May Day is the day set aside internationally to commemorate our centuries of struggle. In 1919 the first trade union was formed by Hubert N Critchlow – the British Guiana Labour Union – who became known as the father of trade unionism. In the yard of the Parliament Buildings stands the statue of Critchlow, the great fighter of all workers.
In 1946 a 29-year-old Dr Cheddi Jagan joined the MPCA, then the sole bargaining agent in the sugar industry, but soon resigned as he was against company unionism. In 1947 he joined Dr JP Latchmansingh’s GIWU with a view to providing genuine representation. The union which continued to champion the workers’ interest was later renamed GAWU. Mr Ashton Chase, former Labour Minister, wrote “by May Day 1951, the powerful influence for unity cast by the PPP forged a united parade in Georgetown. From 1951 the Trades Union Congress began sponsoring the May Day marches and in 1958 the PPP Government declared May1st a public holiday, replacing Empire Day, May 24th.”
Editor, while the trade union movement has made some important strides, the movement and the workers as a whole have many barriers to progress. The accountability of labour leaders to their membership and to the movement will certainly have to be increased. This more than anything else, will increase the influence of the ordinary workers in the day-to-day work of the movement.
Let us not divide ourselves into different bodies; rather, we should work towards creating one workers’ organisation capable of defending the interests of all working people.