Significant moves on behalf of workers Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
May 5, 2002

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MAY Day observance last week would have had special significance for the trade unions in Guyana and Guyanese workers at home and abroad, particularly in Caribbean Community states where there are continuing reports of exploitation of Guyanese labourers.

First, there was the welcome news that the Minister of Labour, Dr. Dale Bisnauth, has seen it as appropriate and necessary in the interest of organised workers in various sectors of the society, to use his good offices to promote much needed unity within the Guyana Trades Union Congress.

It is simply neither in the interest of the local labour movement nor the workers themselves that the GTUC, as the umbrella body representing the organised work force in the public and private sectors to remain divided, with leading and powerful unions like the Guyana Agricultural Workers Union and the National Association of Agricultural and Commercial and Industrial Employees remaining out of its fold.

The leadership of the GTUC cannot escape blame for not honouring an earlier pledge to work steadfastly to end the split within the movement and to give serious consideration to the grievances frequently raised by GAWU and NAACIE. Nor should GAWU and NAACIE take pride in being too rigid instead of working towards compromise to bring about reconciliation.

While Labour Minister Bisnauth moves to heal the rift between the GTUC and GAWU and NAACIE, a very strong and influential voice has been raised in Barbados on behalf of Guyanese workers who are too often the victims of exploitation by Barbadian employers.

The voice is that of the General Secretary of the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), LeRoy Trotman, former President of the Caribbean Congress of Labour and the first trade unionist of this Hemisphere to have ever been elected head of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).

BWU's Support
Trotman - who has been in communication with Guyana's Consul to Barbados, Norman Faria, on the issue of unfair treatment experienced by some Guyanese between employers and immigration authorities, and, more importantly, exploitation of Guyanese labourers engaged in building construction, the sugar industry and other sectors - used the occasion of May Day last Wednesday to speak out against the "exploitation" of Guyanese workers.

Faria, Barbados-born Guyanese Consul, deserves much credit for getting the issue of the exploitation of Guyanese labourers, irrespective of ethnicity or political affinity, raised by Trotman so publicly and at such an important international occasion as May Day.

Faria had previously been instrumental in getting Guyanese contract workers to band themselves into a Guyanese contingent to march with the BWU on May Day. Within recent months, he has been showing a high profile in exposing alleged unfair treatment of Guyanese, as well as in publicising investment opportunities in Guyana for Barbadian and other regional business people.

He said last week that the BWU was pleased to be engaged in an initiative on behalf of Guyanese contract workers for them to share the aspirations of the Barbadian people by demonstrating their friendship and solidarity in marching together.

The BWU's General Secretary, for his part, has disclosed that he has now invited Consul Faria to bring together Guyanese workers at 'Solidarity House’, the headquarter complex of the union, one of the most organised and influential in the Caribbean Community, to discuss the conditions under which they have to work, the hours and the pay being received, and the claimed dishonouring of getting less money than promised for their contract labour.

Following this discussion, the BWU plans on making representations to the appropriate organisations, including the Department of Labour and the Barbados Employers Federation.

This gesture by the BWU is indeed a practical demonstration of the meaning of workers solidarity, an encouraging development to be emulated across the region as efforts continue to inspire greater consciousness of how much we have in common as the diverse peoples of `One Caribbean’.

To the efforts of Labour Minister Bisnauth and those of the BWU's Trotman and Guyana's Consul Faria, we say take a bow, as we await the positive results to flow from such initiatives.