Female trade unionists lead launching of Critchlow Week
Call for unity

Stabroek News
April 25, 2000

The three women who shared the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) platform for the first time in its history at the wreath-laying ceremony to launch Critchlow Week, called for unity so that the country could move forward.

The speakers were President of the Guyana Postal and Telecommunication Workers Union and GTUC executive member, Maureen Fortune; Donna Todd, wife of the late Gordon Todd, who represented the Women's Advisory Council; and President of the Trades Union Youth Movement and member of the General Workers Union, Denise Haynes.

The ceremony was held on Sunday afternoon at the foot of the statue of Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, the father of trade unionism in Guyana and the English-speaking Caribbean.

Fortune told the representatives of the state, labour leaders, political and other organisations that although the first labour movement was formed 81 years ago, there was no change in the struggle and task before the movement.

She said that Critchlow fought to unite workers and today the GTUC was fighting to maintain unity among its affiliates.

Management was not kind to labour in the early days of the movement but today some of them have grown to accept that labour was here to stay.

Fortune said that she would use her office to bring pressure to bear on any one guilty of sexual abuse or sexual harassment and cited a recent reported incident where a woman was raped at a timber concern. She called on the GTUC and the police to let the public know of their findings.

She said that labour had not been able to influence national discourse so that their workers could reap the benefits they so richly deserve.

Todd said that during the very early days of Critchlow, women were in the forefront of the struggle, even though society felt that they should not have been there as their place was in the home. They were described as "the centipede gang".

She also recalled that nearly 50 years before Critchlow was born women began to show their mettle when at Victoria, East Coast Demerara, a woman called Anna Benjamin and others placed their savings in wheel barrows and rolled up to the home of a plantation owner to purchase Guyana's first organised village, Unity. Their watchword had been unity and their strength was their reward.

She said that there were countless instances of significant contributions made by Guyanese women to public life and the unified thrust towards development in our country.

Todd noted that more women graduate from university every day than men but many woman were still being given token representation in many vital areas of national life.

The trade unionist called on everyone to ensure that the next decade was won and not lost due to inequalities, hatred and division.

Haynes called for unity of leaders of the movement and leaders of the country. She also called on government and trade union leaders to give young people a chance to play their role in the development of the nation.