Please allow me to turn my attention as a former trade unionist with the Guyana Agricultural and General Worker’s Union to the question of some 140 Chinese workers employed in the construction of Marriott Hotel absent the input of members of the Guyanese labour force.
It is evident that in the face of the tremendous challenges ahead and the expectation that unemployment will continue to rise, the government needs to work for national cohesion and unity with the trade union movement. The socio-economic situation looked grim when President Donald Ramotar assumed office, and the reality was he might not be able to walk between the raindrops of comformism and transformation. His reputation for commitment to principle and devotion to the working people will not survive the foreign Chinese workers on the construction of the Marriot Hotel.
Some people in the government are very aggressively advocating Chinese workers instead of our own Guyanese. The opposition and trade union movement must take a dispassionate look at this issue and not to be overwhelmed by those who take such positions, whether from an ideological standpoint or because their companies stand to gain.
Lest I be misunderstood, let me say clearly that I am not against foreign skilled workers in principle, but I do not believe that foreign unskilled workers should in every instance be the first or only option when employing on a government and taxpayer funded project.
We cannot and must not take this lightly. It is prudent to draw government’s attention to the recent revelation by a Chinese construction firm that China is engaged in setting low wages.
This could play a crucial role in keeping out the Guyanese workforce on projects.
I therefore believe that the government should struggle not only to employ Guyanese workers, but to increase their numbers.
The Guyanese working people have acquired great experience and given the opportunity now without political interference, they would be able to make very valuable contributions to the construction of the Marriott Hotel.
Many of our people live below the poverty line, a large number are jobless, there is a brain drain, and the lack of institutional and administrative capacity continues.