May Day: Is re-unification of the Labour Movement possible?
Guyana Chronicle
May 2, 2003

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The observance of May Day in Guyana yesterday highlighted an almost elusive dream of the re-unification of the labour movement.

It was far from satisfactory in the interest of promoting the struggles of the working class, for there to be, as there have been in recent years, two separate May Day rallies in the capital city.

That this is so, and is likely to persist in the future, should give cause for concern among the countryís working people.

We believe that the cure for this illness off divisiveness among the labour elite lies in addressing the lack of democracy in the labour movement. We also believe it is not just right for the sugar workersí unions to be locked out from any meaningful place in the TUC structure and, at the expense of their members who carry the burden of the movementís finances, they were required to play second fiddle to the agenda of the new crop of labour aristocrats.

The people feel that this division in the labour movement works adversely to a united position against any erosion of the standards of living of workers, whether in the private or public sector, and weakens the collective bargaining process. The old adage ďa house divided cannot standĒ should require the labour leaders to work for the healing of the schism.

The unity of the labour movement is also necessary for the prosecution of struggles which have now reached global proportions, to hold back on fair and reasonable remuneration for work, especially in situations where foreign capital influences national policies. Foreign capital sees as inconsistent with its goal of profit-making any vigorous trade union representation and the freedom of workers to bargain for improved conditions of work.

It is no secret that since 1979, when Guyana entered into IMF-World Bank Structural Arrangement, that conditionalities attendant to drawing down benefits have impacted on the welfare of the working population as well as the nationís poor and disadvantaged. It is in this context that labour leaders must unite to strengthen the hands of the nationís negotiators to win enhanced conditionalities on terms for loans, which today fuel and drive much of the job-creating infrastructural development works.

Above all we recognise that the unity of our labour movement is imperative if workers were to take advantage of the many pieces of legislations that protect them. There is need in this regard to protect as positive gains of the working class, the Trades Union Recognition Act, The Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act, and other laws that make it a crime to discriminate against any worker on the ground of his/her race, gender, religion, etc.

We feel that the labour movement must take stock of these gains and significant social achievements in the fields of education, health, housing, communication and water, and work towards collaboration, cooperation and compromise, instead of losing their way in pursuits of division, conflicts and confrontation.

We owe it to the outstanding work and sacrifice of our great labour leaders from Critchlow to Cheddi Jagan and Joseph Pollydore to heal the rift in the labour movement, and to recapture the spirit of 1953 when there was genuine working class unity.

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