Labour movement has gone astray- Witter

Published on 2011-05-05 12:55:05 in News

The labour movement has strayed from being a champion of the people to become the province of just the salaried and wage earners, a development which could lead it into irrelevance Guyana Trade Union Congress (GTUC) President Norris Witter told on Tuesday.

His comment followed that of social activist Andaiye who last week called on the movement to widen its membership to include the informal labour sector and unsalaried individuals.

In acknowledging the call Witter said it was not a new concept since that was how it was done in the days of Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, who is regarded as the father of the labour movement in Guyana.

“Critchlow also paid quite a lot of attention to the unorganized and those persons who were not employees or who did not enjoy the employee/employer relationship, the self-employed and so on. I think what has happened over the years, the labour movement has limited its activities to only the wage and salary earners which is wrong,” he said.

“We operate more as a trade union rather than a labour movement and I think we need to once again refocus our attention as a labour movement rather than a trade union movement.”

Witter noted that there is a significant difference between the labour movement and the trade union movement although the two terms have been used interchangeably.

“If we were to continue to organise in the manner in which we have been organizing, that is focusing exclusively on wage and salary earners, what you are going to find is a continuation of the kind of configuration that currently exists and which to my mind makes it attractive for particularly the race-based parties to play on,” Witter stated.

According to him, if the unions were to extend their activities into the non-traditional areas such as the shops on Regent Street, the market vendors, domestics and the fisherfolk, that would influence the kind of policies they develop and change their perception as it relates to national politics.


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