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|At annual GAWU Delegates Congress… President issues age-old call for unity within labour movement --is open to suggestion about management of GuySuCo|
|Sunday, 26 August 2012 00:42|
AT the opening session of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union’s (GAWU) 20th Delegates’ Congress yesterday,
President Donald Ramotar urged workers to work together towards progress.
“The working class in Guyana is being affected by the lack of unity that exists in the movement as a whole. As long as this division exists, the movement is in danger of weakening. The strength of the workers always lay in their numbers and the unity of the working class,” he said.
He noted that in his view, a part of the labour movement is out of sync with what is happening with the rest of society. “Although we have been living in a democratic society since 1992, and we are working to strengthen our institutions, internal democracy has not been achieved.”
According to the President, this is the reason for the division in the first place, and this issue has not yet been rectified.
“There is a need to allow the democratic will of the working people to prevail at every level of the movement. It is only by this means will the labour movement be strengthened. Democracy in the labour movement is vital to give workers a greater say in national development,” he stated.
Another major issue, according to the President, is the involvement of politics in the movement. He agreed that trade unions must have an active interest in politics, and that this is important for them to protect and promote the interest of the working class.
He noted that trade unions in the past were fighting to have representatives in Parliament to look after their interests.
“I tell you today that it is very important to have the representatives of the working class in the level of Parliament, to secure the interests of the workers everywhere,” President Ramotar told the audience in his address.
However, he noted that there are some “extremist elements” parading as trade unionists when they are actually taking positions that are often detrimental to workers.
Moreover, there are persons who would pretend to be friends of workers, and try to use them to promote their personal agendas.
President Ramotar stated that unions have a responsibility to educate and empower the working people, especially in this information age.
He noted specifically that the sugar industry is one of the most important in Guyana, and has consistently made a huge contribution to the economy, while also being the largest employer of labour.
He stated that the government has made huge investments in this industry, admitting that they had expected a more rapid return on their investment at Skeldon.
Nevertheless, he noted that they are working to fix the problems at the Skeldon Estate; and he believes that sooner rather than later, the Skeldon factory will be the industry’s flagship.
In addition, he said that for this year, the government has injected Gy$4B towards rehabilitating the infrastructure and helping to meet its operational costs.
Some US$12.8M had also been invested in a packaging plant at Enmore, East Coast Demerara.
President Ramotar made reference to 2010, which saw a huge cut in the prices received for sugar from the main market, Europe. He advised that this cut translated into a 36% reduction in income when compared to 2008.
He recalled that, at that time, the union came out and picketed at the European Union Office. The union is on record as pointing to the dangers that the cuts presented to our country and the workers in particular.
“It (the union) was clearly concerned that the cuts were dangerous and would lead to serious consequences for all, including workers,” he said.
He further explained that the industry has been plagued by bad weather, and this presents serious challenges. However, he pointed out that other sugar industries around the Caribbean have faced fewer problems and ended up being closed or privatized.
President Ramotar stated that the government has been extremely open to the workers and the union, and stands ready to allow the unions to examine the books if they have any doubts about GuySuCo’s assertions.
Government is also ready to accommodate the union in helping with the management of the industry, and is open to suggestions.
He reiterated the dire need for unity and understanding. “The relation of management and workers and union is still stuck in another era. Criticism and blame game continue, when what is clearly needed is greater understanding of each other’s position,” he said.
He urged everyone to heed Bob Marley’s call to ‘emancipate yourselves from mental slavery’.
“I call for an emancipation of our thoughts, which still seem to be trapped in the times of ‘massa’ days. Attitudes must change if we are to overcome the challenges and forge ahead confidently,” President Ramotar said.
He advised that the government is working to keep the industry in the hands of Guyanese people. However, he stated, “Our success in doing so depends heavily on your attitude, on your readiness to work with us to turn the industry around. That is the only way we can keep the industry viable and in the hands of the people in the country.”
|Last Updated on Sunday, 26 August 2012 00:46|
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