Year after year, contrary to the norm in any modern democratic state, the reasonable expectations of Guyanese workers for enhancement in working conditions and benefits and the consequent improvement in quality of life for their families, keeps fading away.
Clearly, this is the result of policies that were consciously designed to move public workers backwards and condemn them to poverty, vulnerability, remove security of tenure and ultimately make them into political pawns to be maneuvered at the whims and fancies of a regime of selfish materialists that masquerades as having working class credentials but collaborates with special interest regardless of the morality.
I would premise this statement on three examples of the realty that exist.
One, notwithstanding the unanimous adoption by the parliament of Guyana of ILO conventions 86, 98, 151, on free collective bargaining, the government has acted in contradiction by crudely imposing upon workers salary increases less than the inflation rate for over six years depreciating their economic capacity and relegating them deeper into poverty and despair.
Two, workers are being denied sustainable employment with security of tenure and retirement benefits and are being forced into vulnerable and exploitive contract employment.
Hard won benefits that were earned and justified from the process of collective bargaining are being arbitrarily withdrawn.
Thirdly, workers are being criminalized and politically, discriminately and vindictively denied their right to fair employment and the unions of their choice are being blatantly and illegally obstructed and frustrated from functioning effectively in their interest as guaranteed by the constitution of Guyana.
Public funds and public agencies are being misused and abused politically to vilify and manufacture propaganda.
All of these actions are attempts to delay action and distract attention from genuine concerns.
These are the atrocities, which over time, have evolved and must be dealt with to prevent further pain and suffering of conscientious and hardworking people of the public service.
This would also contribute to the development of and an improvement in the spirit and harmony of relations between people in our country.
Driven by this belief, the Guyana Public Service Union led public workers to take on this challenge one decade ago. We stood firm in fending off political thugs in an effort to secure these ideals by sacrificing and struggling for 57 days.
Today that sacrifice would be in vain if we do not take stock, rejuvenate and recommit to the defence of our rights, together with all workers, nationwide, to salvage the gains won through the sacrifice of our forefathers and save our beloved country of Guyana from being a failed state.
The mindset that produces many misnomers is also at the heart of this problem.
In essence it should be recognized that public workers serve the people of Guyana, not the government of Guyana, and the government supports this process by providing supervision under the guidelines of the mandate from the people.
The government is entrusted public funds for discharging their functions and they are also paid from public funds for supervising, overseeing and conducting the affairs of state in accordance with the constitution and laws of Guyana.
All should also be mindful of the fact that public workers are also citizens whose taxes contribute to those public funds.
Nevertheless, the scenario that often plays out is one where workers are vilified for demanding their fair and just portion of national production.
I would also like to emphasize that trade unionism deals with social justice.
It is in fact the vanguard for social justice in Guyana and all workers should rally to reinforce and empower the movement to discharge this national, regional, and global mission that is vital to the prosperity of all citizens.
History would show when the movement weakens there are developments of manmade disasters. Such current or topical examples include the global financial crises.
Change is necessary if we are to stop our skilled and qualified people from leaving Guyana since they can no longer envision a future in Guyana with opportunities to strive and achieve an environment of harmonious relations between people regardless of race, ethnicity, religions and culture.
Good governance is needed to attain and preserve such a desired national environment.
There is need for credible and unimpeachable institutions – free from political tampering.
There is need for a review of the constitution and the creation of laws that deal specifically with the enforcement and upholding of fundamental human and civil rights and not “paper” rights as now exist.
All these things are achievable by a united working class since it is here that power resides, that stewardship of the state is decided, and that stewardship of the state would be accountable to.
Together, Brother and Sisters, let us work towards these goals.
I extend Happy May Day greetings to you and workers worldwide.
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