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By Coretta McDonald, President, Guyana Trades Union Congress
May Day/Labour Day, occupies a special place in the national life of the Labour Movement and helps to cement the bonds that we have for each other. This day as you know allows us the opportunity to demonstrate, make resounding calls and hold the government accountable, even as we seek to charter a way forward. May Day also allows us that freedom to reaffirm the ties of solidarity and the common struggles that brings us and the world together.
Let us pledge to bring workers together. Let us show respect for the long and hard hours our workers do to ensure the wheels turn. Let us with genuine hearts, words and actions appreciate the real efforts of the working class. Let us celebrate the struggles and power of the ordinary men and women and give them the encouragement to follow their careers and be key contributors to this dear land of ours.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has shown us how inefficient and unprepared we are as a nation. The onus then is on us the Labour Movement and a government that is considerate to put systems in place that would allow for our workforce to be safe and comfortable. I wish to bring to the attention of those in authority, the conditions under which we live and work, which has been antagonised by the prolong stay of COVID-19 and to complain for our rights.
Let me remind all that May Day is ours and we will use every ounce of our being to call out the defaulters when our rights are being trampled upon. I wish to stand in representation of our nurses in Linden, who have been crying out for more than sixty days, our nurses in Georgetown have cried out, we have heard the cries of the teachers and our public servants across this country.
Yes, that simple cry for increased wages and better conditions of work, that cry for respect, that cry for equal opportunities, that cry for fairness and safety in the workplace. With COVID-19 raging steam not only here but globally, that cry must be heard in the distance for an immediate solution and the offer of a Stimulus Package to cushion the effects of this deadly virus.
I pay homage to all those workers whose lives were snuffed out by COVID-19 and to call on this regime, to call on Mr. Joseph Hamilton, the Minister of Labour to make things right, better and safe for our members by reviewing the system of work (hours and staffing) and to put in place, with immediate effect, a staff rotational system.
GTUC calls on Minister Hamilton to seek out a better form of transportation service for our members. We ask that he seeks to ensure the Health and Safety measures in the workplaces are observed, by making it mandatory to have hand sanitizers readily available, screening of workers every day and that social distancing be encouraged.
Thousands of our workers still rely on public transportation, where there is a grave threat of transmission. The Government should allow workers to see how caring they are by demonstrating that they could employ the use of the great minds that we have within the Labour Movement, Government and the Private Sector to come up with workable strategies to safeguard the wealth of our Nation- Our Human Resource. We cannot play sport with the lives of our people.
The Minister and his government are reminded women make up the major part of the workforce and that we demand to be respected in every sector of the work environment, where we give of our service. Therefore, I make this call for the removal of Mr. Small, the CEO of the Linden Hospital who would have uttered those nonfactual and distasteful statements against our dedicated and committed nurses.
Minister Hamilton is being called on to launch an investigation now, because those distasteful statements would have led to many of our nurses having suffered emotional distress and loss of pay. Attention needs to be paid to these cries and the offer of the necessary counseling and return of monies that were deducted.
Workers, it is time for us to demand what we deserve. As you are aware, we are marking another Labour Day at a difficult time, where the poor and working class are having to bear the burden of a global pandemic, economic and social disruption and in light of this we have seen the unleashing of a venom that has caused thousands of workers to be sent on the breadline. Labour is in crisis.
We could emerge from this state of affairs but it would require an extraordinary effort, which is a call for genuine and meaningful discussions. With every challenge there’s a possible outcome. Workers are a resilient people. We had to learn to adapt to the constraints and change and to remind that we have never wavered in giving of our best. So, when we are disenfranchised and discriminated against, the cry will be loud. Our central call is for the health of all our people.
We are concerned about the vulnerability of workers, the unemployed and the poor. My final call is for a nationwide lock down as a step in stemming the spread of this virus that has been beating us to the punch. This would afford the government enough time to review and put better systems in place.
In 2021 let us join with raised fists to acknowledge the sacrifices made by our workers across this country and to thank them for their unending love, dedication, strength and resilience as we hold the line of battle. Hold on my Comrades, hold on, for the Union makes us Strong. We shall overcome.