THE FORMATION OF THE GIWU
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The elections in the fourteen constituencies were contested by two political parties, the MPCA Party and the Labour Party made up of trade union leaders outside of the MPCA, and thirty-one independent candidates, including the three from the PAC. It was clear that the voters, most of whom were wage earners, voted for candidates who represented labour interests. As a result the two political parties together won six seats, while most of the eight victorious independent candidates, including Dr. Jagan, appealed to workers during their campaign.
On December 18, 1947, Dr. Jagan, at the age of 29 years, entered the Legislative Council to take his seat. It was a red-letter day in Guyanese history since it marked the beginning of the era of political enlightenment for the Guyanese people.
In Dr. Jagan, the working people of Guyana found an outstanding champion of their rights. He seized every opportunity to advocate the cause of the workers very vigorously in the previously austere Legislative Council. To the largely conservative elements who felt that only they had the right to be members there, Cheddi Jagan was seen as a rude upstart who was raising "down to earth" issues which were never before brought to the attention of this highest forum of the land. By then, he had already developed a passion for statistics which he used in his forceful arguments, inside and outside the Council, to expose to the workers the vicious economic and political system that exploited them. On numerous occasions, singlehandedly, he carried out a struggle for workers' rights.
In the new Legislature, many of the elected members did not live up to their promise of championing the rights of workers and voted against a number of progressive proposals introduced by Dr. Jagan. Actually, in a very short while both the Labour Party and the MPCA Party disintegrated because of poor leadership, and their legislators performed as individuals without any particular commitment to a political cause. Dr. Jagan had initiated an alliance with the members of Labour Party, but he soon after moved away from them after they took anti-worker positions in the Legislative Council.
Some of the legislators were concerned over the Governor's appointment of defeated candidates as unofficial members in the Legislative Council and also in the municipal and village councils. In answer to a question on this matter by Dr. Jagan in the Legislative Council, the Colonial Secretary stated that such appointments were made in the "public interest."
With many progressive trade unionists involved in agitation work for the PAC, it was important for them also to play influential roles in their own unions to influence the rank-and-file members to support the political role of the PAC. Also, it became clear that some of the unions were abandoning their responsibility to fight for workers' interests, and that it was necessary for those betrayed workers to have PAC-influenced unions to represent them.
By 1946, sugar workers had become very disillusioned with their unions, the MPCA and the smaller British Guiana Workers' League (BGWL), which were offering no fight to the Sugar Producers Association (SPA), the umbrella organization of the sugar estate owners. They, therefore, appealed to the PAC to assist them. Dr. Jagan, by this time, was already very popular among sugar workers, so he and Dr. Joseph P. Lachmansingh, a physician and pharmacist who was also well-known among sugar workers, formed the Guiana Industrial Workers Union (GIWU). Dr. Lachmansingh was at that time the President of the British Guiana East Indian Association, and was not a member of the PAC. He became the President of the new union, which was registered in April 1948. The Senior Vice-President was Amos Rangela, while Jane Philips-Gay, a member of the PAC, was the General Secretary.
The aim of the GIWU was to replace the MPCA as the bargaining union to represent field and factory workers. But despite becoming a member of the TUC, it was unable to win recognition even though the vast majority of sugar workers formed its membership. The SPA was not yet willing to dispose of their "company-unions", particularly the MPCA, which were helping to keep the workers under subjection. However, by 1948, the GIWU was without any doubt had the support of the great majority of sugar workers throughout the country.