“The CLICO issue is not going to go away and a number of people need to go straight to prison. The same greed that drove the international financial meltdown drove the CLICO financial meltdown. CLICO is destroying the future of our children,” said Dr. Aubrey Armstrong who addressed the CLICO debacle briefly.
Dr Armstrong was the feature speaker at the rally hosted by the Guyana Trades Union Congress, yesterday.
The Guyana Trade Union Congress (GTUC) held its May Day Rally at the Critchlow Labour College. Speakers stressed phrases such as “change is coming,” “enough is enough” and “together we will.”
According to Dr Armstrong, the unions must insist on a new financial model and a new financial framework instead of keeping the old one where one has one fist of interlocking directorates and people sitting in the backrooms making deals.
He added that there is need for a new financial framework that limits speculation and risk and allows some transparency when these deals are going down.
“The economic policies that we need to have to deal with are jobs and job security. Workers must demand friendly laws that support their pensions, that support their jobs, that support decent work in their work environment; they must have health and safety protection and benefits that allow them to survive on the meager salaries that we have here.”
“We have to have a system that allows your meager wages to stretch so that people have health benefits and those things guaranteed and we have to have a fair and balanced economic model with growth and trade that protects our environment and future.”
Armstrong also stated that there is need for a system of education that takes care of the younger people and prepares them for the future.
He added that unions must ensure they have funding sources outside of the government. However, a pressing issue was also addressed by President of GTUC, Gillian Burton — the issue of division between unions.
Burton told the gathering that the time has come for leaders of the trade union movements to move away from the pettiness that has been allowed to encroach on their path.
“A divided movement is doing us no good. While leaders squabble and fight over personal issues and turf space, the government has a field day tabling and passing bills not in the interest of the workers, while the workers continue to suffer more and more everyday,” she stated.
May Day, Burton added, is a repartition of May Day 1950 when three separate rallies were held in Georgetown—one by British Guiana Labour Union (now the Guyana Labour Union), one by an affiliate of the then Trades Union Council (now the Guyana Trades Union Congress) and the third by the Guiana Industrial Workers Union, which has since been replaced by GAWU.
“It is therefore ironical that similar events rear their ugly heads at this time and among the very institutions of that period. It is therefore evident that history is repeating itself in the Labour Movement.”
According to her, today some leaders are willing to cast away every achievement over the years in the name of selfishness Burton said that in the world of trade unionism the task ahead has always been, still is and will always be an unrealistic one but that must not be a restraining force to prevent forging ahead.
“No matter how dark the way, how long and tedious the journey or how great the struggle, if we hold on together in love and unity we will get there someday, somehow, singing with renewed strength and solidarity forever for the Union makes us strong.”
Also speaking at the rally was Chairman of Vision Guyana, Peter Ramsaroop, said, “Together we will. Together we will make this union strong and together we will make our nation strong. We have to create national pride back in our country. We have to recreate a sense of duty and patriotism back in our country. Together we will and together we must regain our country back,” Ramsaroop stated.
GTUC General Secretary Norris Witter proclaimed, “Change is coming” throughout yesterday’s proceedings.
Jinnah Rahman of the Rice Producers Association Action Committee delivered a brief address on some issues affecting the rice industry.
Also delivering an address was General Secretary of Caribbean Congress of Labour, Lincoln Lewis.
GTUC said that this year’s activities saw a return to basics by the movement, similar in form to the golden days of Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, that doyen and great warrior of the Labour Movement.
This rally unlike those previously held passed motion on issues such as, torture, racial/ethnic discrimination, Clico (Guyana) debacle, status of NIS, NBS, Citizen Security, corruption, freedom of information and expression, youth unemployment, VAT, cost of living and other areas.
The theme of this year’s rally was “Reconciliation, Reconstruction for sustainable Development.”
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