Lest we forget- the 1926 Conference of Caribbean Labour Leaders

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This conference was held in Georgetown, Parliament Buildings. At the conclusion of the Conference the undermentioned are some of the things Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow and other Labour Leaders agreed to pursue. They thereafter listed their demands and began a united struggle with the respective colonial authorities for: –

Socio-economic demands

  1. Immunity for trade unions from claims for damages resulting from strikes
  2. Immunity from charges of conspiracy
  3. The right to picket peacefully
  4. Minimum wage legislation
  5. The forty-hour week
  6. Old age pension
  7. National health insurance and sickness benefits

Political demands

  1. Federation (West Indian Federation –i.e., internal regional self-government)
  2. Universal adult suffrage (i.e., one man one vote)
  3. Limited powers of the colonial governors
  4. Free compulsory primary education
  5. Limitation on the size of a plantation
  6. Nationalisation
  7. State ownership of public utilities
  8. Cooperative marketing of agriculture produces.

 

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In 1926 Cheddie Jagan was eight-year-old and Forbes Burnham, three-year-old.

Today, when the Labour Movement stands up and fights and raises its voice in protest against acts and actions by government and employers considered inimical to workers’ well-being, the Movement comes from a strong position of history, strength, authority and conviction. Having laid the foundation in post slavery society, as the first mass-based organisation to establish a programme to create a just and fair society for all Guyanese, it is a matter of necessity that the trade union continues to stand up and fight.

But the trade union cannot fight alone. The Movement needs the support of every worker, unionised or not; every citizen, in the workforce or out. Solidarity is strength and makes potent the struggle for social, political and economic justice for all. Labour has demonstrated over the years its interest resides not only in the workplace but includes the wider society.

It is our conviction that the trade union has a social responsibility and obligation to influence the welfare and standard of living of the community within which it operates. This community is called Guyana. The struggle that started in 1905, when dock workers downed tools in protest against poor working conditions, to the establishment of a programme in 1926 to realise voting rights and internal self-government, with voting right achieved in 1953, independence in 1966, and complete internal self-government in 1970 with Republican status, the struggle is still far from over. And even as gains have been made, these must be zealously guarded and protected lest they be eroded/removed.

The Guyana Trades Union Congress urges every citizen to mobilise, to cooperate in the building of Guyana, to unite in fighting together for our rights and freedoms, and protecting our resources from being exploited by foreign forces to our exclusion and detriment. As Guyana enters its 55th year, let us all resolve to fight together. And in the refrain of the national song, ‘Let us Co-operate’ by W. R. A Pilgrim:- “Can we do it? Yes we can.”



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