Interviews and photographs by Tifaine Rutherford

Mindful of the current climate in the trade union movement, seeming discontent in many workplaces, particularly the public service and with May Day being celebrated, we asked the man and woman in the street for their views on this year’s Labour Day. Their comments follow:

20130506cillinbynoeCollin Bynoe, President of the Guyana Teachers Union – ‘Today is Worker’s Day or Critchlow’s Day, a day when all workers of this country have the privilege of standing on the shoulders of this great man who would have fought to form the first registered trade union of the British Commonwealth, and we have the glorious opportunity of standing in his debt, because he is the one who would have created this niche for us in Guyana. Labour Day 2013 comes against the backdrop theme, ‘Job creation for youth employment’, and it is something that is pretty important to the Guyana Teachers Union in the sense that indeed we feel that there is need for job creation for the youths of this country. For students who would have completed over six years in secondary schools and they cannot get a job it is most disgusting. Some of them have to take up some fields that they never in their wildest dreams thought they would be doing. Then there are those who because they are running out of patience lead a life of intelligent crime and it is a great dilemma. In education, there are lots of experienced people who they are bringing back into the system but, they are filling the gap where younger folks could have been, and we have got to take the bull by its neck and start giving young people opportunities from now so that by the time they start making mistakes they are enriched in the position and are ready to do what they have to do. They need to have young people holding those positions. There is need for a freeze on contract workers coming back into the system; need for a freeze of the rehiring of the old labour and making full room for our more qualified young people who are coming out of the universities as well as the secondary schools.’

20130506errolchanErrol Chan, retired worker – ‘At one time when there was Trade 1 and Trade 2, groups of corporations would come together at Bookers Sports Club and you would have a grand march. Now it is too much isolation. People used to socialise a lot then. It was much better then. Nowadays you have too many different groups. It is too divided now.’

20130506lincolnlewisLincoln Lewis, General Secretary of the Guyana Trade Union Congress – ‘Labour Day this year and every year before is a great microcosm of what happens in this society. It is indicative of the malaise that exists. We will have to do much better. The labour unions will have to do much better to stand up for their rights. This year our political leaders did not stick to the theme which is to address the job creation for youth employment. They talk about youths being the future, but I guess that our leaders do not want that. As they talk the talk, they have to be prepared to walk the walk.’

20130506alexander lespuerAlexander Lespuer, security guard – ‘Sol leff Darity. There is no solidarity now. The labour unions fall down since British take over. The mistake we made is to become a Republic. Years we are getting 5% increase. They robbed Critchlow, from Pollydore right down. The best labour laws, Venezuela have it. I enjoyed Labour Day in the earlies when the military band used to come out. I also enjoyed it when Burnham used to make the speech at the National Park.’

20130506daleberesfordDale Beresford, President of the Guyana Local Government Officers’ Union- ‘I think that the theme for this year’s Labour Day, ‘Job creation for youth employment’, is one of the most significant in that it highlights the plight of the youth in Guyana in relation to their future and also the economic development of Guyana. Statistics coming out of UG and the schools and colleges show that youths are not being able to gain employment and this is a worrying factor. There should be more emphasis on creation of jobs which would have youths employed. This would improve our GDP and ensure that we have youths who are able to contribute to the development of Guyana. I think that it should also be one of the areas for the government, opposition, private sector and other social partners to tackle immediately, but instead you are hearing about downsizing and restructuring which does not augur well for the future of Guyana.’

20130506quincyadamsQuincy Adams, mechanic – ‘Labour Day is the only day I enjoy myself after working so hard and so long. This is an enjoyable day for all workers after working all year round. This is the one day that they have for themselves.’

20130506orinhallOrin Hall, M&CC worker – ‘Labour Day on the first of May is a public holiday set aside for the working class. This is the only holiday put aside for workers. Today workers don’t celebrate Labour Day like years ago. In Guyana you have different working class, some work with the government, and some with the private sector. Today is a day which public and private put aside and they socialize with each other. Today is also a day where the President is supposed to have a parade where he gives a talk and mingle with the people. Most workers look out to hear if the working class will have an increase in pay. We paying 16% vat and not getting any increase. This year’s budget did not cater to any raise in pay for public servants. Only the ministers getting big money, what happen to public servants?’

20130506claudettestewartClaudette Stewart, public sector employee – ‘I like the parade and going to PSU on Regent Street. I think that workers need more money. They should raise the pay for these hard-working people. It really hard with this little salary workers are getting. This government needs to do something. I am glad for today where I could come and enjoy myself after working hard and long.’


20130506lorrainemcleodLorraine McLeod, public sector employee – ‘This is the one day when we remember the rights Critchlow fought for in Guyana. Authorities in Guyana have no respect for workers they are making promises but not carrying through with them.’


20130506dwaynebuttersDwayne Butters, public sector employee – ‘It is my view that the observance of Labour Day in Guyana should be used to pay tribute to those like Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow who have fought and paid with their lives for the benefits employees receive today. While we are very far from what is really expected, there is no one fighting for workers’ rights any more. It shouldn’t be about politics and political parties; it should be about building Guyana.’

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