As Guyana observes Labour Day 2022, the Head of State Irfaan Ali in his message lauded the working class for their undoubtable contributions to the development of the nation.
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“It is with great enthusiasm that I greet workers and their unions. May Day is an occasion to acknowledge and applaud the enduring 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 campaigning 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.
I look forward to working with the trade union movement, in a spirit of respect rather than rancor, 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.
I wish to highlight only a few of the initiatives the government has pursued thus far, in addressing the issue of cost of living. In this year’s budget, we have set aside more than $5 billion to ease cost of living. And we have said that we are going to implement a programme based on this allocation, after consultation with workers; and that consultation is taking place so we can give the best possible spending, the best possible cash injection where it matters most to the workers.
We have removed more than 200 burdensome taxes and fees that were imposed on the backs of workers by the previous APNU/ AFC government. Taking the difficulties with fuel; we’ve removed the excise tax on fuel completely from 50% to 0%- one of the few countries in the hemisphere that has done this.
We have instituted measures so the burdens of the increase freight costs do not translate into further hardship by consumers. We have given out the 25,000 cash grant for COVID; more than $3 billion directly spent on Amerindians and workers to help them to recover from COVID.
Billions of dollars increase in old-age pension and support services. Restoration of subsidy on electricity and water for old age pensioners; More than $1 billion one-off payment to help workers and disciplined service workers; The $25,000 bonus to every single public servant- more than $600 million; A two-week bonus that benefited more than 9200 health workers; $1.2 billion payouts to the disciplined services and almost 20% increase in the threshold levels; hundreds of millions of dollars in the because we care grant cash grant for school children which was taken away by the last APNU/AFC government; An almost 50% increase in public assistance, 5o% increase and over $7 billion in benefits as flood relief.
These are only but some of the measures that your government, this government, in keeping with the support for the working class, has instituted to bring ease the population.
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 on this May Day, all of our workers. I salute you for the sacrifices you make and say to you; together we will build a stronger country, a stronger economy, a stronger workforce and a more prosperous future for all of us Happy Workers Day! Long live working-class solidarity! Happy Labour Day!
I thank you!”