Trade Union movement to re-examine defending workers’ welfare
– Carvil Duncan
Even in light of the substantial national investment in the health sector and the existence of the National Insurance Scheme, many workers are compelled to compromise their health, take unnecessary risks, delay medical consultations and even make callous and detrimental decisions.
This was underscored by President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG), Carvil Duncan, on Sunday as he addressed a gathering of workers in the National Park on May Day 2011.
He said that the onus is on the trade union movement to aggressively promote the health education of workers in order to ensure that they live long and productive lives. In fact, he noted, the preparation for retirement must include the inculcation of positive lifestyles.
According to him, the evident changes and evolutions in production and technologies as well as domestic and global economies demand that the guardians of workers’ rights re-adjust their efforts and re-define what, in the present circumstances, constitute the welfare of workers.
He said that it is also imperative that “we re-examine, whether the demands of the past will suffice for the present. We are forced as guardians of workers’ welfare to be contemplating these matters lest we be overtaken by developments in industry.”
Too often the labour movement is engaged in battles of the past when we should be anticipating the matters of the future, Duncan said.
He noted, “We demand change and yet our mental approach is one that declares that the future will be exactly as the past, and that the very weapons of victory will be sufficient for the battles of the future.”
He underscored, too, that the minimum wage must be a living wage. Many workers are yet finding it increasingly difficult to subsist on the wages they earn, since wages have not kept pace with prices, he added.
Workers, Duncan insisted, must be guaranteed safety and security. When those who labour diligently and make the sacrifices demanded for success are deprived of their livelihood, this in itself is a hindrance to workers.
“As a society we will need to emerge creative ways of ensuring that all our people are safe, while we increase the disincentives, for involvement in criminal activities.”
Duncan noted that industries need to invest substantially in the education and re-training of workers, adding that “unfairly, and too often, management considers it cost-effective and prudent to hire needed skills, rather than re-train and upgrade those who have served them long and loyally.”
Further, he highlighted that “we are cognizant of the fact that our educational institutions, particularly the University of Guyana, are graduating populations of students, who are having a torrid time finding employment.”
“…The urgency of correcting this situation must not be lost upon us. They bought into the idea that education is the fastest and surest way out of poverty, and they pursued their education, with dedication, only to find out at the end, that the doors of opportunity…are shut.”
Duncan further vocalised that while Government is tasked with ensuring a stable environment to investment, it does not itself create the jobs for workers. As a result, he said that there is greater need for indigenous entrepreneurial activities.
He anticipates that Government will consider policies that will encourage people, especially youths, to enter the economic sector, which according to him is growing at a rapid rate.