The trade union is still standing in this hostile anti -working class environment

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As a voice of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), the advice Tacuma now wants to give Labour he needs to give his party. I repeat, without fear of controversy, Walter Rodney would be disappointed in the WPA as a working-class party that he co-founded. Likewise, he is redirected to his advice that the challenges the party face in these times, good leadership would be able to circumvent that.

His fundamental arrogance is demonstrated in the first paragraph of his letter which was carried in this newspaper last Sunday. I identify as a voice of Labour. Any comment on Labour that piques my interest I shall respond, personally or otherwise, unapologetically as a voice of Labour in a manner that I see fit. This opportunity is taken to remind him to redirect his “fraternal criticism” and concerns to the WPA of which he is a leading voice.

The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) is guided by its membership. It is not for Ogunseye to determine “….to push the union leaderships to a combative response….” He is not part of the membership. And whereas I and the GTUC are not opposed to friendly voices engaging us privately with advice or expressed criticism, Tacuma’s approach leaves much to be desired.

It is also interesting where he takes the liberty to criticise the trade unions that are accountable to their membership, he takes offence to “fraternal criticism” extended to the WPA, a political party vying for votes, including from the GTUC’s membership. As a matter of fact, the trade union is the only organisation that shares the same active participants as the political party.

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It is not about the union having people to come out. They can. It is about the politicians administering the laws of this country, in a manner where rights and the rule of law are upheld, and thus enabling trade union and civic activism. Political parties are the ones that have the main control over the environment. The WPA’s non-stellar performance in the last administration within the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Public Service should be taken as “fraternal criticism” not contextualised as an “attack.”

Tacuma should tell the nation why the Guyana Teachers Union was unable to sign a new Collective Agreement under the direction of a WPA co-leader, Minister of Education Dr. Rupert Roopnarine. Let him also say why under Minister Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, the Guyana Public Service Union didn’t have a Collective Agreement signed and they did not get the return of the Agency Shop which is vital for union functioning.

Did the ministers/Tacuma/WPA see these as important to empower the beleaguered unions or were they comfortable in continuing the PPP undermining of the trade union? Upfront, let me say- don’t blame David Granger, the partnership, or seek to draw nexus to the termination of my contract with the Guyana Chronicle.

He sees the contextualisation of Critchlow’s era juxtaposed to current times, as an unworthy analysis of the reality we face to justify the weakened state of the labour movement, even as he explains no two periods are the same. It was a necessary and crucial assessment in understanding the state of the trade union in the political and national environment. That the trade union is still standing in this hostile anti working class environment is because of continued struggle.

One government has even abandoned a vital Ministry of Labour. Look at the Bauxite Company Guyana Inc (BCGI) case where successive governments have failed to enforce the laws to protect the workers’ rights and bring resolution to grievances that are more than a decade old. The movement may not have been as effective as it was in Burnham, Hoyte and the Jagans eras but it is still fighting. In the past, whether the unions were independent or aligned to political parties, the freedom to agitate and organise was there.

Never have I claimed or attributed “at the feet of the political parties the sole responsibility for the state of the union.” My position has always been that of shared responsibility because labour functions best in an environment where the fundamentals of good governance, rights and the rule of law are upheld. It is as simple as that. One cannot help but note, based on this WPA’s voice, the intent seems to be acting as a driver in society for others to pursue the “combative responses.” My advice is- deliver the expected leadership and others will follow.

The trade union is operating in an environment where the oppressive arm of the state operates not in keeping with its motto of ‘Service and Protection’ but political dictate. Foreign companies are being allowed to exploit workers that would have never been tolerated by the Jagans, Burnham and Hoyte. What was seen as a cardinal sin in the colonial era when sugar workers were shot in 1948, in 1999 when unarmed public servants were shot by police under the Jagdeo administration the response was divisive. Workers have never lived in fear where they cannot get out and counter the employer/government as now. Everywhere fear crawls.

I speak the truth as I know it to be. It is insufficient for Ogunseye to claim my statement that “For more than two decades, yours truly and the GTUC were the only voices calling for meaning to be given to a new form of governance as enshrined in Article 13 of the Constitution of Guyana,” is “erroneous” without providing evidence to the contrary.

This trade unionist will hide behind no one but recognises the importance of collaboration with others with shared similar interests. I’m guided by the trade union’s belief of having permanent interest and remain fearless, even in the trade union state of weakness, in the pursuit of labour’s interest. Senior Counsel and Member of Parliament Roysdale Forde, as the shadow Minister of Labour, best represented in the highest decision-making forum of this land the current interest of the GTUC. At this point in time such representation serves best the environment within which we operate.



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