…labour movement not as equipped as it ought to be
General Secretary of the Caribbean Council of Labour (CCL), Lincoln Lewis, in his May Day address to the Guyana Trade Union Congress (GTUC) rally highlighted the impact that the global financial crisis is having on workers.
“As far as the labour movement is concerned, we can hardly pretend not to notice the impact which the crisis is already having on the workers of our respective countries,” Lewis said.
According to him, while the CCL is yet to secure a fulsome assessment of the impact of the crisis on jobs, the available evidence suggests that jobs continue to be lost in several sectors across the region.
He added that downsizing in several sectors has also brought with it pay cuts for other workers while others are still deeply uncertain about the future.
“These are the circumstances in which we find ourselves on this historic day and it is for us as a movement to contemplate those circumstances and to determine how best we can respond to them.”
What is clear, Lewis noted, is that no single stakeholder can fashion an independent solution to this crisis.
“We have no choice but to work together…My own concern as far as the labour movement in the region is concerned is that this day finds us perhaps not as equipped as we ought to be to confront the crisis that lies ahead.” Lewis said that there is need for a nationwide institutional strengthening of the labour movement and there is need to partner with other institutions in the region to develop programmes that serve to benefit our members.
“I am concerned, too, that in several countries in the region there are still far too many workers who are not members of unions and are therefore largely unprotected at a time when they surely need protection. Perhaps my greatest concern is reserved for the ranks of the unemployed that are being swelled by further job losses.”
In all this, he added, that sense of partnership with regional governments, the business community and the various other stakeholders on which they had pinned so much hope a few years ago, is perhaps not as strong as we ought to be.
“While I believe that there is no place for compromising the rights of workers of the region, I believe that governments, employers and the labour movement simply must find a way of sitting and working together.”
This, he said, must be done against the backdrop of the realization that the challenge that we face is common to all and that if that challenge is to be overcome none more, or less, can be done than working together.
“One of the more important observations that the CCL made recently has to do with the fact that the historically high touted development models created in the west are being questioned even among its former adherents.”
Lewis opined that this is a sign that the people in the Caribbean must pay closer attention to their own models of development, not least of which is the pursuit of self-reliance, self sufficiency and the realization of a Caribbean Single Market and, in the fullness of time, a Single Economy. “We live in an era of challenge but also in an era of opportunity. It is, in my view, critical that all of us, as a region, seize that opportunity.”
“The period ahead will require sacrifices of all us and will also require us to make decisions that will affect our selves, our families, our countries and our region. It is my view that the decisions that we make would have been sounder in the final analysis if we can make them together. All of us must have a place at the table if we are to ride out the crisis.”
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