Kaieteur News – If you are serious about having a long career with very little risk of being removed, then you should consider becoming a trade union leader. It is one of the few jobs in Guyana, where you can occupy office for as long as you please.
Becoming a trade unionist guarantees you a lifelong job, with overseas trips and the distinct possibility of having your face appear in the newspapers on May Day. Unions once used workers’ Day as a show of force. Today it has been reduced to a farce and turned into one big fete.
Some trade union leaders have dropped anchor in their positions. Some of them have been around for eternity and when they do pass to the Great Beyond, there is no guarantee that their successors will be any different.
It is harder to dislodge a trade unionist than it is to get a bald headed man to remove his hat. Some of them have grown roots in their unions and do not appear to know when to retire.
The trade unions for sure are not going to advocate term limits. Their leaders enjoy unlimited security of tenure. Sure enough, they can be removed via elections. But, how often does this happen?
The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) once struggled for democracy. But so far, it has failed – not because it never tried – to impose democracy within the Guyana Trade Union Congress (GTUC).
It is something of an anomaly that the largest trade union in Guyana, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU), has never held the Presidency of the Trade Union Congress. The rules have always been stacked against that union to deny it the Presidency. If anything exposes the undemocratic nature of the trade union movement, it is this fact.
Trade unions no longer have any teeth. To use a popular phrase, they are ‘toothless poodles.’ They have outlived their usefulness to the working class and have become burdens rather than helpful to workers.
The employers now wield the upper hand. The strike weapon has become more of a political weapon; it has been blunted as an industrial relations measure.
Self-interest and conflict of interest have become pronounced in the trade union movement. Trade union leaders continue to pop up as candidates for political parties. One leading trade union figure went as far as endorsing a political party. Those practices used to be acceptable during the Cold War when trade unions were expected to side with working class parties. Unfortunately, the Cold War has ended but nobody told some of these trade unionists.
Workers are being recolonized by trade unions. The trade unions exercise control over workers who have little say in the positions adopted by some unions. The trade union movement is an albatross around the necks of the working class.
The trade union movement has little to show for its more than 100 years of existence. It has been a failed movement. To think that the politicians, who so many persons like to stigmatize as being corrupt, could have achieved more than the trade union is a shocking indictment against the workers’ movement.
If there any gift which the workers of this county owe themselves, it is to break free of the shackles of trade unions. There is nothing that the trade unions can do for the workers, which the workers collectively and without the union cannot do for themselves. If the truth were told, workers are much better off without their unions.
It is time for the workers to cut the gravy line for some of these union leaders. It is time for them to exert their right to refuse to be part of a movement which has done precious little for workers. But its leaders have achieved a comfortable life within trade unions.
The trade union movement has nothing to offer workers anymore. These unions are “like a dog without a bite.” They have passed their best and their best was never good enough.
There is not going to be a renaissance in the trade union movement. There is not going to be reform. The old timers will hold on to power for dear life and will frustrate the noble youngsters who ought to be have been given a chance.
No one takes trade union leaders seriously anymore. They are not shapers of public opinion. And this is in the digital age, when even the most ignorant are having their say on social media.
Workers have only their union dues to lose. It is time to liberate themselves from the new colonizers – the trade union movement.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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