Guyana’s trade unions: still relevant?
-Our “Brazilian” Road Cometh!
So many “juicy” issues abound! From Budget `Busing to Legal Loopholes to crime, corruption and cocaine. And I choose to write about Trade Unions?
Well it might not be that inappropriate or insignificant. Just consider the position – on the 2012 Budget – of Lincoln Lewis, Carvil Duncan and Patrick Yarde – for starters.
Lewis, the spokesman and virtual head of the minority grouping, the traditional Trades Union Congress (TUC), is a stringent anti- PPP, anti-government activist who offers weekly analyses of the PPP’s alleged discrimination against Afro- Guyanese working class interests. Duncan, inheritor of a glorious trade union legacy in this country, now comes off as a pro-government unionist willing to support most of the administration’s policies even agreeing with “the boys” that the 2012 Budget is a working- class one. (Really Carvil??).
Poor Patrick Yarde. Frankly Speaking, the President – for – life of the government employees union, seems to have been effectively emasculated by the successive PPP governments since 1992. Past President Jagdeo, smarting from the awards of an Armstrong Tribunal, set about to “out-Burnham” the Forbes Burnham technique of granting public servants nominal, cosmetic salary increases near Christmas, then ignoring the time honoured collective-bargaining process involving Yarde’s GPSU.
But I must mention – and agree with – Yarde’s observation that this Budget should have paid attention to Public Servants’ pensions, health plans (and the question of “parallel contract employment”) in the same hurry that Parliament granted Bharrat Jagdeo’s multi-million dollar pension package.
The relevance of unions
(Perhaps with no validity, I feel I’ve influenced investigation and commentary on such issues as poverty reduction and the CCTV cameras/lie detectors’ use.)
Now you young reporters and journalists, research the history, existence and relevance of trade unionism and its bargaining agents in Guyana today. Examine when time and historical analysis permits, the dynamic correlation between unionists and politicians in this land. Let me start you-all off.
Veteran, respected Labour Union Attorney and Advocate Ashton Chase once told us, not so long ago, that he “was shocked to learn that only around 35% of Guyanese workers are organized in trade unions”.
GLU’s Carvil Duncan, in explaining current worker indifference to joining unions, ventured that today’s employee, though he/she knows that the Constitution provides for trade union membership, is foremost concerned about job security vis-à-vis employer-position on unions; that employees don’t spend too long in one job nowadays and that both government and private sector employers can make some weak unions quite ineffective.
Duncan claims that attitudes to unionism are however changing for the better, the unions are now in many workplaces, the poor itinerant worker might hope to, so he/she is joining up. I hope so. To me, trade unions must militantly count public opinion and support for worker-causes; they must use any “employer-connection” only in the interest of their members’ welfare. And unions must promote economic ventures amongst themselves to further union-members’ development – credit unions, buying clubs, transportation, even workers banks! (Check Jamaica).
Make Unions relevant and worthwhile. The laws exist.
President Ramotar and “the Road”
I repeat here that because I don’t vote, I don’t have to be a “fan” of any of the national “leaders” we are left with today.
I do maintain a healthy respect for institution, office and function, however. And I do maintain that those elected, or selected, must govern and manage in the interest of all of us – including non-voting citizens. That’s why I feel free to comment on the President’s Easter-time activities.
I choose to focus on his focus in the Rupununi border/administrative community of Lethem. He spoke of an “authority” to manage that Region’s all round economic development, even as he met with Brazilian visitors, regulars and presence. He noted the imminent breakthroughs the “Brazilian” Bridge and promised road can bring us (hope springs eternal that Guyana could actually implement and enforce legislative and formal, social guarantees that our sovereignty will not be compromised by all that that road brings.)
I now hereby predict that, after the Summit of the Americas in Colombia this weekend, our president will secure, in Brazil, Brazilian startup to begin construction of the Brazil-Guyana highway! I say “the road” will begin this year!
So check me out. Check it out, in one week’s time. A super two-nations road for Ramotar! And Guyana?
Is President Ramotar actively promoting Bharrat’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS)?
Is his re-employed Science Adviser, NavinC promoting Bharrat’s LCDS?
Pegasus owner Robert Badal observes: the government will use tax-payers dollars to help fund the Marriott Casino Hotel. His and his hotel workers’ taxes to build competition against him. How fair is that?
Good letter to the Stabroek from Guyanese Bobby Vieira warning about how Caribbean Tourism Journalists will judge in Georgetown next week. Frankly Speaking, Guyana has both stunning tourism packages – Mashramani, kite culture, Emancipation soirees (if well-produced), Regattas, Rodeos, Motor-Racing, Ecological Resorts, et al. We also have high prices and high garbage! Discuss.
I’m wondering how to present, in good taste, an hilarious tale I heard about a Guyanese Berbician Elder stopped at the American JFK Airport, to be searched for hidden drugs. He had hydrocele!
Til next week!