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The 56th anniversary of Guyana’s independence finds a very divided nation- a society dangerously drifting from its motto, “One People One Nation One Destiny.” Hopelessness, despair and fear are everywhere. One would never have expected that any indigenous leader or group would have thought about taking this country down a pathway of division, after coming so far, having overcome so many obstacles. Who would have thought an indigenous leader would have brought us back to this, where any section of this society would be bare facedly denied opportunity? We cannot continue living and co-existing like this.
Discrimination and marginalisation anywhere are threats to people everywhere. If the international community, and our Caribbean brothers and sisters, remain silent and supportive of the atrocities happening in Guyana, making no attempt to even give this regime a tap on the wrist, they must know what happens in Guyana will not stay in Guyana. I say, it will ripple across the Atlantic and Caribbean waters and affect them via migration, trafficking and other cross border issues.
The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) reiterates the call for an approach to governance that is inclusionary and consistent with the Constitution of Guyana., universally acceptable principles, and human rights. Congress calls for a government that watches out for workers and the vulnerable in our society- whoever they are, wherever they are, and whatever they look like- even as it addresses the legitimate needs and concerns of the wealthy and well connected.
More than 56 years ago, the Trade Union Movement- in fact from 1926- led the charge for the people’s right to self-determination and today asserts its commitment to inclusionary and sustainable approaches to governance; the protection, security and advancement of the people; and proper management of our resources- human, natural and man-made. The undermentioned 10-point represents the workers’ just demands to peacefully co-exist and thrive:
1.Implementation of the nation’s Political Objective to establish an inclusionary democracy, as outlined in Article 13 of the Constitution of Guyana;
- Old Age Pension to be pegged (at least) to the minimum wage established in the public service;
- Return National Insurance Scheme (NIS) to financial viability + activate Unemployment Benefit to assist displaced workers;
- Establishment of new wages/salary bands for Public Servants, Disciplined Forces + Teachers to reflect the new economy. The current bands are outmoded and should be discarded;
- Realise Cash Grant as proposed by Professor Clive Thomas (i.e., $1 million to every adult Guyanese as a form of Direct Transfer from oil revenue);
- Honour the Tripartite Committee Wage Agreement for private sector workers, as agreed to during the APNU+AFC administration;
- Respect right to freedom of association and collective bargaining as enshrined at Article 147 in the Constitution of Guyana and which are among the first international conventions the Government of Guyana ratified in the immediate post independent period;
- Respect the right to free education from nursery to university (Article 27- Constitution of Guyana). Cancel debts from students who took loans to attend the University of Guyana (UG).Direct oil money to the indigenous education institutions (UG and Critchlow Labour College) that have played a pivotal role in bringing this country to where it is now;
- Equity in management of oil and gas as well as non-oil economies- Systems must be put in place to create opportunities for all, based on want, ability and interest; not race, political association, and other discriminatory markers. Guyana needs an Affirmative Action Plan;
- Political, economic and social justice for all Guyanese for there can be no societal peace when all are not treated as deserving. Workers/citizens are reminded on this auspicious day that we could have only come this far because our ancestors fought various battles to bring us to where we are today. We must honour them by continuing the struggle for freedom; for economic, social and political justice; for fundamental human rights; for equitable development.
Guyana Trades Union Congress