuySuCo where it sought to discuss the release of workers to attend the observances. GAWU claimed that they were told that the Sugar Corporation would not do so.Reports indicated that the Sugar Corporation’s cash-strapped financial status had reportedly restricted it from approving the release of the workers and assisting in transportation.GAWU, however, accused GuySuCo of undermining the Union, pointing out that the refusal was “anti-sugar worker”.GAWU had termed the entire situation a “travesty”, and posited that it has contributed to an “undermining” of the country’s “fragile democracy”, which has been making its way into the Union’s operations. At the Congress, GAWU President Komal Chand had called for a united trade union movement. GTUC President Lincoln Lewis called on all trade unions to not allow politicians to deny the unions the right to fight for workers. Lewis had also echoed the sentiments of GAWU that the rights of workers were “under threat” by political leaders.