– at FITUG’s 6th Triennial ConferenceSocial activist and commentator Christopher Ram while addressing the Sixth Triennial Conference of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) urged veteran trade unionists to step aside and pave the way for a new generation to lead the movement.Social activist Christopher Ram addressing the FITUG Conference“Changes apparently come to trade union movement leadership only when there is death… Is that what this movement is really all about? It’s time that there be change as much in the Government as it is in the labour movement. If we are to have development in this country, the labour movement is a critical part of our society and it has, it must bring new ideas, bring new blood, bring new initiatives and bring courage. You’re not going to be popular,” he told the gathering during the opening ceremony of the Conference.According to the social commentator, lengthy leadership spells not only weaken the trade union movement but put unions at a disadvantage to properly represent members. In fact, he noted that when leaders were ineffective and unions had democratic challenges, Governments enjoyed and even benefited from such a status quo.“The Government doesn’t mind if the trade union movement is in disarray, because the trade union movement has no capacity or no standing to really challenge the Government… The whole structure of the movement needs to change, term and age limits introduced, and new blood nurtured. I must confess to a total lack of hope that things will change and as I look to the future, all I see is the further decimation of the movement by its leadership,” he posited.A section of the gathering at the opening of the Sixth Triennial Conference of FITUG on WednesdayAgainst this backdrop, Ram went on to talk about Government’s disregard for the trade union movement, which was seen in its failure to establish a dedicated Labour Ministry as well as failure to pass a single piece of worker-related or primary social legislation in its almost three years in office.He also called out President David Granger for his inaction when Minister Keith Scott, who has responsibility for the Labour Department within the Social Protection Ministry, called union leaders “impotent” – an action which Ram believes is “fireable”.Furthermore, the social commentator also bashed the coalition Administration over its handling of the sugar industry, which has been downsized, resulting in some 10,000 workers being placed on the breadline and their 40,000 dependents suffering as a consequence.“I have found it difficult to find another parallel and in terms of sheer numbers, this must be the single largest layoff in the history of Guyana. But what did I find? Neither the Government nor the Corporation has put in place mechanisms to cushion the financial, social, economic and personal impact and consequences on lives and livelihoods of these people,” he stated.Ram criticised Government for ignoring the recommendations made by the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) it had established and subsequently abandoning the White Paper it had presented to the National Assembly when it calved off substantial assets to the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL) – the same agency that was treated with derision and disdain by the governing parties when they were in Opposition.The Sixth Triennial Conference of the Federation was held under the theme, “For betterment through organisation and solidarity”.However, Ram highlighted that the apparent disparity and disunity between the unions has divided the trade union movement now more than ever with leaders fighting each other rather than Government for betterment of their members.On this note, FITUG Chairman Carvil Duncan sought to call on the various unions to put aside their differences and re-establish one strong labour umbrella body.“Division hurts the workers tremendously, strengthens the hands of the administration and creates the conditions for increased exploitation. For the good of workers, for the good of the country, this is that time to gather stones and mend. That’s where FITUG stands today, the ball is now in the court of the TUC (Guyana Trades Union Congress). History is watching and whatever we do, we will have to account,” Duncan posited.Despite being invited to the one-day conference, which was held at the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) Head Office, the GTUC failed to turn up.