The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) hosted a Seminar on Wednesday July 17, 2019 under the theme ‘ A Century of Trade Unionism’.
Several of the presenters lamented the fact that the trade union movement remains fragmented and that labour is downgraded from a full-fledged Ministry to that of a Department of Labour.
This is indeed unfortunate. Labour is not only a factor of production but it is also purposeful human action to create wealth. Sadly, because of the nature of capitalism, the distribution of that wealth is uneven and the tendency to exploit labour remains strong. Hence the need to have robust pro-labour legislation. Under the previous PPP/C government, several pro-worker legislation were enacted such as the Trade Union Recognition Bill and the introduction of a national minimum wage.
The challenge facing the labour movement today is to rise above party politics and put the interests of workers as its primary consideration. There are thousands of workers today who are not unionized, especially domestics, security guards, workers in the commercial sector and in the emerging communications and oil and gas industry.
The trade union movement has a duty and responsibility to protect the working and living conditions of these categories of workers.
After a century of trade unionism in Guyana, we cannot have a situation where large segments of our working people remain un-unionized and therefore prone to exploitation.
Trade unions are as relevant and necessary today as in any time in our history. The contradictions between labour and capital will continue to be a factor in our national existence. Hence the need for a strong, dynamic and resilient labour movement.
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