Only a decade ago a small event called Pork-knockers Day began to be celebrated in Bartica. It was a one-day a year event set aside for employers in the mining industry to show their appreciation for their employees. Tents would be set up at a venue chosen by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and a bar, food and other tokens of appreciation for mining workers would be available to the employees and other persons visiting and celebrating with the pork-knockers.
This event has quickly grown to become a national event, and is an economic boost to the business community and the economy of Bartica. It attracts thousands of Guyanese at home and in the diaspora who would all journey to Bartica with friends and family to show their appreciation for mining workers.
However, a noticeable decline in showing appreciation for the workers began in 2015, with only one employer being at Pork-knockers Day. In 2016, no employer was present, and in 2017 with no Pork-knockers Day, only a playoff was hosted by GGMC on August 19, which resulted in a disaster, a failure and a total mess.
Also evident in the last three years is the absence of government officials at these celebrations and appreciations for mining workers.
As for the failed play-off by GGMC which remains the sole organizer of the event, if it attracted 50 persons including GGMC staff and vendors, that was plenty. How sad and disappointing.
As disagreements and other unresolved issues between government and the gold and diamond miners’ association rage on, and there is the non-participation of employers in this appreciation for workers, one thing is for sure, the workers remain the victims of the row.
For sure, the non-participation of employers is taking its toll on these mining celebrations.
As a born Bartician and a former mining worker myself, I am calling on both the government and the gold and diamond miners’ association to take baby steps and find a solution to resolve their disagreement and other issues.
The contribution of miners to the development of Bartica has not gone unnoticed by Barticians who are all connected to mining either by work or business, as the town is the frontier for mining. Mining has outperformed all other sectors; it remains the largest contributor to Guyana’s GDP, and is the lifeline of Guyana’s economy.
The shifting of Pork-knockers Day celebrations from the mining frontier to Linden without prior consultation with Barticians is unfair and very disrespectful, and I am calling on GGMC to offer a public apology to Barticians for the manner in which they went about organizing the Bartica leg of events this year. I am sure there is a reason, but whatever that is, it should have been in the public domain prior to the holding of the failed play-offs, so the general public and Barticians would have been informed.
From all the signs Bartica was excluded from this year’s mining week calendar of events. Mining week is celebrated from August 20 to 26, and the Bartica leg of events was held on the 19th, outside the calendar of events. Was this a vindictive move by GGMC in retaliation for the boycott by employers?
Whatever the disagreements between GGMC, government and the miners’ association, Barticians and the business community should not be denied our annual Pork-knockers Day celebration. I condemn the unilateral decision by GGMC to shift this national event that Barticians have grown accustomed to and look forward to yearly.
GGMC falls neither in the category of employers nor employees, and it is not a representative of the workers either. In the future, therefore, GGMC should not be left to be the sole organizer of the mining events for workers. I suggest a tri-party organizing committee with representatives from government, the miners’ association and mining workers and the consideration of a subvention from the Ministry of Natural Resources, with monies coming from GGMC, a very wealthy state agency. In those circumstances, with or without the employers’ participation workers would have a successful month/week of appreciation.
Despite this disrespect by GGMC to Barticians, as a Bartician and President of the National Mine Workers Union, I am appealing to the miners and Barticians not to boycott the Pork-knockers Day celebration on August 26 in Linden. Let us all go out, celebrate and show our appreciation for the mining workers and Lindeners whose hospitality knows no limit, and keep the tradition of appreciation for mining workers alive.
Sherwyn Delano Downer