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The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), once touted as being a working-class party, a party with a vibrant trade union arm that it has depended on for its political strength, has self-destructed its working-class image. What the party is doing to workers of this country now, they would not have tolerated such from any government. They would have run around the globe, conjuring stories and seeking solidarity. They would have placed their struggles in every conceivable context- from racial, economic, cultural and political- to seek attention. They would have been screaming marginalisation, racism, discrimination and economic suppression.
With the actions by the government today it is fair to ask if this is the PPP/C all along or an aberration of the Cheddie Jagan party? Is this the party of Bharrat Jagdeo, that has surpassed other PPP/C administrations? No genuine working-class party will treat any worker, regardless of differences, the way the PPP/C treats j workers of Guyana, particularly under the Donald Ramotar, Jagdeo or Irfaan Ali regime. It is either these leaders are an aberration of the PPP/C or represent what the party truly stands for.
Workers in post independent Guyana have never encountered such fear and divisiveness as happening now. There has never been such working-class fear as what is being encountered in this era. The PPP/C under Jagdeo has created the working-class fear that has affected many people. This has to have been their aim, given the deliberative action set out to victimise and demonise workers. Many have been placed on the breadline in what looks like a wide scale vendetta. Workers were threatened before the election results were declared, that any who aided or supported the coalition government, should be PPP/C get into office they would go after them and their families. They are making real this threat.
There has been mass dismissal without due process, and workers have been publicly shamed and maligned. It has been a deliberate effort to violate due process and workers’ rights, which are fundamental trade union practices and the spirit of good judgment. Names and faces were paraded in the media, to present a picture of guilt even in cases where it could be publicly discerned that the charges against these people were ridiculous and politically biased. One such case is that of Christopher Jones, which even the United States, in its Human Rights on Guyana, condemned the transgression of his rights.
Persons are being attacked if they are perceived not to be supportive of the government. Since August 2020 the Nazi’s tactic of destroying political opposition and ethnic groups perceived to be not supportive of government has rained down on the nation like hailstorms. The working class of post independent Guyana has been dealt its worst blow under Jagdeo PPP/C and once again eminent under the Ali/Jagdeo regime.
Labour is under siege by the PPP/C. They continue to refuse to engage trade unions in collective bargaining, transgressing this basic human right of workers enshrined in the Constitution of Guyana and Labour Law. They walk around the country falsely giving the impression of commitment to equal pay for equal work for foreign and local labour. They are only paying lip service but showing no genuine interest in setting up a viable system where this could be achieved. They claim to care that foreign employers must respect Guyanese workers and the laws when the government, as principal enforcer of the laws and the major employer, is violating said principles.
In the two budgets of the Ali regime there has been nothing in it for the working class. Proposals by the Guyana Trades Union Congress to be included in the 2021 Budget were:- income tax (PAYE) reduction, restoration of child tax credit; restoring the constitutional right to free education at the University of Guyana; direct and indirect cash transfer from oil and gas revenue; activation of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) Unemployment Regulation; reduction in electricity, gas and transportation prices; improve medical services; revitalising of the cooperative sector; expansion of the school meal programme to provide a daily balanced lunch for school children from nursery to secondary for all public schools; erasing the NIS deficit; among others. These are issues that impact the social and economic well-being of the working-class and their families, but all were ignored.
The COVID-19 cash grant of $25,000.00 which the regime is paying out is not only miserly but there has been no equity in the management and distribution of the programme, leaving many workers out. There has been no increase in the minimum wage even as cost of living is rising which means there is further erosion in real wage and greater hardship on workers.
As workers in Guyana commence Labour Week, the sacrifices and achievements of our forebears, Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow and other preceding trade unionists, must not go in vain or be denied. Workers must continue to fight to protect, defend and further advance these gains. In order to secure a just place in society where all workers can enjoy equal access to justice and fair play we must fight for as long as it takes.
There must greater solidarity, workers awareness and heightened sensitivity of the danger of remaining silent in the light of such political efforts to criminalise, marginalise and destroy the labour force, the economy and families. All workers are under threat from the PPP/C, but moreso workers and others who do not support the PPP’s political agenda. As Martin Carter said, “all are involved, all are consumed.” All must work together and resist because a threat to one is a treat to all.
The best individual protection lies in collective action. This is achievable through strong trade union which the Jagdeo/Ali regime, and others who see Labour as a threat, seek to destroy. This opportunity is taken to call on workers as this May Day approaches to become more active in their trade union because in unity there is strength. As we celebrate Labour Week in an atmosphere of government hostility and provocation, let us bear in mind “solidarity, the union makes us strong.”