The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) on Tuesday paid homage to the father of trade unionism in Guyana, Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, in observance of his 61st death anniversary.
The programme was hosted on Tuesday at the Critchlow Labour College, Woolford Avenue, Georgetown, and included a moment of silence, tributes to Critchlow and a candle lighting segment.
GTUC President Coretta McDonald, in her remarks said Critchlow is remembered as a man who pumped all his time and energies into ensuring workers’ rights were upheld. She said if he could have made such an impact then, unions today can do even more now since they have enough ground to stand on. “Getting into the workforce at that time at such a young age… he was recognised as a man with potential; a man who can make things happen. If he could have done it then we can do it now,” she said.
She added that Critchlow, while working at a young age, recognised that the conditions under which they were working were unacceptable and the salaries they were receiving were not acceptable. “She said Critchlow was dedicated and committed in what he did and expressed hope that trade union leaders of today can take that page out of Critchlow’s book to lead their unions and continue to battle for better working conditions for workers.
The GTUC President expressed gratitude to Critchlow for paving the way for trade unions and for allowing them to stand on the solid ground that he and others fearlessly stood up for.
Critchlow’s initial work experiences consisted of a series of low-paying jobs under abject conditions, yet it was as a trade union activist that Critchlow made his greatest contributions to Guyana and the Caribbean.
On January 11, 1919, he formed the British Guiana Labour Union (BGLU), the first of its kind in British Guiana.
Critchlow served as General Secretary of the union until his resignation in 1952. Under his guidance, the BGLU initiated the British Guiana and West Indian Labour Congress, a regional meeting of trade unionists.
His most significant accomplishments include the 1922 introduction of a Rent Restriction Bill in the British Guiana Legislative Council. He also advocated the introduction of national health insurance, old-age pensions, a girls’ industrial training school, and a children’s court.
He also served on the Discharged Prisoners Aid Committee; the Advisory Committee to the Rent Assessor, Georgetown; the Ex-Servicemen Committee; Poor Law and Local Government Boards; the Old Age Pensions Board; and the Public Works Advisory Committee.
In 1943, Critchlow was appointed the first labour representative in the British Guiana Legislative Council. One year later, in 1944, he became the first labour leader appointed to the executive council of the British Guiana Legislature. He was a Government nominee to the Georgetown Town Council and also a member of the Arbitration Tribunal, under Sir Clement Malone, which inquired into a wage dispute concerning waterfront workers in Grenada, West Indies.