The news yesterday that Precision Woodworking has sent home all its workers and may be closing down should remind everyone on this Labour Day of the very uncertain future that confronts workers as the world plunges inexorably into a deepening recession.
Precision Woodworking did all that was demanded by the experts to succeed in the brave new world of globalisation: a solid product, trained workforce, good management, export focused, competitive prices, etc. But it did not, nor could not plan for the machinations of global financiers that would bring down the real economy through their obscene quest for super profits.
These financiers have already sucked out trillions of dollars from economies in all parts of the world and can sit out this recession, comfortably resting on their loot, as they plan for their next conquests.
The IMF now predicts that the global economy will contract by at least 1.3 per cent during this year and its economic counsellor, Olivier Blanchard, went so far as to accept that we are “in the middle of something very close to a depression”.
He was very bleak about the prospects of the poorer countries such as Guyana. Our fate, he determined, was very much out of our hands and we will just have to do the best we can as we await the recovery of the “developed” countries that provide markets for companies such as Precision Woodworking and financing for key projects such as the hydropower at Amaila Falls.
In previous recessions and depressions the shoe always fell heaviest on the ordinary workers, but in this go around the repetition is especially ironic. Up to now recessions had been created by workers’ wages not keeping up with production increases.
Without workers as consumers having the capacity to purchase the goods created, “surpluses” are created that prompt cutbacks in production, layoffs of workers, and further drops in purchasing power in an ever widening vicious cycle.
But this crisis has been totally the consequences of shenanigans in the financial fraternity that have resulted in them not trusting each other’s books. The credit market consequently ground to a halt – and froze the operations of corporations in the real economy (which employ workers) that depend on that credit.
It does appear that workers receive the short end of the stick regardless of what happens.
Governments have jumped into the fray with stimulus programmes, but an International Labour Organisation (ILO) survey has shown that “these packages lean heavily toward financial bailouts and tax cuts instead of job creation and social protection and … on average, fiscal stimulus packages for the real economy are five times smaller than financial bailout packages.”
We note the guarantees offered by the government to the policy holders of the collapsed CLICO and urge them to work out a comprehensive approach to the further cutbacks in labour that we can expect in the next few years.
In the context of the meltdown that is being experienced worldwide and even in our relatively isolated economy, the disarray and bickering in our labour movement is very disheartening.
The breakdown of the neo-liberal paradigm that had justified the peripherilisation of the worker is on the ropes. Even its staunchest advocates accept that it needs “fixing”.
The representatives of workers have an opportunity in this moment of potential paradigm change to get their perspective into whatever new will emerge.
The path cleared by countries such as Germany and the Scandinavian countries that have incorporated labour into a tripartite partnership with business and government appears to have held up much better than those that completely jettisoned labour from the decision making process on social, economic and political issues.
The labour movement in Guyana will, however, have to end their internecine warfare if they intend to be taken seriously by the other players.
At this time they are simply the laughing stock of everyone – including the workers they purport to represent. They had better learn to hang together – or they will certainly hang separately.
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