May Day is a special occasion for the Labour Movement and workers in Guyana. It is a time when they should be able to celebrate the consolidation of their rights, increased wages and benefits, improved working conditions, the protection of pension rights and the general progress of the labour movement. Unfortunately, on May Day 2012, Guyanese workers are forced to lament the absence of any such gains.

Guyanese workers cannot forget that, since acceding to Government in 1992, successive PPP Administrations have used their majority in the National Assembly to pass legislation designed to intimidate members of the labour movement and undermine the recognised trade union body, the Guyana Trade Union Congress (GTUC) and have it replaced by the PPP cronies in the so-called Federation of Independent Trade unions (FITUG). In this context, note should be taken of the deliberate policy of encouraging trade unions aligned to the PPP to poach on the preserve of more independent unions in order to marginalize and destroy them.

There has been a continuing and concerted effort to roll back the gains achieved, since the pioneering and foundational efforts of Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow and other stalwarts who made major personal sacrifices for the achievements of many of the workers’ rights that are now under attack. Indeed some anti-working class elements are peddling the idea that trade unions have outlived their usefulness, and that those conditions which Critchlow fought for, such as a living wage and better conditions of work, can be better provided for by employers, such as the Government, themselves. It should be clear, to all genuine members of the labour movement in Guyana, that it would require unity of purpose to successfully defend their hard earned rights.

As a consequence of the anti working class policies of the PPP Administration, even before the advent of the global economic events, Guyanese workers have been caught up in a vicious struggle to survive and ensure their material betterment. Indeed, with the introduction of the unconscionable 16% Value Added Tax (VAT) in 2007 the cost of living in Guyana spiked, considerably undermining the ability of our workers to provide for their families and sustain themselves.

Public Servants in Guyana continue to be under the hammer of their employer, the uncaring and callous PPP Administration, which continues to negate the Agency Shop Agreement with the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), and brazenly commit many breaches of the Collective Labour Agreement with the union, such as deliberately protracting the annual salaries negotiations and then breaking them off towards the end of the year so as to impose its own arbitrarily determined paltry increases which are usually well below the cost-of-living.

Guyanese workers must be consciously aware of the current fragile state of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), which has resulted from the accumulated mismanagement and manipulation by the acolytes of the PPP Administration.

In all of the adverse prevailing circumstances which confront the Trade Union Movement, particularly the Public Servants, careful attention should be paid to the intransigence and stubborn refusal of the Ramotar PPP Administration to:

 Reduce the VAT by 2%;
 Increase Public Servant emoluments by 10% across-the board while committing to the effective re-establishment of normal Collective Bargaining negotiations;
 Implement the various proposals and recommendations for the reform and modernisation of the Public Service.
 Halt the blatant misuse of the device of Contract workers to bypass the rules established by the Public Service Commission and to undermine the GPSU;
 Increasing the pensionable age for Public Servants to 65 years;
 Reduce the Berbice River Bridge toll to $1,000.00;
 commit to the pursuit of an action programme which would restore the long term viability of the NIS; and
 Ensure that the financial assets of the nation, which are being abused through NICIL, to bypass scrutiny by and accountability to the National Assembly, are transferred to the Consolidated Fund.

On the occasion of May Day 2012, therefore, the PNCR recognises the critical role that Trade Unions have played in the political, economic and social development of the country and urge the Movement to remember that such a role can only continue if the Trade Union Movement, as a whole, remains united to protect the interests of all Guyanese workers.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana
Monday 30th April 2012

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