Our Readers' Opinions
May 14, 2004
Union must be neutral

Dear Editor: It is extremely difficult to understand the reason for the leadership of the National Labour Congress to publicly challenge workers who claim to be victims of political and other discriminations at the hands of the Unity Labour Party administration while, at the same time, appear to be close allies of the same party. {{more}}
In the words of Arnhim Eustace on NICE Radio on May 1, 2004, there is hardly any distinction between the NLC and ULP. Moreover, on the internet and on a radio broadcast of the NLC press conference and the May Day rally in the Grenadines, it turned out to be little else but another self-promoting event for the leadership of the ULP and the Labour Congress on the same platform.
Therefore, to publicly call on workers to report cases of ULP victimisation can hardly be seen as a genuine effort on the part of the Union to deal with this scourge in our society.
Instead, it is at best a showing of a lack of will and procedures on the part of the unions to deal with these issues effectively. Can this not be seen as entrapment? For the leaders of the SVG labour movement to appear to undermine the principles of Labour Day in this way is not only in poor taste but insensitive to the need for protection of their members and workers in general.
Far from all the hype surrounding May 1st in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, this is an international workers’ day that is associated with an avant-garde agenda throughout the entire world. As a member of the British Labour Party and a trade unionist, I participated in a number of union-organised May Day conferences where the plight of workers in Britain and throughout the world was highlighted, and politicians were put on the hot seat.
Out of those conferences – some of them international – resolutions of
solidarity for other struggling workers were discussed and passed; workers were targeted and recruited to the labour movement so that it
could grow to ensure that workers’ issues stayed alive on all political party agendas. Such events were as exhilarating to workers and their leaders as they would have been after attending an evangelic meeting where biblical teachings would prepare them for the spiritual and secular trials and tribulations that lay in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.
Notwithstanding, workers would be ill advised to withdraw their membership from unions that have stood the test of time as one of the most effective means of mobilising workers the world over, politically and economically. In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the teachers’ union has always been the vanguard of nearly all the political and economic changes over the last 40 years, for example. Another good example is the achievement of our own George McIntosh and E. T. Joshua (peace be unto them). By mobilising workers, they helped to get rid of the last vestiges of overt British colonial rule.
What needs to be done is for union members to make their leaders more accountable to them and not to the party in “POWARR”.
On this International Labour Day – and in a time when workers’ rights are challenged by globalisation and their home produced anti-worker policies – the union leaders should be less interested in being formidable allies of this or any other ruling regime. They should be organising seminars and other public informational forums on national and international issues that affect their members, and have these broadcasted in place of self-promoting press conferences and rallies.
Out of these seminars should come action plans for dealing with rampant victimisation of workers, ULP and NDP alike, among other matters that include the various trade arenas of which we are a part. Above all on a day like this, more effort should be made to beat the tracks to impress upon non-union workers the benefits of being a part of this democratic and international movement.
The emergence of an International Labour Day is ample evidence to support the argument that only a mobilised work force can provide economic and political solutions to workers’ plight. They do not lie in partisan party political systems and certainly not as they exist in SVG today. So, it is important that the rank and file of the unions remain independent and true to the principles of the labour movement and not appear to be appendages of any government.
Luzette King