Labour Day Messages
From the PPP
The People’s Progressive Party salutes the working class of Guyana as we observe International Labour Day 2012. Their contributions must be recognized on this day as it is their efforts that have helped us to avoid the worst of the economic financial crises that have gripped many workers in many parts of the world.
The PPP has tirelessly worked to improve the conditions of the working class of this country. Our Party led the fight for Universal Adult Sufferage close to 60 years ago and made May Day a national holiday since 1958.
Another significant measure was the removal of the “means test” in 1993, which previously deprived our senior citizens of a pension. This was a demand of the Trades Union movement some four decades before it became a reality. This year, pensions were increased by over 20 per cent.
The rights of workers are more safeguarded than they have ever been in any period of our history through legislation piloted by the PPP/C Government. These include “the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act, Holiday with Pay Act, the Prevention of Discrimination Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Law” among others.
The dream of workers of owning their own homes is now a reality through the many innovative interventions by Government.
The working class and their families were also supported by this year’s national budget. Resources towards subsidizing the consumers of electricity and water, continued expansion and improvement of health care and education services countrywide; providing working class families with laptops and IT skills training, greater assistance to the vulnerable and an increase in the income tax threshold by 25% from last year which will result in workers taking home more money to their families.
The PPP/C however recognizes that the work to improve the lives of the working class is far from over. That is why the Government has been working tirelessly to consolidate and expand our gains. Investments that create jobs and improve the productive capacity of the country have always been encouraged.
Unfortunately those gains are being threatened by an opposition that showed their anti-working class colours recently. The cutting of Government 2012 budget is a demonstration of this.
It is widely acknowledged that in times of recession and financial difficulties workers face the daunting prospect of being laid off. However, the decision by the opposition to close entities and put workers on the breadline or slash support for agencies and programs which will have a direct impact on workers and their families is taking place at a time when Guyana’s economy is the healthiest it has ever been.
To add insult to injury the opposition has callously described it as collateral damage.
Now under pressure they are saying that they can look at a Supplementary budget.
The PPP has always maintained that its decades old struggles have always been in the interests of the working class of this country and in solidarity with workers the world over. On this day we reiterate our sentiments to the working people of Guyana and the world.
May Day is a special occasion for the Labour Movement and workers in Guyana. It is a time when they should be able to celebrate the consolidation of their rights, increased wages and benefits, improved working conditions, the protection of pension rights and the general progress of the labour movement. Unfortunately, on May Day 2012, Guyanese workers are forced to lament the absence of any such gains.
Guyanese workers cannot forget that, since acceding to Government in 1992, successive PPP Administrations have used their majority in the National Assembly to pass legislation designed to intimidate members of the labour movement and undermine the recognised trade union body, the Guyana Trade Union Congress (GTUC) and have it replaced by the PPP cronies in the so-called Federation of Independent Trade unions (FITUG).
In this context, note should be taken of the deliberate policy of encouraging trade unions aligned to the PPP to poach on the preserve of more independent unions in order to marginalize and destroy them.
There has been a continuing and concerted effort to roll back the gains achieved, since the pioneering and foundational efforts of Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow and other stalwarts who made major personal sacrifices for the achievements of many of the workers’ rights that are now under attack.
Indeed some anti-working class elements are peddling the idea that trade unions have outlived their usefulness, and that those conditions which Critchlow fought for, such as a living wage and better conditions of work, can be better provided for by employers, such as the Government, themselves.
It should be clear, to all genuine members of the labour movement in Guyana, that it would require unity of purpose to successfully defend their hard earned rights.
As a consequence of the anti working class policies of the PPP Administration, even before the advent of the global economic events, Guyanese workers have been caught up in a vicious struggle to survive and ensure their material betterment. Indeed, with the introduction of the unconscionable 16 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) in 2007 the cost of living in Guyana spiked, considerably undermining the ability of our workers to provide for their families and sustain themselves.
Public Servants in Guyana continue to be under the hammer of their employer, the uncaring and callous PPP Administration, which continues to negate the Agency Shop Agreement with the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), and brazenly commit many breaches of the Collective Labour Agreement with the union, such as deliberately protracting the annual salaries negotiations and then breaking them off towards the end of the year so as to impose its own arbitrarily determined paltry increases which are usually well below the cost-of-living.
Guyanese workers must be consciously aware of the current fragile state of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), which has resulted from the accumulated mismanagement and manipulation by the acolytes of the PPP Administration.
On the occasion of May Day 2012, therefore, the PNCR recognises the critical role that Trade Unions have played in the political, economic and social development of the country and urge the Movement to remember that such a role can only continue if the Trade Union Movement, as a whole, remains united to protect the interests of all Guyanese workers.
On the occasion of Labour Day, the Alliance For Change recognizes the contribution of all workers in Guyana. We are proud to join the Guyanese workforce in once again commemorating the achievements of labour movements around the world.
Here at home, the AFC wishes to remind workers that the social and economic gains that were fought for by generations of Guyanese workers should not only be celebrated, but carefully guarded, to ensure that they are not eroded by the increasingly inequitable distribution of the nation’s wealth and resources.
Today, in the midst of economic and social crises, Guyanese workers continue to toil to create the wealth for this nation, and from which we must all benefit. It is therefore more than appropriate that we recognise and honour all workers especially on Labour Day.
The travails and injustices meted out to Guyanese workers are monumental. They face depressing world market prices for our commodities that threaten retrenchment, a government that is unresponsive and uncaring about working condition, and most of all the continuing division and dissension within the Guyanese trade union movement.
The AFC remains committed to the principle that all Guyanese workers deserve to be adequately remunerated, so that they can enjoy living conditions commensurate with the real wealth of our nation.
The AFC expresses hope that the trade unions in Guyana would find the courage, maturity, and strength to forge a better relationship with each other, and being united and strong, reap for their members, the social and economic benefits they so richly deserve.
It is our party’s hope that workers gathering to observe this year’s LabourDay, will see this as an occasion to unite around issues of importance to all Guyanese.
The AFC wishes all Guyanese a happy and peaceful Labour Day. [END]
Guyana Public Service Union
As we prepare to observe May Day 2012 we cannot ignore the political developments under the recently elected minority government and the just concluded Parliamentary debate on the National Budget that manifested serious differences and divisions between the government elements and the joint opposition parties and their representatives which when put within the working class context is also a clear indication of the road ahead.
Therefore, while May Day is an occasion that we traditionally celebrate achievements and improvements of past years and show optimism about expected progress and/or developments for the future, a dark cloud looms through the obvious lack of conscience shown through the political spin on budget cuts, which were displayed by the Government of the day, which included the unfortunate message to the nation by President Donald Ramotar.
Let us examine for the benefit of all citizens the truth of the matter:
The Government failed in its quest to satisfy the combined opposition that the sums cut were indeed required during 2012, resulting in the combined opposition deciding that until the matters were clarified to their satisfaction, a nominal sum of $1 would be made available. The nominal sum of $1 is a clear indication that the matter could be revisited and possibly approved at a later date.
However, the Government, including the President, would have the nation believe that the joint opposition was callous and uncaring;
It was refreshing to note that there was a provision for protests, even in the immediate environs of Parliament Buildings, and this could be done without prolonged notice to the Police and/or without Police intervention, water cannon, Police fired pellets or rubber bullets.
I guess only Government orchestrated protests could be so undertaken, while other citizens have no rights. That’s a clear and open truth;
When Channel 6 was cut on more than one occasion from the airwaves, Stabroek News denied advertisement, Critchlow Labour College denied its subvention etc., and there was no consideration for the employment of its staff, their children or households.
The joint opposition cut funding to GINA and NCN, while requesting of Government certain reforms. What was clear was that the joint opposition was demanding that these entities produce a people’s product, as opposed to openly serving the interests of the ruling party at taxpayers’ expense.
There is the nagging issue of “contract workers” which Government has increased over the years to serve its better good, rather than that of the nation as a whole. In seeking the truth in this statement one observes that a public service establishment exists under the supervision of a constitutional agency, the Public Service Commission (PSC).
Over the past years, the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) has been in a constant struggle to preserve hard won rights and benefits for all Public Servants, whether or not they were members. The Union could reflect proudly at its achievements.
The GPSU was privileged to enjoy free collective bargaining and have any agreements with Government treated with respect. However, the current trend of disrespect followed the death of a respected President and leader of the PPP/C;
The Union was privileged to share an environment where Government itself submitted and ratified ILO Conventions no. 87, 98, 149 and 151 that guarantees workers’ rights, specifically addressing nurses and public servants in the last two conventions referred to, in conformity with international standards.
Undoubtedly, the results of National Elections on November 28, 2011 clearly conveyed a national displeasure to what was evolving in Guyana. There is a popular view that the true results of that election would have manifested the true displeasure of the nation’s human resources that have witnessed the orchestrated depletion of national resources, which would have gone a long way towards bettering the lives of the populace.
So significant was the elections outcome that it demanded that those who ran for office in this democracy, regardless of political lineage, must agree to common ground in order to move the Country forward. From all appearances, it is obvious that the desires of the people are being strongly resisted by the Government.
The GPSU endorses the PSI position this May Day and together with that body restates its determination to defend the fundamental human and trade union rights of public sector workers and the right of all citizens to universally accessible public services.
Together with our brothers and sisters worldwide we would engage in the ideological battle to save the livelihood and the public service so many people value and depend on. We commit ourselves to join together to fight for freedom of association, collective bargaining and freedom of expression, which are all obviously under threat; to defend young people to see a future with prospects for decent work, a fair wage, decent life and gender equality.
We must mobilize now to confront the existing injustices in order to etch out a future that is built on fairness, justice and human rights. As a public sector union we recognize and are confident that we are integral to the foundation of a just and democratic society and that our fight is a fight for all.
Notwithstanding the obstacles to be overcome and challenges faced, the Union wishes you all a most pleasant May Day.