“ Social cohesion cannot be achieved when there is inequity in social capital. i.e. taxes. It makes more sense if we are talking about the development of our people to foremost extend equal treatment and remove some of vexatious taxes workers are being saddled with.”
These were the words of General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), Lincoln Lewis in his Labour Day speech.
Lewis, among many other things, posited that Social cohesion, according to the United Nations, is built on the principles of Social Inclusion, Social Capital and Social Mobility and can only be attained when serious programmes are put in place to realise this.
He further asserted that cultural events, though important, is not the totality of Social Cohesion, nor is the planting of trees and painting buildings green the totality of a Green Economy.
“ Social Cohesion and Green Economy are built on principles that promote and safeguard fundamental rights and freedoms/Rule of Law and the environment where the welfare of the people are placed at the centre,” he said.
In his speech, the GTUC General Secretary stated that the talks of a Green Economy will be only talks in the absence of respecting and advancing the principles upon which such an economy is built.
He noted that “human development cannot take place in a vacuum and without regard to the structures and measurement to bring about this.”
As such, Lewis asserted that the absence of a Ministry of Labour not only signals the value government places on a country’s most valued resource but also communicates to allies and foes of Guyana that Guyanese are not considered pivotal to the country’s development.
According to Lewis, the perception provided by Government that Labour day is not significant is reinforced with the country’s non-attendance to International Labour Organisation Conferences for the past three years.
“Where we know better and different we must continue to act accordingly for development of society requires of us staying the course,” he said.
Moreover, the sore issue of the high rate of unemployment in Guyana was also broached by Lewis who noted that “too many are unemployed, under-employed, and the retired who need to be productively engaged are too being deprived.”
“ We note the statistics of the Guyana Labour Force Survey. Any effort to bring about management of the people’s business in a scientific manner is applauded, but we must make real the science through action. This nation needs a policy and programme for the creation of Decent Jobs. Meaning must be given to data being collected beyond collection and making findings public,” he posited.
He asserted that even in the present, Guyanese continue to witness contempt for local labour and business, positing that we’re already experiencing an imbalance in the system where Guyanese workers and local business are expected by law to pay taxes but foreigners are being exempted.
In relation to the impending Oil and Gas Industry, he asserted that the notion that the discovery of oil and gas will be the panacea of the nation’s development must be revisited.
According to him, development cannot take place on a single resource as it requires the sustainable utilistaion of all and as such Government must put systems to make it possible.
“Development is also hinged on looking out for the vulnerable and indigent in our society,” he said while highlighting that “Where such category of people find daily activities of living daunting, government has to lead the way in ensuring their dignity and respect.”
According to the GTUC General Secretary “none must stop us in this leg of our journey to create a just society! Solidarity Forever, for it’s the Union that makes us strong!”