Message by His Excellency Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, on the occasion of May Day 2022

Workers are the backbone of our economy

It is with great verve that I greet workers and their unions. May Day is an occasion to acknowledge and applaud the imperishable contributions of workers to our country’s freedom and development.

Our nation owes an eternal debt of gratitude to its workers. Workers’ contributions cannot be erased, forgotten or diminished. Whether it was in the field or factory, on the waterfront or in the offices, workers have been at the forefront of agitation for betterment.  Through their exertions, struggles and sacrifices, they have been able to secure greater rights and improve the lot of the working class.

Today, workers are protected by our country’s Constitution and progressive labour laws. This is buttressed by the government’s record of increasing workers’ disposable income, providing wage and non-wage benefits and enhancing working-class livelihoods. The reinstituted Ministry of Labour is being strengthened to more vigorously protect workers’ rights and ensure their safety.

Workers’ unity, unfortunately, is being imperilled by the ongoing divisions in our trade union movement. Discord within and between unions will only add to the disunity. The fissures within the trade union movement can only be mended by addressing their root causes.

I look forward to working with the trade union movement, in a spirit of respect rather than rancour, hope rather than hostility and cooperation instead of confrontation. This is necessary if there is to be greater success in navigating global recovery.

Over the past two years, workers have borne the brunt of global economic disruptions. The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has inflicted death, pain and misery on the working classes. Worldwide, more than six million lives have been lost, many of whom were of working age. Millions of workers were placed on the breadline as economies contracted and businesses crumbled. The supply-chain crisis has added to the burdens of workers, while the war in Ukraine has further compounded workers’ difficulties.

We have not been unmindful of the hardships which face our workers as a result of these externalities. This is why we have been adopting measures to increase workers’ take-home income, cushion the effects of price increases, provide relief to households, make housing loans and construction more affordable for low-income earners and remove the onerous taxation burdens previously imposed on citizens.

Global economic recovery has been setback by the present turbulence in international affairs. Recovery will take time and will require adjustments on the part of all, including workers.  

Notwithstanding the daunting challenges which lie ahead, I am upbeat about Guyana’s future. The country’s economy is set on a transformative and upward trajectory of development. This pathway is aimed at ensuring a higher standard of living for the present and future generations.  

I give my word that as the country enters this transformative stage of development, workers will not be left behind. Workers will share equitably in the benefits which will flow from our economy in the years ahead.

Our vision for workers’ development is holistic and broad-based. We are firmly rooted to the working class.

We want the national workforce to enjoy increased and better opportunities. We are courting increased investment so as to create more jobs. 

The new economy that is being fashioned will help us to deliver these and other benefits to workers. The new economy will spawn greater opportunities for employment and improved incomes and generate new and more enterprising career paths.

We are rebooting our education system so that our children can graduate from schools and universities with the skills necessary to obtain well-paying jobs. I want to emphasize how important it will be for us to train the country’s future workforce. This is why we are placing so much emphasis on education, including technical and vocational studies.  

The new economy will provide the resources for improving social services and human development. Every working-class family will be afforded the opportunity to own their own home and have access to potable water, electricity, and sanitation services. We will work assiduously to ensure the best possible healthcare.  We are also committed to providing for our retirees and elderly so that, after their working days are over, they can enjoy a dignified existence.  After work, we want workers and their families to have easy and convenient access to recreational and relaxing activities.

Life will get better for our workers and their families.  Guyana will have more revenues. But the benefits derived from such revenues can only be secured if we are prepared to work together rather than against each other.

The lessons of the past two years forewarn us of the need and urgency of building a more resilient economy. And there is no better segment of our society which exemplifies the toughness, tenacity and ability to rebound from crises than our workers.

Workers are the backbone of our economy. They will become the protagonists of the future we desire.

I salute them on this May Day. Happy Workers Day!  Long live working-class solidarity!


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