Guyana must recognise rapidly evolving work culture – GAWU on reduced hours, days

…renews call for national minimum wage to be on par with public sector

The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has pointed out that the global movement to reduce working hours and days without compromising conditions or output is gaining momentum – something Guyana cannot afford to ignore as a developing nation.

A section of the gathering at the FITUG rally in the National Park after Wednesday’s Labour Day March in Georgetown

This is according to GAWU President, Seepaul Narine, during his address at the annual Labour Day Rally held, after the march through the streets of Georgetown, at the National Park Tarmac on Wednesday.
According to Narine, the observance of Workers’ Day is not only a recognition of the progress, triumphs and successes made in the labour movement but also a reflection of the struggles and sacrifices endured by generations of workers especially in the fight for an eight-hour working day.
Even as the progress in improved working conditions is celebrated, the GAWU President stated that the work culture is rapidly evolving and Guyana cannot be ignorant of the new concepts such as reduced working hours and days which is gaining momentum globally.
“This movement is driven by the need for better work-life balance and taking advantage of efficiency and productivity improvements. As a developing nation, Guyana cannot afford to ignore the ongoing debate and must recognise that the world of work is rapidly evolving. We are encouraged to see that reducing working hours has not led to decreased output, and many global players are beginning to embrace this idea. A healthy, happy, and productive working class is essential to our national development, and we must keep up with these international developments,” he stated.
Narine went onto outline that while there has been much progress made to improve working conditions, there are still some struggles that persists that cannot be ignored.
He noted that many workers continue to face challenges in having their rights recognised and upheld, as some employers uphold unfair and unjust employment practices. These realities, the Union Leader stated, mainly affect the ununionised segment of the labour force.
Among some of the issues that these workers face has to do with some persons being promised a certain pay but receive something else or persons not being provided with necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on the job. Instances are also prevalent of employees’ NIS (National Insurance Scheme) contributions being deducted but not paid over to the Scheme as well as workers not being paid for overtime after working beyond the standard eight-hour shift, or others sent home after years of valued and dedicated service without a dollar in severance pay.
Nevertheless, GAWU under its umbrella body – the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG), has committed to supporting these workers as well as expanding its reach to cover new labour categories.
“Those workers have no one to turn to, leaving them voiceless and helpless. The GAWU empathises with those comrades and is committed to providing assistance and guidance… On this Labour Day, the GAWU and the FITUG stand in solidarity with workers who face such difficulties. We want you to know there is hope for a brighter tomorrow, but it requires you to take the first step. The Union is your insurance, your friend, and your advocate to right the wrongs and correct the unfairness. The GAWU remains a willing ally and welcomes you with open arms. We have already established branches for Oil and Gas, and Hospitality and Fast-Food workers,” Narine indicated.
Meanwhile, with national development reaching unprecedented levels, the Union Leader outlined that Guyana’s economy will once again record significant growth this year. According to Narine, this growth is fuelling national expenditures to all-time highs as development is taking place in every corner and sector of the country as part of heightened efforts to improve the standard of living.
While these are welcomed as Guyanese anticipate greater progress from the country’s patrimony, GAWU urged that judiciousness and effectiveness be the mantra as investments are advanced.
On this note, Narine highlighted the concerns regarding labour availability in Guyana, noting that in some areas, foreign labour is utilised. However, he stressed that the country must be mindful of the negative experiences of other places in the world.
“We believe we must examine this issue holistically and craft an appropriate strategy to address present and future labour demands,” he stated.
Further, the GAWU President stated that as the country evolves, workers must also change too and be exposed to new work ethics and skills to take advantage of emerging opportunities and ley to this is the important issue of remuneration.
“We note the efforts of the Government to close gaps in certain areas as they have committed to doing more in the future. These are meaningful interventions which are welcomed by those groups of workers. On this issue, the question of a living wage has emerged, and we reiterate our previous call that the national minimum and public sector minimum wages be equated as a first step and earnest tripartite efforts be made further to realise a workable framework,” the union leader stated.
Narine added, “…as we celebrate Labour Day 2024, we again extend best wishes to all Guyanese and workers worldwide. Let us continue imbued with a greater sense of purpose, inspired to realise a better tomorrow for future generations. Remember, we have nothing to lose but our chains. Long live GAWU! Long live FITUG! Long live the working class!” (G8)