May Day preparations underway
April 25, 2003
Preparations are going ahead for the May Day workers' march and rally but as in past years it is not certain which unions will show up.
The National Park rally has over the last couple of years been boycotted by two of the largest unions, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) over differences with the main body.
GAWU held its own rally at the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) ground on Carifesta Avenue last year after having marched under the banner of the GTUC all the way to the National Park entrance at Thomas Lands.
Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) General Secretary, Lincoln Lewis said at a press briefing yesterday that the main union body was only responsible for organising the rally and that it was the affiliates' duty to have their members participate in the event.
"The TUC members are the unions and the unions have presidents and general secretaries so we are not targeting any specific group...we have set the platform, it's the unions to back it."
Efforts to contact GAWU's General President, Komal Chand, following the press briefing proved futile. He was said to have been in a meeting.
Efforts to reach officials of NAACIE yesterday on their participation in the May Day event also proved futile.
According to Lewis, the programme of activities leading up to May Day begins on April 27 with a church service at the St James the Less Church in David Street, Kitty in the morning.
At 4:30 pm the wreath-laying ceremony will take place in the forecourt of the Parliament Buildings with GTUC Organising Secretary Leslie Gonsalves chairing proceedings and the address being given by GTUC Vice-President Grantley Culbard.
On May 1, the day's events will start at 7 am with the assembly and march of affiliate unions from Independence Park on Middle Street.
After winding its way through several city streets it will conclude at the National Park where participants will hear addresses by GTUC's General Secretary Lewis and its President Carvil Duncan.
Union leaders are expected to address the state of the economy and the 17% increase in power tariffs which they said must be rejected as unconscionable and irresponsible.
Lewis saw the increase as adding a weighty burden to an already struggling workforce whose pay increase amounted to what government considered equivalent to the rate of inflation and therefore was not any real hike in wages.
He objected to some old faces - Chairman Ronald Alli and Board member Winston Brassington - being retained on the board of the power company following the withdrawal of the private investor while saying that GTUC President Duncan was sitting on the body in his own right as a citizen.
Lewis used the press briefing to signal the re-engagement of labour with the "much touted issue" of the social contract between government, industry and the GTUC.
In this respect the GTUC has appointed a high-level team including Professors Clive Thomas and Harold Lutchman and veteran Leslie Melville to engage the other groups in good faith.
Culbard also shared the head table at the briefing with VP Norris Witter who said that this year's theme for the rally had to do with respect for workers' rights. It was his view that despite the numerous problems most could be solved if the authorities concerned and the workers' representatives sit down in an atmosphere of mutual respect to discuss the way forward. (Oscar P. Clarke)