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In 2023, after 118 years from the formation of the first trade union in British Guiana by the late great waterfront worker, Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, I invoke his spirit of resistance, his spirit of struggle and his spirit of understanding what was necessary to force the powers that be into recognising that labour was a force for change, equally as it is a force for national development.
I invoke his spirit here amongst us as inheritors, beneficiaries of his legacy, and the legacy of those who appreciate and support his struggle for humanity.
I invoke the spirit of none other than the late great sisters Jane Phillips-Gay, Janet Jagan and brothers Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, Cheddi Jagan, Joseph Pollydore, Winston Carrington. Revolutionaries all!
I ask you today, what would they say about the state of Guyana; what would they say about those who have inherited the riches, the benefits from their labour, their vision; those who now walk in their footsteps, bringing shame and disgrace…What would they say?
The trade union movement, as other civil society groups, is at the crossroads, experiencing daily suffocation at the hands of those in power. Those who are enjoying the benefits that the trade union movement paved the way for them to do so. They know and they understand the power of labour and every citizen is called upon here today, wherever they are, to recognise that together we are stronger and more powerful than any government, any political party and any institution. But we must be united with common purpose.
Whereas the trade union community has its own challenges, we, the working class, are one in the struggle for personal growth and development, equal rights and justice, national development and equitable distribution of the national resources of this country, protection of our national interest and borders.
Therefore, labour- past present and potential- unionised or not must recognise the importance of the latter (border protection) forcefully reminds that we must be at one enjoying the benefits of the land that our ancestors shed their blood and toiled for.
We are valuable.
The value of labour must be recognised and we must not continue to compromise this value being restricted by political differences and those things over which we have no control over. Those who don’t get this lesson or seek to do otherwise, I say to the ordinary man and woman in this society let us unite as one. And when I say one, I mean One People One Nation One Destiny.
I say to the powers that be that you cannot continue to keep your hands on the throats of our people all the time. There will come a time when all eyes will be opened to those who mismanaged our economy, those who mismanaged our government, and those who continue to oppress and deny the people of this country. I have hope in Guyana. I have hope in the trade union movement and what it is capable of; they know.
We have to get up and fight brothers and sisters, fellow Guyanese-boycott, strike, ustilise the weapons at Labour’s disposal. And when I say this, I am not talking about violence and arms; I am talking about the power of our brains and labour. The withdrawal of labour is more powerful and will bring the government to the table. It is free and it has been used for centuries, all over the world. It is still very relevant in this country and all over the world.
Do not be fooled.
We the working class deserve social and economic justice and we must fight for it. Only through this mean we can achieve it because power concedes nothing without a fight.