Saturday, August 20, 2016
Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, this evening opened the fourth triennial conference of the Clerical and Commercial Workers’ Union (CCWU) at Cara Lodge, Georgetown to a packed audience of labour stakeholders and union members.
The two-day activity also coincides with the union’s 68th anniversary.
Delivering the feature address at the formal opening of the conference, the Prime Minister congratulated the union’s executive, and its members for staying strong for the past 68 years.
“I want to congratulate all of you for remaining steadfast with a trade union that undoubtedly has been a model and pace setter in the labour movement in Guyana,” the Prime Minister said.
The CCWU was founded on the struggles of workers, and according to the Prime Minister the union had never thought that labour by itself could bring the results that workers wanted. He stated that the economic struggle, “what is called the bread and butter struggle of the working people alone has never been, and will never be an adequate platform for struggle for your improvement.”
Referring to the theme of the conference, “Pursuing a new approach in this changing environment – while protecting workers’ hard earned gains’ the Prime Minister said, “the rights and the gains that you are talking in your theme of this triennial congress are the gains that started from when workers rebelled, not then as workers, but as slaves against oppressive conditions as a whole, and over many years, those gains have been won for you by many generations.”
The Prime Minister called on the union to preserve the gains achieved over the years since people are no longer fighting for ‘ration’ which was called an entitlement in the absence of wages.
“We have gained over the years of struggle, the guarantee to a minimum wage, holiday with pay, those are workers’ rights, that you have an eight – hour working day, a 40-hour working week, maternity leave with pay. These were not automatic, each one of these rights was the cause of struggles and sacrifices and loss of lives,” the Prime Minister advised.
He called on the members to take the union’s recognition very seriously as it affords the right to collective bargaining, “to discuss with your bosses based on agreements, what your entitlements are, benefits are that have been won by struggle, and should not be taken away.”
The First Vice President further stated that he was very happy that the coalition government has committed itself this year and restored respect for the collective bargaining process. This was met with loud applause from the audience.
“Right now it is as a result of that collective bargaining process that the Government is negotiating and discussing with the public service union on the issue of wage increases for public servants.”
In his closing remarks, prior to officially opening the conference, the Prime Minister further gave government’s commitment to ensure that workers’ rights are upheld in every section of society.
“I as the Prime Minister, I am a labour man, I have been incubated in the labour movement…so I am your friend and so as long as I am there, I will ensure that this Government always work in consultation with the labour movement, to try to deal with the problems as they arise and find solutions for those problems. You are part of this partnership,” he said.
In his remarks at the opening ceremony, General President of the CCWU, Sherwood Clarke told those gathered that, “today our task is to sign up in our membership the thousands of workers who are employed in the business houses, fast foods, call centres, and banks among others.”
He called on the non-unionised workers to be aware of the risks they take by failing to bond in a trade union to promote their individual and collective well-being, and to protect their benefits and their families.
The conference will continue tomorrow and is expected to elect a new executive committee and trustees.
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