GAWU training sugar workers for community mobilising

first_imgSome 30 sugar workers are currently being trained by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Unions (GAWU) to mobilise community members as the union tries to reposition itself within the restructuring process of the sugar industry. This is to enable the union to become more involved in the operations of the sugar sector, to the benefit of the workers therein.This educational project, a collaboration between GAWU and Canada’s largest private sector trade union, Unifor, will see a total of 125 members in the sugar industry being trained as “organisers”, to mobilise support not only in their workplace, but in communities as well.Among those who will undergo training are 60 GuySuCo workers from the three remaining estates – Albion, Blairmont and Uitvlugt. Training has commenced with approximately 30 of these GuySuCo workers. The Educational Project will be implemented in phases via two courses. The current course has commenced, andSome of the participants of the GAWU/UNIFOR Educational Project at the launch on Wednesdaywill run until Saturday.Speaking at the project launch on Wednesday, GAWU President, Komal Chand, pointed out that given Government’s position on the sugar industry, it is even more vital now to be alert of, and involved in, the decision-making process.He referred to State Minister Joseph Harmon previously saying there is a buyer for all the estates but then recently maintaining that the three operational estates would remain state-owned. Moreover, Chand reminded that Government had closed the four estates because of poor performance, but in its expressions of interest advertisement for the Enmore (East Demerara) Estate, said that estate was a good facility, with 80 per cent of the land prepared to accommodate mechanical harvesters, up-to-date packaging plant that will allow value-added sugar, and a capable workforce. These are all good things said of the estate, yet the nation was told, just over a year ago, that these estates were a liability.On this note, Chand urged the workers to take advantage of the training exercise.“It is a challenging moment, and that is why we want you to be real organisers for not the union only, but for yourself and your fellow workers. We want you to spend the next four days, until Saturday, trying to follow all the advice and teachings you get. It will not be a one-way; it will not be a monologue, it will be a dialogue, and you will have the opportunity to be able to speak and digest as much as possible, because we can’t afford to be what we were in the past; we can’t afford to be passive and not being able to address issues that we are supposed to,” he asserted.The GAWU President went on to remind sugar workers that the union is not just the hierarchy, but its existence and strength lies in the active involvement of its membership.This was also reiterated by Unifor President Jarry Dias, who posited that the strength of a union comes from its members and from mobilisation. “This week is about training, equipping you with the confidence of going out there to mobilise members in communities,” he told the gathering at the project launch held at GAWU’s Head Office in Kingston.The President of the Canadian trade union, which has a membership of some 315,000 members from 20 different industries, spoke of the need for workers to not sit back and accept Government’s decisions, but to equip themselves to fight back for their rights.“This is about you speaking to your members, our members. This is about you speaking to the communities; this is about us mobilising within the communities; because there is one thing that governments understand, and the only thing they understand is power, or the loss of it.“Governments take positions frequently because they think they can, and because they don’t think there is going to be a push back. But clearly, the whole issue of training 125 coordinators, community activists, is really about how do we take (back) our country and how do we take back our jobs, and that happens when you force a political agenda. That’s what happens when the labour movement is strong,” the trade unionist stressed.Dias, born to Guyanese parents, said his union could not have sat quietly and watched what was happening to sugar workers here without doing everything it could to help. UNIFOR’s investment in this training programme is a continuation of collaboration first initiated back in the mid-1990s, which was the Canadian trade union funding research and communications units within GAWU.On Tuesday, the Unifor President was one of the feature speakers of a one-day conference titled “Sugar – too big to fail” hosted by GAWU and sponsored by the Canadian trade union. Dias, in addressing those at the opening of the conference, called on sugar workers and union leaders to “fight back”, saying that they should not take the road of past “least resistance.”Meanwhile, among the other speakers at Wednesday’s launch of the GAWU/UNIFOR Educational Project was General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), Lincoln Lewis, who urged the GuySuCo workers to take advantage of this opportunity.last_img


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