May 11, 2022 Editorial
Kaieteur News – Our workers are in a bind, and when they are in such a state that ripples across the nation. When our workers in many crucial segments in this society are so weighed down, this then spreads into families, then communities, and in the span of time and reach, the whole country. This had to do with their representation, with how fractured are the trade union bodies in this country. This is what contributes to them being uncertain as to how they stand and, hence, lacking the muscular presence that is needed to better their lot. The source of the uneven stance of Guyanese workers can be traced to our politics.
This is what should hit home from our article titled, “Political environment biggest threat to workers’ solidarity –‘union leaders should be demonstrating unity and strength to politicians’ -Chris Ram” -KN May 8). The evidence is there, for we have two union umbrellas spearheading the struggle for betterment for our working people. One group is widely seen as being friendly to the PPP/C Government, while the other is held to be close to the APNU Opposition. Our position is simple, should have some substance, because it is all about commonsense. It is that when trade unions, through their leadership, align too closely with local political leaders, it is the equivalent of the kiss of death, beyond rescuing.
Because when the trade union-political connection is this close, it has transformed into the dangerous. That is, what is dangerous for workers, in that their best interests could be jeopardised on the altar of political loyalty. To repeat the obvious, this is a great disservice to the workers of Guyana, regardless of which union lays rightful claim to their membership. It is also dangerous because this political loyalty, real or perceived, for one side or the other, serves as an obstacle to what could be best for workers. What is best right now for the workers of Guyana is that they are united via union membership under one umbrella.
When there are two union umbrellas, sometimes at odds with each other, then the workers are weaker. The strength that is needed, that which comes from one solidified and unified workers’ body, is just not there. Political leaders can play them against one another, use them for their own narrow priorities, and defeat the visions of our workers, which are filled with dreams that are likely to go unfulfilled. It goes back to that old saying, which is more of the commonsensical than scriptural, that ‘a house divided against itself will fall.’ It is sure to fall because it is only getting by in a limping, one-foot, fashion. This is where our workers and their unions are, and we invite thoughtful Guyanese to examine for themselves the self-destructive nature of such circumstances.
While local political leaders making hay with union division, and their consequential lack of a broad-based foundation for united and determined action, our workers end up losing, and always come up short. They are dependent on the charity of, what is convenient to, our politicians, who hold them hostage, and use them without letup. There it is as plain as day, and our unions seem helpless, or too committed to their respective courses of association, to do anything about what wrongs their constituents, what perpetuates their woes, what renders their voice all but meaningless, and reduces them to flailing futilely in the wind.
Commentator Chris Ram offered some words of wisdom: “if persons at the top level are compromised, there is little chance for those at the lower level.” There is the perception, if not fear, in this society that politics has infiltrated every layer and area of this country, and trade unions are no exception. Mr. Ram’s concern was that when some money, most likely a fraction of the oil money generating so much anxiety in this society, touches the little people, then “people will become unconcerned about the abstract issues, like good governance.” The PPP/C Government knows that, and that is why it is in its interests for unions to be divided. Thus, they will lack the strength to take a unified and forceful stance on what matters, workers’ rights, benefits, welfare.
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