Home Letters Does Peeping Tom have an anti-worker agenda?
The GAWU has recognised that Peeping Tom in his/her column, which appeared in the May 2, 2019, edition of Kaieteur News, as the columnist did a year ago, is again encouraging workers not to be unionised. The GAWU, also like it did in 2018, cannot fail to express its deep concern with the contentions that are being advocated by Peeping Tom.
We saw that the columnist recognised our dismay on the last occasion he/she penned a similar column but yet, it appears, ignored what our Union had then said. Is it a case of Peeping Tom having an anti-worker agenda?
Peeping Tom, as he/she did before, holds the view that workers in Guyana would be better off without Unions. The absurdity in such a statement is well manifested when we consider the situation regarding workers who are unionised versus those who don’t belong to unions.
The nation would well recall when then Minister within the Social Protection Ministry, Simona Broomes had visited a number of non-unionised workplaces and the stark, disturbing findings she stumbled upon. Similar situations do not generally take place in workplaces where workers enjoy representational services.
Certainly, it points to the need for workers to be organised in an effort to ensure that their rights are respected and they benefit from certain protections at the workplace.
In the period since Peeping Tom wrote his/her last column on this matter, the necessity of Unions has even been further highlighted. Just in recent months, a strong stand by the entire trade union movement has seen the workers of the Bauxite Company of Guyana (BCGI) making significant strides in the struggle to get a fairer deal from the company.
A similar situation also played out in the struggles of the nation’s teachers which eventually saw the Education Ministry coming back to the table and hammering out a deal which saw the teachers winning several of their demands. It undoubtedly goes to show how important a role the entire trade union movement has in our country.
Even on May Day, Social Protection Minister, Amna Ally congratulated the union movement for its working together. In her remarks, the Minister pointed out that collaboration and co-operation in the movement have seen improvement in the national minimum wage, the recent launch of a national occupational safety and health policy and child labour policy, among other things. These are tangible contributions of the movement which will benefit not only unionised but non-unionised workers as well.
Peeping Tom, in advising workers, urged them “[I]f an employer is underpaying you or exploiting you, do not stick around. Move on to something else”. It seems that the columnist has ignored the real reality that employers are driven by profits and, therefore, are concerned with getting maximum value for little reward to their workers.
Moving on from one employer to another will not change that sentiment recognising the smallness of our labour market and the sharing of information between employers. The reality is that moving from firm A to B will not remove the exploitative tendencies we have seen in our country. What we have also seen, however, is that firms which have a unionised workforce tend to have improved conditions and benefits. Of course, to us, this is not a strange situation as studies in other countries in the world have concluded that higher levels of unionisation see workers on the whole enjoying better benefits.
The columnist also said workers should form staff associations and pay subscription fees. But ironically isn’t this a Union in a different form. Obviously, it seems to us, that Peeping Tom isn’t rationally considering what he/she is saying.
Moreover, the columnist said that by organising within organisations rather than nationally, workers would be better able to fight for better wages and conditions contending that it is putting self above others. This outlandish sentiment, in our view, is yet another ploy to divide and conquer as smaller groupings can be easily manipulated to the employer’s whim and fancies. At the same time, the trade union movement is not solely concentrated on discussions at the bargaining table recognising that national policies can also go a long way to bring about real improvement in workers and their families well-being.
We contend that Peeping Tom’s suppositions will not bring about the change the columnist believes that they will. In fact, it could well reverse the progress that the workers have scored over the last century when the first organisation of workers was established.
While there is always need for improvement and betterment, the trade union movement has made laudable contributions and significant progress to bring about profound changes in the lives of our nation’s workers. We go forward fortified in the belief that united we stand, divided we fall. As the lyrics of the now-popular workers’ song, Solidarity Forever, says, “The union makes us strong”.