No…your Eyewitness didn’t mix up the Bard’s play, “Love’s labours’ lost”. That had to do with a king and his three friends who decide to focus on their studies and not to get distracted with “love”. But being yesterday was “Labour Day”, he decided to reflect on the heady days of yore when Labour was strenuously wooed by the politicians. And why today, they barely rate a second glance.
In case you’ve forgotten, dear reader, the very existence of our country is due to “LABOUR”. And yes, it should be capitalised for exactly that reason. The Europeans who “discovered” our neck of the woods soon discovered they quickly wilted under the local conditions when plundering our wealth. Not to worry…they quickly solved their problems by first purchasing African slaves to supply the labour – from chiefs of warring tribes who were only more than willing to get some quick baubles from the Europeans. Later they ended that system and freed the slaves when they discovered they could get the work done even more cheaply with indentured servants from India and China!!
So we’re all about LABOUR, right? So where do the politicians come in? Well during slavery, the slaves used to rebel periodically and create quite a ruckus – not to mention razing factories and profits and such like. After slavery, when the factory owners just couldn’t shoot the workers willy-nilly, the workers realised the value of withholding their labour. When conditions got to dread – like with wages or working conditions, the workers would now STRIKE en masse!
The difference from the old rebellions of slavery was that now the owners had to read “the riot act” before shooting them down!! So, after a while, the workers learnt that up in England the white workers formed something calls “Unions”, which rioted until the Government had them BARGAIN with the employers for better wages and conditions. So like monkey see; monkey do, we formed trade unions here!!
Like sharks smelling blood in the water, it wasn’t long after, fellas who used to BEG the powers that be for a piece of the (political) action, realised if they linked up with the trade unions, they could instead BARGAIN for that piece of the action. “Politicians”, who had LEVERAGE, were born!!
And so, lo and behold the trade unions became the womb that produced all the early politicians – both from the PPP and later the PNC. But like the sharks they were genetically related to, the politicians soon turned the table on unions, after they got into office.
And we reach the present when the unions are so passé, the Government of the day wouldn’t even give unions the time of the day!!
But seriously folks…isn’t there something the unions can do to reverse their descent into irrelevance? Your Eyewitness thinks so! All they have to do is get back to first principles: do what they started out to do on behalf of workers in the first place!! Remember? They’ve got to get out into the streets and riot when workers’ rights are being violated!!
Look at what just happened to sugar workers – the folks whose labour during slavery and indentureship made this country possible, to begin with. The employer, GuySuCo, arbitrarily fired 5700 of them!! Why weren’t there riots?? GuySuCo also demanded sugar workers forget about the CONTRACTED clause forbidding having workers being sent to work more than 20 miles from their homes!! Why no riots??
The answer, of course, is trade unions have become just like Government Ministers who retire into their air conditioned offices and send out press releases! Imagine the workers who pay their salaries are left to starve…and they tap away at computer keyboards!
No wonder labour’s lost relevance.
Was a time only a decade ago, under the Socialist banner, when labour seemed to be just about to conquer all in our region – including Latin America.
But with Lula in jail and Maduro in the air, it’s all gone to channa.