The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) on Tuesday extended fraternal greetings to all workers in celebration of Guyana’s 60th Labour Day, while asserting that “today’s conditions do not call for complacency but for greater activism.”
FITUG’s First Vice President, Komal Chand posited that today is a day to demonstrate our solidarity and unity as Guyanese, as Labour Day serves as a day that reminds us that our aspirations for a better and just society are still to be realised.
To this end, he recounted the various struggles being faced by citizens currently, which he said, have adversely affected the quality of our lives, including the ‘crisis of unemployment and Value Added Tax (VAT) burdens.’
“Indeed, several challenges have surfaced over the recent years. We have observed that the prices of several staple have risen; there are increased rates and taxes; there is a threat of higher electricity costs on account of higher oil prices, and now there are increased water rates hanging over our heads. We can neither disregard the all-pervasive VAT, as it now affects a wider range of products and even essential medical services… As workers, a vexing issue to us is unemployment,” the organization stated.
The Labour Force Survey-just recently made public- revealed that less than half of our working-age population is employed.
According to the report, youth unemployment is unacceptably high.
“[It is alarming]that 53 per cent of our people are either impoverished or are vulnerable to impoverishment. These findings cannot be comforting to us recognizing the deteriorating conditions we now face,” Chand in a prepared statement posited.
Moreover, according to FITUG, in the face of these burdens, it is painful to know that for the year 2018, our pensioners have been given an increase of their pensions amounting to a meager one dollar per day.
The organization asserted that these persistent difficulties are an expression of “our slide downwards and is manifested in the rising criminality which has left many Guyanese living in fear.”
As such, they used the opportunity to once again we call on the appropriate authorities to allay people’s fears and develop strategies to effectively contain “this malady” in our midst.
Callous decision on Sugar
In commenting on the current situation of our Sugar Industry, FITUG reminisced on the plight which has befallen thousands of estate workers who were made redundant and noted that they are facing one of, if not their most, depressing chapter of life in this country.
“Over recent months, some 7,000 sugar workers have been sent home without any plan to address their welfare. Then to add pepper to the deep wound and contrary to our law, some workers received only half of their severance payments and some others at Wales none.”
FITUG posited that for them, this decision- to have the estate workers made redundant- remains one of the most callous decisions ever made in living memory.
“The promises of saving sugar heard boisterously by persons now in Government have proven to be hollow and empty.”
Nevertheless, FITUG says that they recognize that despite the daunting challenges, most of the former estate workers have refused to give up hope and as such have demonstrated an indomitable will “to stand up and to call attention to their plight” as they seek to overcome and win out in this struggle.
Oil curse or blessing
Voicing their thoughts on the much anticipated success in the oil industry, FITUG says this can either prove to be a blessing or curse for our land.
“ This could prove to be a blessing, or, possibly, a curse. The experiences in several countries have shown this. However, we contend that oil should not displace our historical economic sectors but rather it should consolidate our economic foundation for the years and generations of Guyanese ahead.”
However, they added that the various questions regarding the oil deal and what it means to our patrimony cannot be ignored and as such, the organization stands in support of the calls for the oil agreement between the Government of Guyana and the United States based oil giant, ExxonMobil to be re-negotiated.
Labour Day has evolved from a rich, inspiring chapter of the international working-class and rooted in the struggle of 1886 when some 80,000 workers in Chicago, USA demanded an eight (8) hour working day.
Based on those struggles workers representatives adopted a resolution at a meeting in 1887 for May 1st to be observed as International Workers’ Day.
In Guyana, our celebrations began in 1930 under the leadership of Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow and his British Guiana Labour Union and on 1958 May 1st was approved as a National Holiday.
According to FITUG, “today’s conditions do not call for complacency but for greater activism. The spirit of Chicago, 1886, as well as our own rich legacy should serve to inspire us today. Let us remember these insightful words to the world’s workers: ‘Workers, Unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains; you have a world to win’.”