Union rivalry, workers' resistance and wage settlements in the Guyana sugar industry : 1964-1994
This PhD thesis is a study of the changing social and industrial conditions under which sugar workers in Guyana have worked, and the responses of workers and unions to these changes since 1964. It makes extensive use of original trade union and employer archives, other public and private documentary evidence and interviews with workers and union and state officials. The narrative and analysis focuses on the experience of union rivalry and the impact of state interventions in wage settlements. The sugar industry has several different unions with differing political and ideological positions, and there have been numerous instances of union rivalry and workers' discontent over union representation. Inadequate wage offers have often led to disputes, involving antagonisms between workers and management but also between workers and their union. In practice the majority of wage settlements have resulted from the intervention of a Commission of Inquiry or Arbitration Tribunal. In the late 1970s the state's imposition of wage levels provoked numerous struggles, often of national proportions, and led to legal challenges by workers and one of their unions which resulted in the restoration of collective bargaining. Such developments have had major implications for the national labour movement. The thesis considers each of these facets of worker and union experience, and thus develops an analysis of the relationships between union rivalry, workers' resistance and wage settlements in the context of highly politicised trade unionism. In particular it discusses the implications of trade union affiliation to the major political parties and shows the extent to which political affiliation helped to destroy the collective bargaining process. It argues that while trade unions are involved in political struggles, they ought not to be affiliated to political parties, since this is likely to compromise the independence of the labour movement and weakens the collective bargaining process.