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Gov’t accountable to the people
Political operatives believe workers are their subjects and Guyana’s resources belong to them to do as they please as the masses remain deprived. Labour registers its disapproval to this massa-thinking and urges society to recognise and agitate for the enforcement of a system of government that is accountable to the people. The Constitution of Guyana prescribes our rights, and these must be upheld regardless of which government is in office.
For instance, Article 13, which speaks to our political system, mandates the “…establish [ment] of an inclusionary democracy by providing increasing opportunities for the participation of citizens, and their organisation in the management and decision-making processes of the State, with particular emphasis on those areas of decision-making that directly affect their well-being.”
A right, as enshrined in the Constitution, cannot and must not be honoured in the breach. Guyanese must move with haste to make sure both the Government and the Opposition pass relevant Bills in the National Assembly to make Article 13 a reality. Article 13 deals with the fundamentals of an inclusive government which requires the government, opposition and relevant stakeholders working together for the good of the nation and citizens. No government has the right to deny citizens anything that is prescribed by the Constitution.
The time is now for us to stand up and agitate to be a part of the decision-making processes in the management of this country on matters that affect our rights, economic, social, cultural and political wellbeing. These must be determined by us, not external forces or internal forces that do not have our interest at heart.
Oil and gas sector
It is disheartening what is happening in the foreign-owned oil and gas sector. Guyanese must not be bystanders to transgressions and violations. In this sector exploitation of workers is rampant. For instance, should a worker question the conditions under which he is working, the employer retaliates by not recalling that worker after he would have gone on turnaround. In addition to this transgression to the working class and family, Guyanese workers are not enjoying equal pay for equal work to their foreign counterparts. One wonders if these conditions are not being created and facilitated by a regime that could only talk about respecting workers’ rights but is not serious about enforcing laws and international conventions to protect the rights of all workers.
Whereas the oil contract may have limitations the Irfaan Ali regime is expected to do much more in areas of workers’ protection and advancement. So far, they have failed to work with the Opposition and trade unions to conceptualise and introduce laws, policies and programmes to secure the welfare of the workers of Guyana. The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) seems to be picking up from where they left off; and the Ali regime will offer no new hope to the Guyanese labour force.
The contempt Guyanese workers are being subjected to in the oil and gas sector started more than a decade ago in the Bauxite Company Guyana Incorporated (BCGI). It was the PPP/C government that first aided and abetted the RUSAL management transgressing workers’ rights and violating Guyana laws. They have allowed a foreign company to make bauxite workers second class citizens in their own land. Now this lawlessness has spread to the oil sector. These foreign companies are pushing the limits because they know if the government, who is part owner of BCGI, is doing nothing to rein in the excesses of RUSAL management, they would not rein them in when they have no shares or claims to ownership.
And whereas the Ali/Jagdeo regime condemned the Granger/Nagamootoo administration for agreeing and signing a contract, considered to be lopsided by the citizenry, today they are resisting to renegotiate the very contract they condemned, in as much as the Main Opposition has given public commitment in support of a renegotiation. This is clear and demonstrated hypocrisy by the present regime, and the depth to which they took this country, the violation and lies they were prepared to commit to get into office.
Machiavellian politics vs accountable politics
Citizens and workers must not allow the PPP’s Machiavellian politics to pass without these politicians being held accountable. They say they will renegotiate the oil contract and we must hold them to their words. If we fail to do this, then we are failing ourselves and becoming party to our own destruction. Our role is to hold all governments accountable, even the ones that we vote for. History has proven if you do not hold the government accountable some of those same governments will turn around and walk on you.
They promised the society to create 50,000 in five years but so far has brought the society no hope. It appears Ali has pulled job creation and the numbers out of the American political playbook. The difference is- in America, politicians are held accountable by proactive media and civil society for promises made and the veracity of their claims, whether they are realisable or not. American politicians have to show how it will be done; but politicians here take the people for fools, telling the media a set of Nancy stories and acting as though pulling numbers out a hat would make the promise real. In that other society that Ali seeks to copy, it is not only about promises, you have to say how it will be done and politicians are taken to task. If he wants to act like an American politician then we have a duty to act like Americans and hold him accountable.
We must hold this regime accountable. For accountable governance is crucial to a safe and productive workforce. We must together demand resolution to the decade-plus grievances in BCGI. These bauxite workers are patriots. For when successive governments wavered, trembled or threw up their hands, bauxite workers stood resolutely and confronted a foreign force threatening Guyana sovereignty. Workers in BCGI, the public and teaching sectors, are demanding equal treatment in industrial resolution as is being offered to sugar workers. Is it instructive that most labour disputes are between workers and the government as the employer. Something is seriously wrong when leaders elected by the people are turning on the people.
Lest we forget, the laws were made to protect every worker, regardless of which sector he/she works, irrespective of his/her perceived political association or ethnic identity. What affects one worker affects all workers. The trade union cannot and must not sit idly by and allow the rights of its members be trampled on. We must be mindful to hold all governments to respect our rights, uphold the laws, regardless of whether we vote for them. Government must be held accountable. The country is not theirs, it belongs to every one of us, and they are working on our behalf and are in office by our pleasure. Every PPP supporter has a right to hold this government to its promises and the Opposition must do likewise.
Solidarity forever, the union makes us strong.