The following undated statement was published by the Trinmar Branch of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union on its face Book page on November 25th 2014:
On Thursday 20"' November 2014, the Union (OWTU) and the Company (Petrotrin) met at the Ministry of Labour to have conciliatory discussions for the present period of negotiations. Before this conciliation meeting, the last time that both parties met was in May 2014. Since then the Company has refused to meet and treat in good faith with the OWTU, the Recognised Majority Union.
There are six (6) Bargaining Units with Collective Agreements that govern the terms and conditions of our Comrades in Petrotrin. They are:
1. Petrotrin Monthly Paid Bargaining Unit: February 01, 2012 — January 31, 2015.
2. Petrotrin (Trinmar) Monthly Paid Bargaining Unit: February 01, 2012 — January 31, 2015.
3. Monthly Rated Junior Staff Employees: June 01, 2011 —- May 31, 2014.
4. Petrotrin Hourly/weekly Rated Employees: August 27, 2011 — August 25, 2014.
5. Petrotrin (Trinmar) Hourly/Weekly Rated Employees: May 25, 2011 — May 24. 2014.
6. Hospital Domestic Workers and Wardsmen: November 01, 2011 - October 31, 2014.
To date four (4) of the six (6) Collective Agreements for periods extending from May 201 1 to October 2014 have already expired with the remaining two (2) due to expire by January 31, 2015. We have agreed on most of the textual non-cost items.
At the conciliation meeting held at the Ministry Of Labour on Thursday 20th November 2014, the Company has indicated that they intend to implement a “Wage Freeze", and as a result of that they are prepared to offer their hard working and loyal employees the following:
First Year- 0%
Second Year- 0%
Third Year- 0%
In addition to that they offered no increases on bonuses. The Company also wants to remove Article 4(e) Regulation of Contract Work. This article governs how they treat with contractors and protects jobs normally performed by permanent, casual and temporary workers.
This article also stipulates that when contract labour is engaged, the contractor shall pay not less than the minimum rate for the particular job classification as provided in the Schedule of the existing Agreement arid, in addition, any Cost of Living Allowance and other Bonuses described in this Agreement namely: shift, height, heat, meal or subsistence that may be applicable. That is how they show their commitment!
The National Workers Union issued the following media release on 2014/11/20:
EMPLOYERS ON THE ATTACK! WORKERS MUST FIGHT BACK!
The National Workers Union (NWU) views with disgust, but not with surprise, the move by the management of state enterprise, National Petroleum, to appeal the judgement of the Industrial Court and the consequent stay of execution of the court order in the matter of the re-instatement of the sixty eight workers, including branch officers and shop stewards of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union, who were dismissed in the October 2013 massacre.
The employers, led by the state which itself is a major employer, have adopted over the last few years what can be called the Deep Pockets theory. They have launched an attack on the very heart of the trade union movement: on the workplace.
During the period of the Manning Administration, workers were fired at WASA and the consultant hired by that statutory authority stated that the government had deep pockets. The government does not mind losing wrongful action cases in the Industrial Court, taxpayers stand the bounce anyway.
They reason that it would take between one to two years for some of these issues to be resolved in the Industrial Court and in the meantime, they would have cleared out union officers, shop stewards and militants from the workplace and shift decisively the balance of power on the shop floor in their favour.
The idea is to intimidate and cow the workers who have not been dismissed into going into their shells over the medium term and to destroy the culture and tradition of collective action and solidarity that would have been built up in unionised workplaces over time.
At the same time, workers who have been dismissed for any lengthy period of time are driven from pillar to post trying to meet their commitments to banks, mortgage companies and landlords, trying to keep food on their families’ tables, trying to deal with the inevitable fallout in relationships that are bound to follow because of their change of circumstance.
It is clear that in their effort to implement the neo-liberal agenda which is based on wholesale transfer of income from the pockets of working people into the pockets of the employers, corrupt state officials, parasitic merchants, politically-connected contractors and banksters, the trade union movement has to be weakened and undermined.
The task of leading that charge has been shouldered by the State, regardless of which party is in power. The unions that have been in the firing line are the unions that occupy strategic positions in the economy: the OWTU, CWU, PSA and TIWU. The focus of the state and the employers is to weaken and undermine these unions.
We recall the injunction on PTSC workers and on Petrotrin workers; the attempt to decertify Transport and Industrial Workers Union and Communication Workers Union; the dismissal of fourteen drivers at PTSC the growing horror of contract labour in the public service which according to the last IMF article IV consultation report published last September increased: “Temporary staff…from 1,920 in 2005 to 12,636 in 2011, while new permanent appointments declined from 916 to 628.”
The Regional Health Authorities have thousands of workers on short term contracts in a situation where there is no recognised majority union. The brutal firing of all the branch representatives of the OWTU in the wake of the strike at TCL two years ago is another example of the co-ordinated attack on the trade union movement as was the attempt to decertify the Steel Workers Union for taking illegal industrial action when, in fact, Arcelor Mittal had locked out the workers who objected to unilateral variation in their contract of work; as is the dismissal of a branch officer of the CWU at Hilton Hotel and the branch president of the Trinmar branch of OWTU.
Of course this approach by the employers, led by the State, goes hand in hand with the refusal to amend the labour laws which are heavily biased against workers and, in particular, to clean up the disgraceful state of affairs at the Recognition Board where workers applications for recognition take years to be determined and now there has not been a Recognition Board in place for months and months.
Comrade Christopher Henry, President of the Steel Workers Union, said it well: “They are continually testing the system; using their deep pockets to frustrate theprocess, while the unions continued fight is against terminations of workerswithout cause, layoffs every Monday morning at their own whims and fancies.”
The National Workers Union calls upon all working people, unionised or not, to recognise what is happening. Unionised workers must put aside partisan political allegiances and defend their interests as working people with all the tools at their disposal through mass solidarity and collective action and not adopt the attitude that they will get “justice” at the Industrial Court. Even if the Court rules in favour of the workers, often the damage is already done and the union significantly weakened.
Non-unionised workers must organise themselves and join or form unions that are going to seek their interest in this ongoing battle with employers and the capitalists.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Gerry Kangalee (National Education and Research Officer Officer – Cell: 785-7637)
The following letter was sent to President Anthony Carmona by Joseph Remy, President of the
Federation Of Independent Trade Unions and NGO’s. It is dated October 22nd 2014.
Your Excellency I am acting in my capacity as President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and Non Governmental Organisations, FITUN, a cross functional Federation representative of leading Trade Unions, Farmers Groups and other Civil Society Organisations which seeks to advance the interests of our member units in their quest for equity and social justice.
FITUN wishes to place on record its appreciation for the work that the Industrial Court has been doing within recent times. On the eve of the celebration of the SO"` Anniversary of the Court, the Trade Union Movement is now more assured about the relevance of the Court after our initial trepidation about the original ideological construct of the Court. This led the Movement to believe that the Court was designed to quell the progressive nature of Trade Unions and corral them into a more acquiescent role of accepting justice as designed by the employer class.
Over the ensuing years and more particularly under the leadership of the current President, the Movement has developed much more respect for the Court and has seen the Court morphed into an Institution where we feel we are now seeing a level of fairness in the administration of justice for and on behalf of the working class.
Your Excellency, recent developments have caused quite a lot of consternation among practitioners of the Court, particularly among those from the Labour Movement. These developments as observed by our Federation indicate in a very lucid manner that there appears to be a concerted attempt to undermine the Independence of the Industrial Court, particularly so under the leadership of the current President of the Court. Recent appointments of Judges to serve on the Bench of the Court have generated a lot of questions in the minds of our Federation.
There has been an established practice, consistent with the provisions of the Industrial Relations Act, of balancing the composition of the Judges Panel with suitably qualified and competently proven practitioners from the Trade Union Movement to ensure that deliberations coming out of this Jurisprudence reflect the tenets of Good and Proper Industrial Practice.
This practice also ensured that there was a level of confidence in the Court where workers originally felt that justice was not equitably dispensed because the scale tilted heavily in favour of the employer. For some time now, FITUN has not seen enough experienced and competent Trade Union Practitioners appointed to serve as Judges in the Court, this has created a perceived imbalance that is of serious concern to us.
Your Excellency, for the avoidance of doubt, we wish to also make it pellucidly clear that FITUN holds no personal brief for the current President. Our concerns however are grounded by the recent advances that we have noticed in the performance of the Court under the astute leadership of the current President. We have noticed and seen for the first time a clear vision for the Court, one that is grounded in the principle that Justice delayed is Justice denied.
The vision is also grounded in the principle of enhancing the quality of judgments coming out of the Court and creating the environment for the deepening of a more meaningful relationship between the powers and authority of Employers to advance their business and the desire to ensure that the cause of workers is respected and advanced, all in the best interest of the social and economic development of Trinidad and Tobago.
Your Excellency, the Federation has taken note of the following undeniable facts:
Your Excellency, FITUN has taken note of the provisions of Section 4 (3) of the Industrial Relations Act which states:
The Court shall consist of the following members:
“(a) a President of the Court who shall be -
(1) a Judge of the Supreme Court of Judicature designated, with his consent, by the President of Trinidad and Tobago after consultation with the Chief Justice.
(b) a Vice-President of the Court, who shall be a barrister or solicitor of not less than ten years standing, appointed by the President of Trinidad and Tobago;
(c) Such number or other members as may be determined by the President of Trinidad and Tobago from time to time who shall be appointed by the President of Trinidad and Tobago from among persons experienced in industrial relations or qualified as economists or accountants, or who are barristers or solicitors of not less than five years standing.”
In the circumstances your Excellency, FITUN wishes to state that the confidence of members of the working class rests in the qualitative appointments to serve on the bench of this superior court of record. In particular, the Trade Union Movement takes its confidence in appointments that sends the signal that the scales of justice are balanced to ensure that equity prevails.
We are therefore expressing our deep concerns about recent appointments that are creating the perception of being politically influenced as this will certainly erode the perceived independence of the Court and create an atmosphere and environment of industrial instability.
We certainly believe that the Court should be allowed to realise its innate potential consistent with its current vision and leadership thrust and should not be allowed to be entangled in perceived political mischief and manipulation that seems to have engulfed some other Independent Institutions in our country.
Your Excellency, FITUN looks forward to you continuing to exercise your powers and judgment as envisaged in the provisions of Constitution of the country and the Industrial Relations Act, to ensure that all these negative perceptions and unease that currently exists among practitioners of the Industrial Court are expunged from their minds, and, the confidence that was so present in the Court under the leadership of the current President, would permeate the Industrial Relations Climate all in the interest of the social and economic development of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
We at FITUN look forward to your appointments to the Court with the requisite diligence and transparency, mindful of the strides that the Court has made in recent times.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) issued the following statement on September 30th 2014 in its newsletter called FORWARD:
Comrades, within recent times we have noticed that the foreign management at Hilton has decided to take on the Communication Workers’ Union and its members at the Hilton. These attacks began subsequent to the settlement of the last negotiations when House Slave Leroy Browne reneged on an agreement to make temporary workers permanent and to put the necessary framework in place to implement a Pension Plan for Hilton Workers.
We also had the insensitive termination of some sixty odd part-time workers on carnival Tuesday whilst guests and nationals were participating in our carnival celebrations. What followed on from the Union’s attempts to have this matter discussed and resolved was an open display of arrogance, disrespect and utter contempt for the Recognised Majority Union by the House Slave, Bajan National, Leroy Browne. Recently we had the dismissal of two supervisors who are also members and supporters of the Union for spurious allegations and without giving them the opportunity to defend themselves in accordance with the laws of natural justice.
In addition to this, some of our members were threatened with disciplinary action for allegedly being involved in activities they were not party to. Additionally, one of our General Council members was suspended with pay, pending an investigation into an alleged act of insubordination, when in fact the worker was standing up for his rights after he was disrespected by the now infamous House Slave, Leroy Browne.
Comrades, these attacks against you, our members cannot go unnoticed. Leroy Browne needs to be reminded that “Slavery Days” are over! This is Trinidad and Tobago! This is the land where “Every Creed and Race, find an Equal Place”. As Nationals of Trinidad and Tobago we are owners of the Hilton as the State has 100% shareholder interest in the hotel. As such we must not sit idly by and allow foreign nationals like Leroy Browne, Yanet Torro and Umesh Meera to attack workers who have given years of committed labour to ensure that the Hotel continues to provide an efficient and professional service to its guests.
Leroy Browne is pretending to be a “Good Samaritan” but in truth, he is a “Black Stone Stooge” and like a snake he is set to release his poisonous Anti-Worker venom! Workers do not be fooled by their “Ole Talk”! It is all tricks to distract you from the real issues. Their recent actions have signaled their intent to launch an offensive against the Union in order to put fear in the minds of workers so that they could gradually begin to implement their plans which are not in the best interest of workers and in most cases are in violation of the Collective Agreement.
Comrades, we need to be ever vigilant as we perform our duties, we must report any violations of the Collective Agreement to the Union, we must report any acts of intimidation, victimization, discrimination or unfair distribution of labour.
We must also be prepared to unite as workers and participate and support mobilization activities as we bring to the attention of the national community, the backward Industrial Relations and Management Practices and unsafe working conditions which exists at the Hotel, the disrespect for the Recognised Majority Union, the abuse of and victimization of workers when they stand up for their rights, the refusal to implement a Pension plan for Hilton Workers some of whom have over 30 years’ service with the Hotel and the refusal to make temporary and part time workers permanent after being in the employ of the Hotel in some cases for over 20 years.
Comrades, it cannot be business as usual, Leroy and his blind followers have declared war against us; so, we have the right to defend ourselves and our property, which is our jobs. Leroy Browne and his foreign associates must not be allowed to disrespect us anymore. They must understand that there can be no Industrial Peace without Justice.
CWU QUESTIONS TSTT’S CEO APPOINTMENT
The Communication Workers’ Union would like to publicly express its grave concerns with respect to confirmed reports that at a Special Meeting held today, Friday 19th September 2014, the Board of Directors have taken the decision to appoint neophyte, Ronald Walcott as the new Chief Executive Officer of Telecommunication Services of Trinidad and Tobago Limited with immediate effect.
This appointment and the sudden acceptance of the resignation of the Acting Chief Executive Officer, Mr. George Hill, come at a very critical time for the Company. TSTT is in the midst of a battle waged by Cable and Wireless who from all indications are supported by the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago in their quest for a third Mobile License to compete with themselves as 49% Shareholders in TSTT.
The CWU also finds it quite surprising that the front man, who have been pushing and articulating the concept of Organizational Transformation on a weekly basis throughout the Company, has suddenly found himself in a position where he now would have to undergo his own personal transformation. While we hold no brief for Mr. Hill, we are quite concerned with the manner in which this decision was made.
Reports have it that the instructions to accept Mr. Hill’s resignation and to appoint Mr. Walcott came from the People’s Partnership Government. Our investigation has revealed that Mr. Walcott is a member/supporter of the Congress of the People, (COP) the UNC "B" Team in the People’s Partnership Government and his appointment is part of the Partnership‘s plan to entrench their Party Hacks and Cronies in key Senior positions within TSTT just as they are now doing with other State Enterprises. It appears that this is a move to place their party supporters in key positions in various Institutions to carry out their agenda in the event they are voted out of office in 2015.
The Communication Workers‘Union condemns this political manipulation and interference in the operations at TSTT and we demand some explanation from the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister on this latest development. Mr. Walcott’s track record as the Executive Vice-President of Mobile Operations at TSTT has been nothing but pathetic.
We wish to state publicly that we have nothing personal against Mr. Walcott, but the Union is questioning his competence in the area of modern Telecommunication/Information Communication Technology, Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management, that are necessary for such a critical position in the company at such a crucial period in the organisation’s thrust to regain its competitive advantage over its competitors.
He is just another Puppet installed on the Partnership String that is being pulled by two local members of the Board of Directors who have strong links with the Junior Minister in the Ministry of Works, the Attorney General and the Prime Minister.
The CWU once again calls on those with the responsibility for the operations of TSTT to advise us of the process that was pursued with respect to the appointment of Mr. Walcott to the very important and critical position of Chief Executive Officer of TSTT.
We call on the Line Minister, Mr. Nizam Baksh and the Minister of Finance, Honourable Senator Larry Howai, who has responsibilities for the Financial Operations at TSTT, to immediately launch an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the appointment of Mr. Walcott to the position of Chief Executive Officer of TSTT.
We also take this opportunity to alert the Ministers of the myriad of issues that were left outstanding by Mr. Hill, inclusive of the botched VSP/EERP Program, the 2008-2010 and 2011- 2013 Wage Negotiations, the Medical Plan for the Retirees and the Political appointment of Partnership Party hacks into senior positions at the Company. We also wish to advise them that we are prepared to give them the opportunity to resolve all these outstanding issues amongst others and fix the dysfunctional relationship that exists between the TSTT Management and the CWU.
We wish to remind the Ministers that if they choose to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, then we are prepared to exercise all our legal and legitimate options, inclusive of protest action to restore some semblance of stability in the company and ensure that we regain our competitive advantage in the Telecommunication/Information Communication Technology Sector.
A word to the wise is sufficient!
EBOLA WARNING FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS
The National Health Workers Union (NHWU) is very concerned about statements made by the by Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Colin Furlonge at a recent media conference dealing with the country’s readiness to meet the challenge of the Ebola disease.
According to media reports, the CMO claimed that the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) at Mount Hope and the Caura Hospital have been “mandated to provide clinical services and quarantine” for anyone who enters the country with Ebola infection.
Dr. Furlonge claimed that: “We’ve identified a 12-bedded area at EWMSC which will be used to triage suspected cases and we have identified two 24- bedded wards at Caura Hospital, which we will utilise if it is necessary at all, if we have to quarantine anyone.” Three rooms in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at EWMSC that would be capable of “providing isolation and care” have also been identified.
The CMO went on to say that the Ministry of Health will be using newspaper advertisements as well as television and radio interviews with health officials to inform the public about the latest developments in the fight to contain Ebola.
This media statement certainly raises a number of troubling questions. Managers and staff of the departments supposedly involved, inclusive of the Caura hospital, were not informed and were totally unaware of this development until it was reported in the media. Instead of those who would have to be on the frontline facing this threat being involved from the get go and being an integral part of strategising and planning the battle against Ebola, they, like workers usually are, are perceived as an afterthought.
No one knew where the quarantine area is at Caura, or where the 12 bed treatment area is at EWMSC.
There has been no sensitising, preparation or training for those staff members who will have to interface with infected persons.
No one even knows what personal protective equipment is needed, far less being trained to use them. This also applies to the protocols that must apply in dealing with infected persons, especially as Ebola infection has such a high mortality rate.
Staff members are particularly concerned that no discussion, far less consensus, has taken place about what would occur if staff members become infected by this disease; what protocols would apply in terms of protecting their families from probable infection; how would it affect infected workers’ working conditions.
The International Rescue Committee's health coordinator in Sierra Leone has said that damage to the health care system is the "biggest threat" that the Ebola outbreak poses to that country. The virus has already killed 10 percent of the medical staff in Kenema District hospital, Sierra Leone. In Liberia, 15% of those who have died from the virus were doctors or nurses who contracted it at work.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) warns it is not always possible to identify Ebola infection early because initial symptoms are non-specific. It is important, therefore, that health-care workers apply standard precautions consistently with all patients – regardless of their diagnosis – in all work practices at all times. The problem is that our health care workers have not been informed and trained. We are poorly equipped and insufficiently prepared. Those at risk are not limited to those who have contact with infected persons. Laboratory workers are also at risk.
The National Health Workers Union (NHWU) views the CMO’s statement as more a public relations gimmick than the announcement of a well-thought out medical strategy designed to tackle what could be a serious situation.
The approach of the Chief Medical officer reeks of disrespect for health workers and betrays a lack of understanding that the very health workers who have not been part of the planning of the approach to deal with Ebola are the very persons who are expected to put their lives on the line to combat this disease should it enter the country.
The announcements have caught everyone with their pants down and as it stands members of staff are not clear as to whether or not they are truly mandated to engage these patients and put their own lives at risk.
The National Health Workers Union (NHWU) urges health workers, who may have to deal with the Ebola virus and who have not been trained to understand the protocols and to use the personal protective equipment, to put their safety and their families’ safety first and further urges them not to interface with suspected Ebola - affected persons until they are properly trained to do so.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Nigel Small, Chair, North Central Branch of the National Health Workers Union @ 790-2983.
DEMOCKRACY BEFORE AND AFTER
“Dey use dey riches and dey power;
make a mockery of the law
an’ have de law protect dem same time”
"The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them."
After a thorough discussion on the Constitutional Amendment Bill on Sunday 10th August the executive of the National Workers Union issued the following statement. (The bill was passed in parliament on the morning of 2014/08/12).
All those who have commented, for and against, on the Constitution Amendment Bill, which the ruling UNC has foisted on the country, have wrapped themselves in the cloak of democracy.
Those opposed to the amendments have shouted from the rooftops that they are defending democracy from governmental assault; those in support that they are promoting and deepening democracy and empowering the people. Democracy, therefore, seems to be all things to all men.
This democracy of which they speak seems to be focussed on elections…full stop. It strengthens the concept that once you have periodic elections you are a democracy. T&T must be the leading democratic country in the world. We have had five general elections in ten years and since May 2010 we have had one general election, two local government elections and two bye-elections.
The focus of the constitution reform exercise has not been on how to involve working people in developing and executing policy and exercising control over politicians, but it has focused on tweaking the electoral system to gain advantage for the governing political party.
The only person amidst the noise and haste who has come close to throwing light on the matter is Merle Hodge when she lamented: “…our failure to propose anything that increases the direct input of ordinary citizens into decision-making. We have proposed no structures or mechanisms to achieve this…
Popular participation in the democratic process has not been expanded one jot beyond periodically staining the tip of one of our fingers. ‘More power to the people’? I don’t think so,”
This is the crux of the matter, whether first past the post, proportional representation, mixed system, run-off elections…none of these methods advance the interests of working people and the poor. They are about electing which gang of political hustlers and confidence tricksters will live off the fat of the land, feed at the trough of public funds and ensure that their financiers are well taken care of.
This democracy, which everybody claims to uphold, is always restricted by the narrow limits set by our neo-colonial, crony capitalist economic and political system and is in reality a democracy for the minority, a democracy for the propertied classes, a democracy for the rich, for those who rely on the state to accumulate capital: for party financiers and political investors.
The debate on democracy never enters the realm of industrial democracy; democracy at the workplace, without which all steps forward in expanding rights and freedoms would be baby steps and vulnerable to reversal.
While citizens are caught up in trying to understand the implications of the Constitution Amendment Bill, let us not forget that the infamous Section 34 of The Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Bill was designed to ensure that party financiers would escape jail for their crimes.
How many citizens are aware that on July 18th 2014, a bill was enacted in the House of Representatives called The Securities (Amendment) Bill, 2013? It provides for prosecutions as summary offences and not indictable offences; it provides for $10 million in fines and a jail term of ten years for insider trading, but the perpetrators may pay an administrative fine of $500,000 to avoid facing prosecution. Further, within seven years of the commission of an offence the matter must be brought to court or it becomes time-barred. Like in the case of Section 34 the bill was passed unanimously.
Gang-related offences may land a gang member in jail for life, are indictable offences and have no time limit for prosecution. Party financiers and political investors certainly stand to benefit from this travesty. Investigations in T&T take years and years before they are completed and insider trading is a complex matter that has to be thorough and detailed lest it becomes meat and drink for millionaire lawyers.
How many insider trading prosecutions have there been? None: yet there is no urgency to tackle the question of campaign finance reform. They will not cut off their nose to spite their face. So much for democracy for all!
Owing to the everyday conditions of existence of capitalist exploitation, working people are under so much pressure to carve out a decent, civilised quality of life for themselves and their children that they cannot be “bothered” with democracy or with “politics”.
This, of course, strengthens the interests of the ruling elites. Outside of periods of heightened class struggles the majority of the population is practically debarred from participation in public and political life.
One argument states that we must defend “our constitution”. How did the republican constitution and before it the Independence constitution become “our” constitution? The Independence constitution was ‘negotiated’ by the British imperialists and middle class politicians who hi-jacked the independence movement and have ever since engaged in using the state to feather their nests through corrupt relationships with transnational corporations, local merchant capitalists, party financiers and political investors.
The independence constitution, in essence, saw the continuation of crown colony government with the Prime Minister taking the place of the governor. The republican constitution just tweaked the Independence constitution and allowed the government to stuff the cabinet with unelected senators, thus increasing the power of the Prime Minister.
The term limits on a prime minister, some argue will prevent the rise of petty dictators, but the very structure of the constitution makes a prime minister a dictator, whether she is in power for one day or a hundred years.
The citizens of the country continue to remain alienated from the process of government and are assigned a role as periodic election fodder. When the elections are over they are expected to go about their business and not meddle in affairs of governance until the next election. So those who defend “our” constitution are in fact defending a neo-colonial imposition, the people had no part in shaping.
The government talks about empowering the people, when in reality it’s all about the ruling UNC trying by both hook and crook to avoid defeat at the next general election. Pious declarations about people’s participation and empowerment are just smoke and mirrors to obscure naked partisan greed.
The right of recall as a principle could hardly be criticised, but the process by which the recall is to be implemented makes it practically impossible to recall any member of parliament. The right of recall has been converted into the impossibility of recall. Ruling elites have no interest in power to the people.
Yet they argue that the power of recall will force MP’s to work and represent their constituents in a more dedicated manner. The reality is that the real job of an MP is not to represent the needs of his constituents, but to act as voting fodder for the ruling party to enact laws and adopt policies in parliament. There is no institutional mechanism for MP’s to “represent” constituents, except to be able to beg and plead with Cabinet Ministers and the Prime Minister. This applies to both government and opposition MP’s.
The more they insist they are “empowering” people, the more they centralise power in their own hands. The power of recall of MP’s is in the hands of leaders of political parties: ask Herbert Volney!
A lot of foolishness has been spoken about the runoff guaranteeing a “majority” MP. How ridiculous! Even if a candidate gets more than fifty percent of the vote, she is hardly likely to get more than fifty percent of the electorate.
In a runoff, if it does not have a direct bearing on who forms the government, there is likely to be a reduction in those voting from the first round. Fifty percent of fifty percent is equal to a “majority” MP! Constitutional mathematics in yuh pweffen!
Political parties in T&T are just vote-collecting machines financed by capitalists with deep pockets. Constitutional rights are violated on a routine basis in this country. Those who cannot pay high-priced lawyers are supposed to just grin and bear it.
Before the Constitution Amendment Bill was passed, Trinidad and Tobago was a neo-colonial society, run by transnational corporations, merchant capitalists, narcotraficantes, party financiers, political investors and eat-a-food politicians.
After the constitution Amendment Bill was passed Trinidad and Tobago is still a neo-colonial society, run by transnational corporations, merchant capitalists, narcotraficantes, party financiers, political investors and eat-a-food politicians.
The National Workers Union is well aware that the Constitution is supposed to guarantee freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of speech, but in practice, there are so many constraints placed on these, that they exist only in so far as they do not threaten the interests of those who control the economy and the state. What good is a right that exists only on paper?
Constitutional rights were never “granted’ to working people. They have always been fought for and forced upon the ruling class, particularly by the labour movement over the years, across the globe. Constitutions guarantee nothing! To ensure that constitutional rights are exercised in practice, the people must be so organised and alert and willing to apply pressure from below that governments will find it impossible to trifle with their hard-won rights and freedoms.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Gerry Kangalee (National Education and Research Officer – Cell: 785-7637)
JOINT TRADE UNION MOVEMENT
August 5, 2014
Calls for Immediate Independent Enquiry at PETROTRIN
The Joint Trade Union Movement is calling for an immediate enquiry on the recent oil spill disaster at PETROTRIN.
At a meeting of the Joint Trade Union Leaders this week all Unions present agreed to advocate against any attempt by the government to side step what is a major disaster. The JTUM supports the residents of Marabella and other surrounding areas affected by this latest oil spill.
The JTUM identifies the major players who must be held responsible among the following:
Ultimately it must be remembered that PETROTRIN is a State enterprise in the energy sector and so the government must be collectively held responsible. This company is a major revenue earner for the country and therefore government has a responsibility to guarantee and secure the processes which attend to the production, storage and downstream activity of the sector.
The JTUM further notes with concern the fact that the government and the company were warned of the very concerns that have now manifested themselves in a report produced by the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU). The Union then attempted to present the report to the Prime Minister who refused to accept same.
This report contained constructive recommendations which if implemented and accepted would certainly have forestalled tis latest disaster.
This report was presented to His Excellency, the President of Trinidad and Tobago, Anthony Carmona.
The JTUM also calls for the quashing of any audit or enquiry now being hurriedly commissioned by the discredited executive management of PETROTRIN to engage the services of Price Waterhouse, and audit firm to investigate this disaster. Price Waterhouse is a service provider to PETROTRIN and as such does have a conflict of interest in this matter.
The JTUM supports Ancil Roget, President General of OWTU who said that the company must be held accountable. In the first disaster last December attempts were made to suggest in some twisted way that the Union was to be looked at. That realm of folly was soon smashed as it became clear that the real culprits were gross mismanagement and negligence at the very top. Attempts to blame a bundwall around the affected oil storage facility is really a smokescreen to what is the real issue.
We wish to warn the population that there are a reported 42 oil storage tanks which are at risk and can cause even more disasters through the rupturing of tank walls.
The President of PETROTRIN must go now! The entire Board must go now!
Outstanding Issues Affecting
Fire Service Second Division Officers
The following statement was issued by the Trinidad and Tobago Fire Officers Association Second Division (TTFSA2) in response to a request from the National Workers Union. The statement is published in the wake of the picket staged by Fire officers on Friday 25th July 2014.
The TTFSA2 has represented fire officers since 1967 and has a membership of approximately 1,500. Their relationship to their employer is regulated by the Fire Service Act no. 31 of 1965 as subsequently amended.
The Fire Service Association (Second Division) is saying that Fire Officers are being treated unjustly and in the interest of justice and fairness calls for an immediate investigation into the management of the Fire Service by the Chief Fire officer. We are being treated like the bastard child of the Ministry of National Security and are requesting the intervention of the Prime Minister, Minister of Public Administration, Minister of National Security and the Permanent Security Ministry of National Security to rescue us from the abysmal situation that now plague fire officers.
The administration of the Fire Service has reached an all- time low. Fire officers are totally neglected by the Fire Service administration, the Director of Personnel Administration, The Chief Personnel Officer and by extension the Government.
Everything is going wrong administratively in the Fire Service but fire officers continue to perform their duties without hesitation despite the poor treatment meted out by the administration. This can be evidenced by the following:
1. Health Welfare and Safety of Officers:
Recently officers had to dodge stones & gunshots whilst extinguishing a fire on the roadway in Laventille. We heard Inspector Mystar on TV speaking about this, however to date not one word from the Chief Fire Officer. The silence from the C.F.O is deafening on these high risk areas where personnel have to venture daily during the course of their duties. What is the protective protocol in the face of these major threats to Fire Officers?
Personnel at the Roxborough Fire Station have been subjected to unsafe conditions and placed at undue risk, as it relates to the continued occupation of that structure, contrary to the OSH Act 2004 (as amended 2006). Despite being informed of the dilapidated & unsafe conditions that exist there along with the recommendations from the Structural Engineer of the MOW&T, that the structure be demolished ASAP.
To date personnel attached there are scared and has demanded our intervention. To date these issues remain unresolved and we are in the first year of the Collective Bargaining period 2014 to 2016
2. Failure to Promote Fire Officers:
No promotion has been made by the Public Service Commission to the Rank of Fire Station Officer since 2005.
Fire Sub Station Officers qualified since 2003 for promotion to Fire Station Officer are yet to be promoted. Some of these officers are now appointed to act two (2) ranks above their substantive posts i.e. in the office of Assistant Divisional Fire Officer. Very often you hear of officers being promoted in the Police and Prison Service whereas no promotion in the Fire Service. This situation is negatively affecting the quality of supervision and discipline in the Fire Service. Also affected is our earning ability, standard of living and our ability to continue to provide the basic needs for our families. This results in very low morale and a feeling of discrimination in the Protective Services.
3. Nonpayment of outstanding Salary and Allowances for 2008 to 2010:
Many fire officers are still being paid at the 2007 remuneration level. Thousands of dollars are owed to fire officers due to the failure to fully implement the Collective Agreement for the period 2008 to 2010.
Salary increments outstanding for both serving and retired officers in contravention of regulation 31 (Terms and Conditions Regulations, 1998) resulting in most officers not being paid their correct salaries nor retirement benefits.
Acting allowances for appointed officers have not been paid since 2008 resulting in serving and retired officers being denied their property, thus affecting their standard of living.
Acting Fire Sub Officers and Acting Fire Sub Station Officers who are eligible for Qualifying Examination Allowance are not being paid this allowance in contravention of Cabinet Minute #791 of April 1970 and High Court judgment in action #1680 of 2003.
Qualifying Examination Allowance is not consolidated with the salaries of eligible officers upon retirement in contravention of Cabinet Minute #791 of April 1970 and High Court judgment, in action #1680 of 2003.
Pension and gratuity emoluments are not being paid in a timely manner to most eligible officers contrary to part v Payment of Pension, Regulation 43. of Fire Service Terms & Conditions of Employment Regulations 1998.
Officers injured during the course of duty are not being afforded timely medical treatment or reimbursed for medical expenses in contravention of Regulation 91 of the Protective Services Compensation Act No. 22 of 1996. (Basil Raphael, Navindra Jagdeo, Jason Forde, & Derryck Mitchell). In a job where fire officers are inherently exposed to numerous health risks, the level of medical treatment available is quite inadequate.