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Guyanese workers are confronted with the challenge of working class solidarity and equal treatment under the law. They are being hamstrung by those who are driven by self-serving allegiance to political party/government. Whereas the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) held the APNU+AFC government accountable for good governance, as it did with all previous governments, today many who stood in solidarity with the GTUC during that period have disappeared.
Some have become mute and complicit to the trampling of workers’ rights, the disregard for good governance and the Rule of Law, because they and their group stand to benefit. Sections of the private sector and trade union community are silent to the divisive and lawless dictates of the Ali/Jagdeo regime. It seems unimportant to them these acts will create two societies and escalate discontent amongst the poor and working class.
Again this year, the government has denied some workers in the public sector the right to collective bargaining and a decent wage/salary. It is not that the regime does not know that the present wage/salary cannot keep pace with the price of bread that has increased by $100, sugar by at least 60%, meat by 100 %, and so forth. They simply don’t care. For them, once they can eat cake, to hell with the poor who cannot eat bread or buy sugar to make sugar-water tea.
They throw trinkets at the workers, – a one-month tax free salary here, an imposed seven percent there- and selectively disburse cash grants in an attempt to keep the masses feeling they having to grovel for a fair share of the nation’s pie as they live high on the hog. In this oil and gas economy we cannot continue thinking it must be business as usual.
This Christmas many will either have to forgo the traditional festive meals, or should they seek to enjoy the season as in days of yore will have to deprive themselves in the New Year or rely on the benevolence of overseas loved ones.
It is not that the regime does not have the wherewithal to pay better wages/salary, and create new wage/salary bands, but they just don’t want to do so because who they think will primarily stand to benefit. Whereas on one hand they return, over and over again, to the National Assembly to pump billions into the beleaguered Guyana Sugar Corporation, they will deliberately impose policies and programmes to keep others economically deprived. They are also depriving the poor retail workers by siding with the Private Sector not to improve the Minimum Wage.
Inequities will continue to run rampant unless the affected take a principled stand against sufferings, injustices. Workers cannot ignore the importance of uniting around common causes, which include having a program and an agenda consistent with their well-being. The majority of people are being sidelined, alienated, not because they are not Guyanese, but because of who they are ethnically, perceived to be supporting politically, or taken for granted as a reliable voting bloc. The majority must no longer afford to lay back and allow another day of being trampled on. To do this will be a disservice to self and history.
The affected must draw on the strength of their forebears. Nothing was ever achieved without struggles and sacrifices. Placing oneself in a position to get anything without having to engage in such actions would breathe disrespect and attract the crumbs falling from the oppressor’s table. No life is worth living when lived on our knees. Our ancestors, in spite of deprivations, whips tearing into their flesh, and other forms of cruelty put up resistance and fought to be treated with respect and dignity.
The era may be different but where deprivation and disrespect remain for any group, even if we are not from said group, such must not find kindred and willing spirit in any of us. Resignation or acceptance of the injustices meted out to the people by any government undermines the very core of our existence as fellow human beings and citizens.
Christmas must find within us time to reflect not only on the significance and timing of the birth of Jesus Christ but how we could prosecute His teachings and actions today. There are similarities in His and our eras. The world (Guyana) is still plagued by greed, cruelty, division and men without conscience. Let this be the Christmas where we recommit and act on Isaiah 1:17-i.e. “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and please the widow’s cause.”
Season’s Greetings to all Guyanese.