In trips to Guyana, farmers and workers complain they don’t get support from the state to address their challenges. The government poured resources in Guysuco. An African labor leader attacked the government and another union over assistance given to Guysuco signaling a lack of solidarity among unions and their leaders. Workers across Guyana especially in large industries complain about low salaries and high inflation preventing them from having a higher standard of living. They would do well with better representation of unions and political benefactors to champion their interests. The working class has been affected by inadequate wages. Farmers and non-unionized workers are also suffering as a result of lost crops over the last two years. Government did assist the farmers and should consider providing them more assistance in light of recent losses attributed to bad weather that prevented harvesting. Politicians should provide the working class and farmers with more assistance.
Trade unions and their leaders across the political divide have been raising issues of livelihood of workers with limited success of recent. Dr. Jagan was among the most effective in championing workers’ interests and getting salary increments for workers. Governments and trade unions always heralded the contributions of workers but did little to champion their interests the way Jagan did. Union leaders and politicians should take their cue from him on how to represent the working class.
Many workers have no voice. They are not unionized and by extension have no organization to advocate for their interests. Workers, especially in relatively new large-scale sectors like oil, lumbering, mining, fishing, etc. are not unionized to gain representation. Government should ensure that workers in emerging sectors be allowed to unionize. Some workers across many industries, including those who are unionized, complain in conversations with me that they are not getting fair pay for their productivity. They say salaries are not keeping pace with rapid rise in inflation making it a challenge to provide for their families.
But are businesses earning enough margins to afford higher salaries? Inflation is also impacting their business. Some businesses, including the major companies, are struggling to meet payroll. In opposition to workers’ demands, management of businesses including major companies say they can’t afford higher salaries because their profit margin is low. Only access to tax returns and or audits can determine a company’s profitability and affordability of higher wages.
If companies don’t treat workers well, the latter will not maximize output. There must be fair compensation. Some companies give workers fair compensation – bonuses and a share in profits. But workers should not have to depend on the generosity of bosses for their salaries; they must be paid what they deserve in line with their productivity. They cannot make unrealistic demands that will drive business out of production. And they cannot have inordinately high expectations. Businesses can only afford salary expenses within their margin of profit.
There must be negotiation (a give and take) between management and workers (if unionized) for a fair package that the companies can payout and still earn a profit. The agencies or organizations that represent farmers and those who are employed in the farming sector should also demand more resources from government. Many farmers suffered huge losses over the last two years and their workers suffered enormously as a result of failed harvesting.
Government must play the role of an honest broker enforcing the laws and ensuring workers and farmers and their employees are treated fairly. It is noted that when in opposition, political parties tend to champion higher salaries for government workers and greater resources for farming. But once in government, they oppose wage increases and limit resources to farmers. Farmers, unions and workers’ demands are not always echoed in parliament after elections. The unions’ stance and farmers and their employees are most valued and appreciated during election time. After that, they are ignored by politicians. The same with the working class! Regrettably, unions and the working class and the farming community tend to be politically aligned and divided on racial lines. There is little inter-union solidarity as a result of politics. A recent case in point is the attack on government for aiding the ailing sugar industry which thousands depend on for a living. Lack of inter-union solidarity and criticism of each other hurt the effectiveness of labor to make demands on government for higher wages and better working conditions. Farmers need greater support from government to mitigate losses over the last several crops.