Yesterday was “Labour Day” – a public holiday. But with the lockdown in place, not much labour was in sight on the streets marching in their red shirts to celebrate their holiday.
Over the years, the display of labour’s strength has been dwindling inexorably, and the COVID-19 regime might just have sounded labour’s death knell. This is rather ironic, seeing that the COVID-19 lockdown across the world has demonstrated conclusively — even with two hundred years of “labour saving” devices, machines and robotic assembly lines — that it still takes labour to make the (economic) world go round.
In Guyana, we really haven’t seen the full implications of this reality, since our lockdown, for most in Georgetown (which is “Guyana” to most), is really a joke. Have you compared the pictures of Mid-Manhattan, including Times Square, and downtown Georgetown?? And you though NY was the city that never slept!! Your Eyewitness ventured out yesterday, all outfitted in his gloves, masks and cap, to forage for some groceries in one of our top supermarkets in Georgetown. He was shocked at the number of people jostling each other in the aisles (without any protection); it was in no way, shape or form different from the pre-lockdown times. So, these supermarket workers are one group who’re still labouring away.
From anecdotal evidence, this is the norm all across the city; so why is anyone surprised that G/town is the COVID-19 epicentre?? But there are the employees from “non-essential” businesses that have had to shut down; and these – who can’t even be “in the streets” — are hurting. They might even start to sympathise with those 7000 sugar workers who were arbitrarily fired by Granger three years ago!!
Interestingly enough, because sugar workers can’t be cramped into those trucks that transport them into the fields to cut cane, the remaining 10,000 sugar workers are now out of jobs. But who’s taking food to them?? Out of sight, out of mind? Or don’t they matter?
But with a recession heading our way –one that’ll rival the one they called “Great” back in the 1930s — this is the time for labour to once again rally around their red flag to represent the workers of Guyana. Every other country, including Barbados, has introduced programmes that are putting money directly and indirectly into the pockets of workers to tide them over. What’s this caretaker Government doing??
Isn’t it time that Trade Unionists like Lincoln Lewis, who’s still head of the TUC, start mobilising against the APNU/AFC Government on workers’ behalf for relief, instead of spending all his time finding excuses for their rigging??
Why praise Critchlow when you won’t walk in his shoes??
…and a leader lost
Komal Chand was the leader of the sugar union GAWU for donkey’s years. Your Eyewitness knows GAWU represented workers in some other sectors, but it’ll be for his sugar representation that he’ll be remembered. The nation was shocked when it was suddenly informed that he’d passed away in Cuba, where he’d gone for some undisclosed medical treatment. No one even knew he was in Cuba. Guess he’s not Granger.
Chand had cut his teeth in the sugar industry just about when GAWU was waging its historic 135-day strike to secure recognition from the government – which had just nationalised it. His career, then, was born in fire. He mightn’t have remembered, but his and Granger’s fates were intertwined from those days: there’s a pic in the Chronicle of Granger as a scab from the army who was deployed by Burnham to break the strike. Some who feel that Chand shouldn’t have mixed politics with trade unionism should remember that, in Guyana, “it’s all political” isn’t just an academic phrase!
On this day, a hat tip to Komal Chand.