Kaieteur News – It is said that when boxers are preparing for a fight that they should reduce their amorous activities because this can make them weak. No fighter can afford to go into battle in a weakened state.
As the working class continues to struggle for a living wage, they cannot afford to be weak. And, unfortunately, their continued membership of trade unions is weakening rather than strengthening the working class.
In unity there is strength; in numbers there is force. But when it comes to Guyana’s trade unions, it is counterproductive to belong to trade unions. The trade union movement is too divided politically.
The trade union movement is not simply divided; it is a source of division within the working class. There are politically aligned unions in Guyana with executives who make no pretense about their political leanings.
The Trade Union Congress does not represent the majority of unionised workers in Guyana. Yet, it holds itself up as the foremost umbrella body for trade unions. That honour should rightly go to the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG).
But the FITUG today is not the same FITUG which was established more than 30 years ago. The GPSU is no longer part of FITUG; the GLU has now joined that outfit. And it was never smooth sailing within FITUG.
GAWU betrayed the rest of FITUG when it arbitrarily ended the 1989 strike. The decision to go back to work was not made by FITUG. GAWU got collective bargaining and decided to end the strike without any regard for the other unions. At one stage, NAACIE expressed a lack of confidence in the leadership of FITUG under Gordon Todd, then the General Secretary of the CCWU.
The GPSU, which had gone back to the TUC, did not always see eye-to-eye with the leadership of that body. At one time, it did not participate in the traditional TUC rally.
The TUC has more bark than bite. It is a paper organisation, which has little to show after all these years. Up to now, workers are still struggling for a living wage and the majority of workers in Guyana are no longer members of unions. And the national minimum wage is way below the public service minimum wage.
There is no democracy within the trade union movement. Most unions are dominated by their leadership and some old fogies have sunk anchor within the leadership of their unions and do not seem to know the meaning of the word ‘retirement.’
Recently, sugar workers launched protest action over the lack of pay increases. The union met with the Vice President. The outcome – a one-off payment of a mere $200M was agreed upon. This money is not even a ‘freck’ for the more than 8,000 sugar workers. Yet, the union agreed to this, an unforgivable act of betrayal.
The unions have achieved precious little for workers and it may be wise for the workers to consider putting their union dues to better use. Take that money and plant a kitchen garden! It will do more for them in that way than handing it over to the union.
Workers, however, cannot be without representation. But it is better to have no representation than to be betrayed by your union.
The era of trade union power is long over. Former US President, Ronald Reagan, and former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, broke the back of trade union power. And the aftershocks were felt throughout the international trade union movement.
Trade unions have become a weight on the backs of workers. It is time for workers to cast aside their weight. Workers do not need unions in order to agitate on their behalf. In fact, workers might be better off simply representing themselves.
Union solidarity does not amount to much. Workers should therefore organise themselves into staff associations and press for representation. They will be much stronger through self-organisation and representation.
(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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