I write to respond to a letter by GAWU General Secretary Seepaul Narine (‘Government has contrasting approach to BCGI workers from sugar workers’ SN, April 28). “What’s good for the goose is also good for the gander!” and this statement is not only relevant in 2018 it was also relevant in the era of 1992-2015, but more specifically from 1999-2015.
A fundamental principle of the trade union movement is to see all workers treated equally, regardless of administration/government. The last, but not the only time, this claim can be made in the traditional productive sector, ie bauxite and sugar, was during the Desmond Hoyte administration. A Structural Adjustment Programme, put in place by the Hoyte administration, did not address the issue of bauxite workers only but sought to address in equal measure that of sugar workers through the establishment of new management systems.
This measure of equality was torpedoed with the advent of the PPP/C government. A new programme was introduced that resulted in prolonged discriminatory practices against bauxite workers. The sordid history we all know ‒ loss of thousands of jobs, dislocation of families, the breaking up of the workers’ pension plan worth in excess of $2.5 billion and refusal to engage the representative unions on a way forward.
The pain and suffering of the bauxite workers, their children and communities are still evident. During the period of the PPP/C government marginalisation and discrimination against bauxite workers our sisters and brothers in the sugar sector remained oblivious to the plight of their brothers and sisters in the bauxite communities, preferring political loyalty above trade union solidarity.
There has always been support in the struggle for equal treatment of workers across all governments, with the resulting consequence of accusation from all sides of serving one or the other’s purpose. This is a time when the lessons for all unions should be solidarity to the workers irrespective of which political power is in office or in opposition. The last thing any worker should experience is the need to ignore the plight of any worker because history has shown that tables turn. Workers’ interest must first and foremost be that a threat to workers anywhere is a threat to workers everywhere. Notwithstanding the above one recognises that GAWU’s appeal for equal treatment should be a factor this government must place under review to evaluate its merit and any necessary course of intervention.
Guyana Bauxite &