EYEWITNESS: Labour’s love lost… in the trade union movement


Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour Lost” is a comedy about three fellas who gave their oaths to follow the straight and narrow (to avoid women) and do whatever it takes to achieve their goal of becoming lawyers. It all goes to naught when they become besotted by a comely princess!! Well, the state of labour’s representatives in Guyana today is unfortunately also quite a comedy – and for very similar reasons!! And it’s no laughing matter, since the folks the trade unions swore to represent are caught in the midst of seismic changes in labour relations domestically and internationally. And the besotted unionists have left them high and dry!!

So, who’re the objects of the trade unionists’ bedazzlement?? The politicians, of course!! They’ve refused to stick to their mission – which should be to insist that “What’s good for labour is good for Guyana”!! They have nothing to apologise for, with that position. In our democratic world, it all boils down to interest representation. It’s all transactional – you (politicians) scratch our (workers) backs and we (trade unions) will scratch yours!! Businesses have been scratching!!

We’ve seen those courtroom dramas with the lawyers representing the two sides clashing vigorously and justice coming out in the end? That’s the model trade unions gotta use – legally! It’s them against the employers, who want to make as much profit as they can – which means paying workers as little as they can. And the unionists are supposed to get as much as THEY can for the workers. And we hit a happy medium!! But what happened is unionists have been on a frolic and detour for decades following politicians’ agendas!! And they’ve tried to sweep under the rug the fact that the latter’s agenda isn’t necessarily what’s good for labour!!

Let’s face it folks…even though all the political parties came out of trade unions, the (political) tail soon started wagging the (labour) dog – and hasn’t stopped since then!! Think about it – there are two political union umbrellas in Guyana today. And you don’t have to be any political scientist to know how many political groupings we have – and that the two sets match up exactimo!! So, what we have are unions collecting dues from their worker members, but sitting on their haunches as the poor slobs are cut off at the knees.

Remember what happened in 2015 after the PNC got into power and reneged on their promise to give Government workers “substantial” raises??!! The only substantial raise was the Ministers 50% bump!! And what did the unions do?? What else…whine about being neglected by politicians from the other side!! So, for the last four decades, inequality’s been increasing worldwide.

What’re the unions gonna do ‘bout it?

…with Kamala

We in the Caribbean were pretty excited when Kamala Harris was elected VP of the USA in 2020. And this was across the (divided) board, even though some might’ve preferred Trump and Pence to come out ahead. They’d ensured our democracy survived the PNC’s assault, no?!! And this feeling of goodwill was ironical because of the same phenomenon the pundits insist is the cause of our political logjam – identifying with Harris because of her ethnic antecedents!!

Let’s face it…if her mother wasn’t Indian and her father a Black Jamaican, would we have resonated as we did? Nah!! Just like with Obama, race matters in our political choices. Well, our political leaders of Caricom had a -tête-à-tête with Kamala (how else could we possibly address her?) yesterday – before this was written. Now, it doesn’t matter what topic is in the agenda, our leaders have to accept that she’ll be representing US interests.

And they should represent ours!! With prudence, of course!! Let’s denounce those Ruskies!!

…on import substitution

Jamaica’s Opposition MP Hanna Lisa showed our hapless lot how political opposing’s done. She pointed out that the much-hyped Irish potato being grown in Jamaica costs 7 times the world market price.

What’s the point?