Disunity not solidarity marks May Day celebrations
Stabroek News
May 2, 2004

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Solidarity forever may be the rallying cry for the union movement but it was in short supply at this year's May Day rally.

The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) held their rally at the movement's Non Pariel headquarters, Critch-low Labour College (CLC) yesterday.

This was attended by Opposition Leader Robert Corbin and Chief Labour Officer, Mohamed Akeel representing the government.

At the same time the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) held its rally to a fair-sized crowd at the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) Ground on Carifesta Avenue. This was attended by President Bharrat Jagdeo, Prime Minister Sam Hinds and other PPP/C officials.

And the Clerical and Commercial Workers Union (CCWU) boycotted both rallies in protest at the lack of unity. The National Associa-tion of Agricultural Com-mercial and Industrial Employees also did not show up for the march or the rallies but for reasons unknown.
Members of the Nadira and Indranie Shah Dance Troupe perform at the GAWU rally. (Photo by Ken Moore)

Meanwhile it was not all harmony at Non Pariel with GTUC President Carvil Duncan blasting those persons doing their utmost to engender further splits in the already fractured movement.

Discarding his prepared presentation, Duncan lashed out at those whom he said maligned him for suggesting the need for changes in the structure of the movement. Duncan, in an exclusive interview with Stabroek News several weeks ago, had suggested that the GTUC needs to be headed by a technocrat whose actions would be guided by its executive council.

He also noted statements by current General Secretary Lincoln Lewis which he said were not helpful in promoting unity in the movement.

Relations between the two did not seem warm yesterday as they sat either side of Corbin, and Lewis did not make his customary speech.

According to Duncan, the trade union movement is not immune from criticism while lamenting the fact that it is time some leaders, who directly or indirectly contributed to the current state of affairs, did something about it.

He called on the movement to develop new visions other than those which cater for their involvement in negotiating for increase wages and salaries.

He said more attention must be paid to improving benefits and conditions of service of workers.

Witter calls CCWU traitors

Chairman of the proceedings, GTUC Vice President Norris Witter alluded to what he termed traitors in the movement who are calling for unity while doing otherwise themselves.

He singled out the CCCWU General Secretary Grantley Culbard whom he said is a GTUC VP, speaking at the GAWU rally.

However, Culbard in a statement at the CCWU headquarters later said that that union did not stay for the TUC rally in order to send a clear signal of the need for unity.

He said that he was scheduled to make an appearance at the GAWU rally but did not, due to being deemed a traitor.

And amid all this General Secretary of the Trade Union Youth Movement, Franklin Wilson called on the leaders to show the same interest and guidance that such founders as Joseph Pollydore had given them.

According to Wilson most of the union seemed satisfied with the fact that the leadership is from the Over-60 club while they were giving lip service to training and supporting the youth arm.

Chand broadsides TUC

Over at Carifesta Avenue, GAWU's General President Komal Chand said it was time for workers to move away from impotent unions to ones that can truly represent their needs. He accused the TUC of stalling in its tactics to block union polls organised by the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board.

He also said several unions under the umbrella of the GTUC did not have their books and accounts up to date and that leaders must recognise that accountability is a prerequisite to the success of the unions.

He suggested that something must be wrong with the GTUC if unions continue to relinquish their affiliation.

Earlier in the morning several unions gathered at the traditional Parade ground site on Middle Street prior to marching though several city streets on the way to the CLC and NIS grounds to listen to speeches.

The participants included the Guyana Public Service Union, Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union, Guyana Teachers Union, Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers, General Workers Union, GAWU, the Post and Telecommunications Workers Union, CLC students and municipal workers union.

The march was also graced by the presence of a contingent from the group Red Thread protesting the rights of women and mothers to be recognised as wage earners. During the march, teachers waved twenty-dollar bills in protest at what they deem meagre wages.