The May 1, rally which saw the main trade union umbrella bodies, the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG), uniting, is a historic first step, according to Minister in the Ministry of Social Protection with responsibility for Labour, Keith Scott.
“I imagined the soaring of the spirit of Andrew Jackson, of the great Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, of (Joseph) Pollydore, Cecil Cambridge and other great trade union leaders who fought for trade union solidarity and unity. For years this is something that eluded the trade union movement,” Scott stated.
Reflecting on the difference oftentimes displayed between the main union groups, the Minister opined that part of this resulted from a seemingly ingrained union leadership. He said, “When people are entrenched too long in positions, they forget why they were elected, and they come to believe that job is theirs. They forget that they are elected to serve people… You’re not there forever. You’re there to serve and do what you have to do within that time.”
It was ironic, the Minister said that May Day rallies would end with workers singing “Solidarity Forever”, but he saw the “sad faces as they left those rallies not having achieved that unity.”
He described the event as ‘fantastic’ and a first step towards ‘real unity’ in the trade union movement. He urged that the move be the first step in “real togetherness” with regards to the collective bargaining process and other issues. “They can be the mighty voice of one body talking to the Government and talking for and to the people.”
It has been close to two decades since there has been a united May Day Rally.
He quoted the late Chinese Mao Tse-tung, who noted that the first step of any journey began with the leading step. “The first step was taken when all unions were present in that march, when the main union bodies, GTUC and FITUG were able to go into that park.”
The famous embrace between the late President Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham and then Opposition Leader Cheddi Jagan, was placed in another context by Minister Scott. “There was a hope in that first step; we will now get to a point where there will now be a spiritual embrace. The union will understand that there is unity in strength, where they will understand that you can never get respect from the government and the population unless you’re together.”