The descent of the trade union movement in Guyana

Dear Editor,
The trade union movement in Guyana was founded by Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow in 1919. The trade union movement was once a powerful force in our country. Pre-Independence, the People’s Progressive Party were twice the victim of the trade union movement.
In 1953 with the Guiana Industrial Workers’ Union. Later in 1964, the People’s National Congress-aligned Trade Union Congress organised a strike which subsequently led to British intervention and the introduction of the proportional representation system.
However, today majority of the trade unions in Guyana have lost their way. These entities are plagued with poor leadership, disunity and the age-old problem of political affiliation. The trade union movement in Guyana has long been associated with politics. However, never before have such pitiful attempts at trade unionism appeared in Guyana. This has resulted mainly due to ingrained union leadership.
The main objective of Labour Day celebrations has been lost in time. Last Sunday was Labour Day and the disunity among the trade unions laid bare for all to see. Many of these unions are political pawns whose priorities are based on political allegiances and sympathies; rather than the best interest of the workers they regularly purport to represent. This is shameful and unacceptable. These union leaders have become so emboldened as to openly demonstrate their political loyalty. The many members who prop up these failed unions, should demand better from the union leaders.
Many have noticed the bizarre position of the Guyana Public Service Union who failed to participate in the annual May Day march and rally. Whether the GPSU has become a pro-Government union remains to be seen. Though a few observers are surprised by this stance this letter writer is not. Union leaders have sold out the workers they represented before for stranger reasons.
The Guyana Public Service Union failed miserably to hold the People’s National Congress-dominated coalition accountable to an agreement they made with the Granger-led Government in 2015 for salary increases in 2016, 2017 and 2018. In doing so, the GPSU failed in representing the workers simply because the GPSU is political arm of the People’s National Congress Reform and cared little about the workers but more for its political masters.
The GPSU had asked the failed coalition of convenience (APNU/AFC) for salary increases in 2016, 2017 and 2018 of a flat payment of $75,000 per month to all public servants together with a pay increase of 25 per cent across the board for 2016 and a flat payment of $7000 per month and 20 per cent increase across the board for 2017 and $9000 per month and 20 per cent increase across the board for 2018. This never happened, not even close to the proposed figures, with only single digit increases; lest we forget.
The representation provided by GPSU is woefully incompetent to say the least. Over time this union and many other trade unions in Guyana have lost the confidence of its members and non-members alike. This is public knowledge. Most notably are the Guyana Teachers’ Union, Guyana Trade Union Congress and the Guyana Public Service Union. These unions are all political arms of the People’s National Congress Reform; a tainted political faction, anti-progressive in nature, racist in intent and outright dangerous to the national harmony of Guyana.
The trade union movement should be about defending and advancing the rights, struggles and overall interest of the workers. The disinterest in the rights and conditions of many workers are obvious by the actions of many of the union leaders. The lack of impartiality by these union leaders and the playing of politics with the lives and livelihood of people is distasteful. This is as many of these union leaders are political hopefuls. This surely spells disaster for the future.
For years the Guyana Public Service Union has brought itself and its almost comical representation into question. Firstly, the GPSU as an entity and I dare to say ‘a political entity’ is in dire need of leadership. The President of the Guyana Public Service Union is Mr Patrick Yarde and his Vice President is Ms Sharon Gardener. The failing of this union comes directly from the top. The leadership is of GPSU is completely useless and ineffective. As a result, the union has been seeing a drastic decline in membership over the past few years.
Patrick Yarde has been the President of the GPSU for well over thirty years now. As a result, the GPSU has become stagnant and visionless. Numerous calls have been made for the resignation of Patrick Yarde over the years. He remains unmoved by these pleas. What is his obsession with power I may not know, but it’s clear that the current leadership of the GPSU has no interest in what happens to public servants. After all even Fidel Castro stepped down.
The leadership of Patrick Yarde has failed. The trade union movement in Guyana should get its act together, as it has obligations to its members to represent their interest impartially.

Nkosei Williams