As Guyana joined the rest of the world to observe Labour Day 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s leaders lauded workers, particularly those in the healthcare system, as the heroes during this crisis.
Frontline workers around the world are risking their lives to serve the country and the people. While this is the same in Guyana, the situation is more unique as the country remains in a political crisis, given that it has been two months since elections were held and there is yet to be a declaration of credible results.
In his Labour Day message, caretaker President David Granger stated that Guyana’s workers including those on the frontlines, essential workers as well as those who are social distancing and staying home, are leading a courageous battle against the novel coronavirus by preventing the spread of the deadly disease.
“Workers and servicemen are our heroes in this campaign. A grateful nation salutes the efforts of workers who are playing their part to keep our country safe. Your Government is not unmindful of the difficulties caused by the social restrictions which have been enforced since the outbreak of the disease in Guyana. The situation would have been worse without those measures which are necessary to protect us all,” he noted.
The Head of State went on to assure workers and servicemen that together the country can overcome the perils of this pandemic. As such, he further urged everyone to contribute to the effort so that the country could be restored to normalcy as soon as possible.
“Workers can be assured that their Government will continue to work assiduously to restore normalcy in Administration, agriculture, business, construction, commerce, education, industry and the other productive sectors,” the caretaker President added.
However, Presidential Candidate of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic, Dr Irfaan Ali pointed out that in these troubling times, that is, economically, politically, and health-wise, workers need instability and responsiveness in a Government.
“In these troubling times, workers need a stable, responsive, respectable and caring government… I understand fully that there are decisions to be made to secure your welfare, protect your families, safeguard your jobs and return those jobs that were lost,” he noted.
To this end, Ali posited that he has already committed to a series of activities through the National COVID-19 Stakeholders’ Forum to not only cushion the effects of the pandemic but also help businesses to return to some level of normalcy so that workers can get back to work when this health crisis subsides.
He further stated that while it is important to adhere to the guidelines in place for persons to protect themselves and prevent the spread of the deadly disease, Government has the responsibility to make the necessary adjustments to secure workers’ welfare and wellbeing.
“I assure all workers that my Government is prepared to do this. We’ve already committed to the restoration of jobs in the sugar industry, mining, forestry, agriculture and the services sector. While we build the foundation for a strong, locally managed oil and gas sector, among other areas of economic development. Indeed, we’ve committed to the advancement and development of our workforce to not only satisfy the demands of the existing economies but also prepare them for the many opportunities ahead in new areas of growth,” Ali asserted.
He continued that the past struggles of workers were aimed at securing proper social services which include access to reliable and affordable health care services, education, electricity, water and infrastructure. However, he noted that the country has seen the negative effect the imposition of valued added tax (VAT) has had on many of these services, affecting workers’ income over the last four years.
To this end, he committed to the reversal of these hardship taxes in an effort to improve disposal income and welfare of every worker in Guyana.
Moreover, Ali stated that as Guyana celebrated Labour Day in 2020, the country’s present challenges have emphasised the importance of coming together and unifying the approach to creating a safe and healthy society.
“It is this same approach that must characterise our collective effort to improving our country and moving it forward whilst we build a strong, stable, secure, democratic and free society in which workers and their families can live and work in dignity,” he stated.
Critical to the achievement of this is the safeguarding of our democratic principles, Ali noted while further assuring that he and his party will continue to fight to ensure that democracy wins for as long as it takes.
Nevertheless, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing protocols, the annual Labour Day march was cancelled.