…Trade Unions fracture
Officially, the Trade Union movement in Guyana will be celebrating 100 years of being given official imprimatur with the enactment of the Trade Union Act on June 18, 1921. But two years before Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow had already launched his British Guiana Labour Union (BGLU) – the first in the entire Commonwealth! In the “Mother Country” Britain, they had enacted their Trade Union Act way back in 1871, but we natives, of course, had to be tutored. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) had also been formed in 1919 – following the end of WWI.
Critchlow had organised the stevedores to fight for better wages on the docks at a time when we manufactured nothing and shipping was literally a lifeline that could be strangulated. You can imagine the indignation when a “native” turned their rhetoric against them! He’d actually led a strike back in 1905 – but that was dubbed “illegal” especially since it led to the wider “Centipede riots” in Georgetown with arson and shootings.
Several other unions were then formed, but they were all urban-based. It wasn’t until 1937 that one Ayube Edun launched a union in the sugar belt to fight for better conditions for the largest labour force in the country. This was the “Man Power Citizens Association”. The odd-sounding name arose from a philosophy Edun had worked out while studying in London.
People in the colonies were all British citizens, some of whom provided their services as labour – which he called “Man Power”. A comparable modern term conveying the same idea would be the “Working People’s Association”.
The trade unions all became springboards for political activism, since to take on the business class was to take on the Government – in which the former’s representatives predominated. Burnham would be an official of the BGLU and Jagan of the MPCA and we know they’d go on to lead the PPP and PNC, which would dominate Guyanese politics into the present. The urban and rural trade unions would become stalking horses for the two political behemoths and eventually their handmaidens. In the case of the MPCA, Jagan would back another entity – the GIWU which would morph into the GAWU of which he’d actually become an honorary President!
Which pretty much brings us into the present where the Trade Union movement remains split into PPP and PNC factions – represented respectively by the umbrella groups FITUG and TUC. Both are pretty emaciated however – as is the Trade Union movement worldwide – since the dominant new-liberal economic paradigm gives them very short shrift. May 1 is “Labour Day”, a Public Holiday which reflects their once-lofty position.
But don’t expect any Kumbaya moment from FITUG and TUC! The daggers remain drawn!
…it’s all about Number 1
At the first-ever Australia-India-Japan-United States “Quad” summit in early March – when India’s national corona curve was just beginning to head north, they resolved to strengthen India’s ‘pharmacy of the world’ to manufacture up to a billion COVID vaccine doses for the Indo-Pacific by 2022-end. Amid all the euphoria, Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India, urged the Biden Administration to walk the talk by first lifting the US embargo on export of raw materials for producing vaccines.
But weeks of ambivalence followed with the US State Department bluntly saying it’ll use all mechanisms to protect Americans. Including export embargoes and hoarding millions of doses, including those produced by AstraZeneca and J&J that it doesn’t intend to use. Well, now that India’s infection and death rates are off the charts, the ban on raw materials has been lifted. And the US and the West are all shipping “aid” to India.
The “Orientalist” stereotype of “helpless India” is back!
The Government’s taken a quick and firm stand against allegations of corruption in GuyOil. Corruption’s a hydra-headed monster and the Government needs to not only set an example but look closer in other Govt corporations.
Heads must roll!