A report with the collaboration of Seepaul Narine, GAWU.
The IUF in conjunction with its affiliates in Guyana the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) sponsored a five (5) day workshop from 3-7 November 2008. This is the second activity for the year. The first was three sets of seminars that were held in Berbice, Demerara and Essequibo on 19 – 23 August this year.
Forty (40) women representing the Banana and Sugar sectors from the undermentioned unions participated in the workshop at GAWU’s Auditorium.
- the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) – 22 participants
- the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) – 7 participants
- the University and Allied Workers Union – Jamaica – 1 participant
- the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union – Jamaica – 2 participants
- the Commercial, Technical and Allied Workers Union – St Vincent – 1 participant
- the Waterfront and Allied Workers Union – Dominica – 1 participant
Resource personnel were Astrid Konig and Kristine Olsson from the Swedish Municipal Union, Molly Burgess from the Bermuda Industrial Union and Jorge Chullén from the IUF.
The objectives of the workshop were:
1- Exchange information on selected topics to support the IUF regional work:
o Maternity protection
o Equality in the workplace
o Sexual harassment
2- Support the Women Working Group in Caribbean Sugar and Bananas by continuing developing network contacts
3- Support the work on gender and women issues of the participating unions.
The topics addressed included:
- LO-TCO/Kommunal International Solidarity Work
- Experiences in Organising Women Workers in the Hotel and Restaurant Sector of Bermuda
- IUF’s project in sugar and bananas sector of the English Speaking Caribbean and its impact on women workers
- HIV/AIDS in Guyana
- Women Workers in the Sugar Sector of Jamaica
- Women Workers in the Windward Islands
- Equality in the work place
- Sexual Harassment and Women Rights
- Maternity Protection
Participants and resource personnel visited the Blairmont Sugar Factory in West Coast Berbice and the BEV Fish/Shrimp Processing Plant in East Bank Demerara. While in Berbice the contingent were able to view the just over one (1) mile Berbice River Bridge.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues delivered the feature address and declared the workshop open. Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Priya Manickchand dealt with the issue of Sexual Harassment and Women Rights.
Participants evaluated the workshop through group work. All groups agreed that the workshop was successful in transferring information and an instance to empower and educate women workers and encourage them to advance their own position in society, work places and their unions. Therefore, similar activities should be implemented.
The topics selected for the workshop were appropriate and relevant said the participants. They would have like to have more time for discussions and some extra background material, which would have facilitated their participation. Participants mentioned two specific topics which they recommended to be dealt with in more details in the future: HIV/AIDS, and sexual harassment. Also, they recommended that there should be an effort to have participants from all different areas of work (e.g. factory, field, etc.) and male participants should also attend.
Participants also pointed out that they would need some support on follow-up activities at their workplace, after attending workshops like this and having acquired new information and knowledge. They also recommended keeping as part of the work program the visit to workplaces. A recommendation was made to prepare a gender manual specific for women in the English-speaking Caribbean sugar and banana sectors, following the model of the IUF “One for All” manual.