Myths on wage negotiations post-slavery

Dear Editor,
There is a contention that the arrival of Indian indentured labourers undermined the wages of the freed slaves (1838), affecting the power of the ex-slaves to negotiate fair wages. Fair wages could not be determined at the time, given the transition of the economy from slave to wage labour. Indians, because of numerical size, were not competing with the ex-slaves for work; thus the argument that the presence of Indian indentureds was the cause for low wages of ex-slaves is not supported by facts.
The presence of a few hundred Indian labourers could not have any seriously adverse effect on the wage negotiations of some 100,000 ex-slaves. The demand for waged workers was in the tens of thousands, and the Africans withheld their labour. Anyone who studies labour economics or negotiating power of workers would tell you there was no way a few hundred (1938 after which indentureship was suspended) or a few thousands contracted servants (post 1945 when indentureship resumed) would impact on the power of tens of thousands to negotiate wages with labour in great demand.
It is also noted that, during the 1840s and into the 1950s, there were far more Portuguese (and later combined with Chinese) than Indians in Guiana. There were also African indentured labourers from the West Indian islands. There were far more African labourers from outside of Guiana (1840s-50s), combined with Portuguese, than indentured Indians. Thus it could not be factual that Indian labourers impacted on the power of ex- slaves to negotiate fair wages.
Documented history also reveals that Indians were not coming to take jobs from ex-slaves. The ex-slaves did not want to cultivate crops on estates. Indians simply filled the void left by the Africans.
By 1860, there were significant numbers of Indian labourers – more than 10 thousand — but there were still far more Africans, Portuguese and Chinese combined. At one time, there were more Portuguese and Chinese indentureds (combined) than Indians, but Portuguese, Chinese, and indentured Africans were not accused of depressing the wages of the ex-slaves.
Documented history shows that, by 1860, almost all the ex-slaves had completely left estate work. Thus it was not possible that the indentured labourers would affect the Africans in obtaining jobs on the fields, or the wages they were paid.
Labour economists would know that different types of labour would be paid different amounts of wages. The Indians were at the bottom of the pay scale in their contracts for cultivating cane.
Documents show that labourers were constantly needed on the estates because most of the ex-slaves did not want to return to the fields. Thus the planters had to keep bring workers from India, Portugal or China.
Many Indians (almost a fifth) died on the plantation, a third went back to India; so there was always a shortage of labourers (to meet the need), except when indentureship was abolished in 1917, resulting in several estates being abandoned. So, there was always a need for labourers; thus Indians could not have hurt Africans in any negotiation for wages.

Yours truly,
Vishnu Bisram