Labour Day 2017 …as Teixeira highlights failing sectors, major job lossesGovernment used the opportunity at Monday’s May Day rally to remind workers that certain “hard” decisions would have to be taken in the sugar industry given its unprofitability.Opposition Chief Whip Gail TeixeiraNatural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman reminded those gathered at the rally that the coalition Government had invested $32 billion in the industry over the past 21 months. This money was used mainly to subsidise wages for the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).Trotman said, “The time has come for change” and “a failing organ cannot be treated with an aspirin”. He asserted, “It is now necessary for some difficult decisions to be made.”The Minister’s statement was prompted by statements made by Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) President Komal Chand, who spoke about the uncertain future of the sugar industry.Shifting his attention to the state of the trade union movement, Trotman told workers that unions had a strategic and integral role to play and they must make themselves available for nation building.Natural Resources Minister Raphael TrotmanHe said too that the Government was prepared to commit to a new order where policies, relationships, and interactions between stakeholders were better aligned.“We simply cannot fail to prepare and we simply cannot fail to cooperate and draw closer to each other. The choice is ours and to Government, the actions we have to take are self-evident,” he added.Investment in the country’s human resource capacity has been optimum, Trotman said. According to him, in 2015, 1540 youths were trained as tradesmen and artisans and in 2016, that number was increased by three per cent to 1593.“All of this is being done to ensure that there is always available an adequate supply of well-trained, well-equipped and well-disciplined workers to oversee our industries,” he added.Mention was also made of plans to establish an industrial tribunal, whose functions would include the speedy resolution of industrial differences resulting in justice for workers, trade unions, employers, and even Government itself.“We are convinced that with such machinery in place, many employers and employing companies would be unable to deliberately protract differences to the detriment of workers and trade unions alike. The combined effects of these initiatives have certainly positively impacted the lives of the nation’s workforce,” he observed.The Minister said with more women joining the labour force, particularly in areas which were previously dominated by men, trade unions have to prepare and align themselves to better treat with issues of gender discrimination and sexual harassment, among others.He took umbrage at Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira’s statement, which chastised the Government over several positions taken with regard to workers’ rights and the management of the economy generally.Teixeira, who spoke about the failing sectors of the economy and major job losses, was disturbed by a small crowd of supporters of the A Partnership for National Unity/ Alliance For Change (APNU-AFC).“We, in the parliamentary Opposition, recognise that it is the toil, sweat and sacrifices of our workers that are responsible for whatever achievements we have made and successes we have enjoyed as a country and as a people. We further recognise that it is our workers that will be responsible for catapulting us to whatever heights we attain in the future,” Teixeira told the gathering. She, however, acknowledges that the observances this year are characterised by greater signs of unity in the trade union movement, a development that can only bode well for the workers and the country.“We need to continue to be outspoken in calling for the real issues to be addressed – it is the economy; it is job creation not job contraction; it is economic expansion and diversification, not closures and chasing away investors. People want to work and live in dignity, to plan their lives and their future with some level of certainty, to save and build their own homes, buy cars and send their children to whichever school they want,” Teixeira declared.She was also blunt in her declaration that “every productive sector is on the decline”. “In the sugar industry, estates are being closed and thousands are being dismissed; in the rice sector, they are no new markets and no competitive price for paddy; in the mining sector, small and medium scale miners can no longer afford the cost of production; in the forestry sector, they are no markets for logs; in the commercial sector, there is a drastic decline in trade and commerce,” Teixeira pointed out.She noted that the government’s capital programmes for 2015 and 2016, including loan portfolios, under-performed embarrassingly and therefore failed to generate economic activity and provide jobs. The most recent example is the Sheriff Street expansion roadway where only 1 % of a US$30M loan was disbursed in the last year.“There are no new investments except the Smart City Solutions which brought us the corrupt and controversial parking meters contract (and) the deteriorating economic circumstances are leading to the devaluation of currency and increase in the cost of imports,” she stated.At the same time, she said additional burdens have been placed on the workers’ backs, and, in fact, on all Guyanese, with the introduction of taxation on previously zero rated untaxed essential goods and services; the introduction of next taxes; significant increases in other taxes and government fees.