-as annual rally fails to draw large support
With this year’s Labour Day march and rally in Linden attracting a poor turnout, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Linmine Secretariat Horace James last Thursday issued a call to workers to stand up and be heard in their quest for improved benefits and working conditions.
Delivering brief remarks at the rally, held at the Mackenzie-George-town Bus Park, James said it is time that the people of Linden and Region Ten reflect seriously on the role of trade unions in the society. He also urged the audience to keep struggling to maintain the benefits workers have gained and not be too disappointed by the poor turnout. “It is the one day that throughout Linden, I know, that workers used to tell management and government in no uncertain way the directions and their needs,” “Isn’t there any issue that workers really need to be addressed?” he asked.
James added that it is expected that workers attend May Day parades and rallies with placards. He then called on his scant audience to visit the Linden museum to look at old newspaper articles and photographs that highlighted workers’ concerns, portrayed on placards at previous Labour Day parades and rallies.
He referred to a photograph in the museum that depicted a worker with a placard demanding a road from Linden to Soesdyke. He also referred to photographs with workers bearing placards that called for electricity to be supplied to the residents of Christianburg and Wismar as well as calls for improvement in the supply of potable water to those communities.
Stressing that improved benefits and working conditions “do not come from the sky like manna,” James said “workers sought resolutely to achieve those things.”
He further stated that he wanted to remind all workers that the unions in Linden were among the more vibrant unions in Guyana and he recalled that when he joined the bauxite company in the late nineteen seventies, he met benefits such as time and a half pay and meals given for overtime work and he was surprised that ten to fifteen years later, nurses in Georgetown were fighting to acquire such benefits, which he had taken for granted.
“I didn’t know that workers had to fight and strike to achieve those things.
So any future things I think the workers need … you need to represent yourself to achieve it and I hope by the time the next rally, we will see you in larger numbers and so the world, the government, the management can read your placards and see the issues that deep down that the workers want.”
Mainly workers from the Linden Hospital Complex (LHC) were among the 30 people who participated in the march and rally. The march began in front the Palm Tree Cinema area on the Wismar shore and proceeded to the Mackenzie-Georgetown Bus Park, where the rally was held.
Mortimer Livan, First Vice President of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), delivered the feature address at the rally and noted that people tend to forget the true significance of Labour Day amidst the annual jollification.
He said that Guyana experienced struggles for improvement in working conditions in the twentieth century, where Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow em-erged as one of the greatest labour leaders in this country through the struggles he led for waterfront workers.
He also pointed out that workers currently enjoy benefits that were non-existent fifty years ago, including female workers. “Today in most institutions, women are granted maternity leave with pay. Fifty years ago that was a no, no. In fact, in the public service fifty years ago, a woman could not get married – she had to leave the job–and if she got pregnant on the job, she had to resign,” he noted.
Livan also pointed out that in the past women could not have aspired for senior positions in the public service and the highest position that women could have achieved in any ministry of government was that of secretary. “Today, we have women, who are permanent secretaries … Regional Executive officers, etc.,” he said.
Meanwhile, the rally saw the passage of two motions. One motion called for government and the Guyana Public Service Union to begin negotiations of wages, salaries and allowances and have them paid immediately within the next three months from last Thursday. The other motion called on all trade unions to have training programmes in trade unionism conducted for all workers at every place of employment before the end of 2014, in light of a rapid turnaround in the workforce in all places of employment in Linden.
The rally also saw brief addresses by Region Ten Chairman Sharma Solomon and Fitzroy Parkinson, a councillor on the Region Ten Regional Democratic Council as well as performances by veteran poets, Frank Fyffe, Yvonne Drakes and Jeff Trotman along with musical renditions on the saxophone by Pastor McDonald, who delivered the opening prayer.