Unions not doing enough for women in workforce

– Women’s Advisory Committee chair

Although women make up over 50% of the workforce, trade union leaders are not doing enough to address issues affecting them in the work place and the wider society, Chairman of the Women’s Advisory Com-mittee Kathy Fowler said yesterday.

“In our view, all the gains made are now being eroded and our leaders seem to be more concerned with promoting their own agenda and not the workers’ interest,” Fowler told attendees yesterday at the Guyana Trades Union Congress Labour Day rally at the Critchlow Labour College, Woolford Avenue.

Leaders of unions that fall under the umbrella body and Leader of the Opposition David Granger were on hand to hear her criticisms and calls for a greater focus on women, which were met with thunderous applause and shouts of approval from many female workers.

“Are you really uniting to deal with issues affecting women so as to ensure labour and national development? Are you really concerned with what is happening as it relates to women? Are you committed to protecting the achievements made on behalf of women in Guyana?” she questioned her leaders. “We feel that the numerous social problems plaguing our society continue to overwhelm us and we need help. We need our leaders to unite to deal with poverty, crime, high cost of living, unemployment, suicide, sexual harassment in the workplace, discrimination, human trafficking, domestic violence…,” she stated.

Fowler noted that while there is much talk by union heads about care and concern being shown to workers, many sweeper cleaners countrywide are still to receive the minimum wage despite the fact that the national minimum wage order took effect since July last year.

The plight of security guards was also addressed. “There are thousands of women employed within the security sector who work without access to basic sanitary facilities, in some cases for more than twelve hours.

They are sometimes left to secure premises exposed to the elements of the weather because not even a security hut is provided,” she pointed out.

She also highlighted reports made by some nurses “at a certain hospital” that their maternity payments are denied.

Despite the myriad complaints, Fowler argued that leaders instead of addressing the issues were oppressing workers. “We are concerned that some of our very union leaders by their actions oppress and discriminate against us. Instead of addressing bread and butter issues affecting the workers, union leaders find time to be dictatorial,” she stressed.

She urged union leaders to put aside their personal agendas and unite around issues for labour and national development or the same issues would continue to fester and pose more problems next year.

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