The Communication Workers' Union has carefully noted the statements of the Honourable Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley relative to the Government’s decision to dissolve the Tourism Development Company, TDC, which decision has now placed the jobs of some one hundred and fifteen (115) committed professional workers in jeopardy and has brought about the consequential social and economic challenges for their families.
The Prime Minister has stated that he leads the Cabinet which took the decision to close the TDC and to call on him to fire the Minister because the Minister did it is not to understand what is happening. The Prime Minister also stated that the decision to close the company was not made ’out—of-the-blue". Therefore, the Prime Minister as the head of the Cabinet must take full responsibility for any decision that his Government makes.
The Prime Minister made these statements in response to the Union's call for the removal of the Minister of Tourism for her disrespect to the TDC workers, the CWU and the Trade Union Movement after she made a phone call to the head of the Union almost at the same time that she was preparing to make the public announcement, at the weekly Post- Cabinet Media briefing, that the Government's decided to dissolve the TDC.
The Union would continue to state the irrefutable fact that the Minister NEVER CONSULTED with the CWU as the legitimate RMU for those TDC workers before she proceeded to make a public statement misleading the nation by saying that she held discussions with the President of the Union before the announcement was made, giving the impression that there was prior consultation before the decision was made.
We wish to posit that the Prime Minister, as the head of the Cabinet, must accept full responsibility for this faux-pas and act of disrespect. As such, the CWU is now holding the Prime Minister fully responsible for the mayhem that the Government has created for these workers, who are loyal, dedicated and patriotic citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
We are holding the Prime Minister responsible for one of the most blatant breaches of the provisions of the Industrial Relations Act, Section 40, which mandates that the employer is duty bound to meet and treat in good faith with any Union which has Recognized Majority Union Status in an Organization/Enterprise; we are holding the Prime Minister responsible for knowing all along, since June 2016, as he stated, that there was a report which recommended that the TDC be dissolved but this information was not communicated to the CWU as the Recognized Majority
Union at the TDC neither were they invited to meet and treat in good faith.
We would like to ask whether the Prime Minister consulted with two (2) former Trade Union Leaders who now sit in his Cabinet and who would be engrossed with the knowledge that Section 40 of the IRA mandates a particular approach to deal with situations like this. In addition, the Prime Minister could have called on his Minister in his Office who has a wealth of knowledge in such matters in his former incarnation practising before the Industrial Court. We are convinced that the Cabinet had the requisite resources available to advise and guide them through this process.
We are really left to wonder, who provided leadership to the neophyte Minister of Tourism to advise and/or instruct her to commit such a fundamental breach of the IRA and of good and proper Industrial Relations Practices.
Every time one of the Cabinet Ministers speak on this issue, the more we are left to believe that this was a deliberate act of disrespect for the Trade Union Movement, and as such, the entire Movement was well within its right to suspend its participation in the National Tripartite Advisory Council until this misdemeanour and fundamental breach are addressed. Contrary to the Prime Minister’s recent statement, we wish to remind him that with much pomp and fanfare, the NTAC was launched by him and there was an expressed mandate for the NTAC to be proactive and deal with critical issues that would have brought stability to the Industrial Relations Environment in the country.
The decision to dissolve the TDC is one such issue. It is curious that the Prime Minister made reference to some report in the Chamber of Commerce newsletter, the "Contact”, about $200M wastage at the TDC, as the Chamber is only one partner in the Tripartite process. This sounds like a case of “who pays the piper calls the tune".
Finally, we wish to correct the Prime Minister and advise him that this is not the first instance of a problem relative to Non-Consultation with the Labour Representatives on the NTAC before a critical decision was announced publicly. We would never forget the Minister of Finance's public utterances at an IMF function where he made the snide and discourteous public announcement about the famous 0% x 0% x 0% Wage offer to Public Sector workers.
As such, we are convinced more than ever that these statements were clearly articulated by the Prime Minister to “Play Smart with foolishness”. The CWU made a public commitment to "Communicate the Truth" and that we vow to continue to do.
The Communication Workers’ Union, (CWU), would like to publicly express its grave
concern with respect to the recent announcement by the Minister of Tourism, Ms. Shamfa Cudjoe that the Cabinet of the Peoples National Movement Government has taken the decision to dissolve the Tourism Development Company, TDC. This decision was announced by the Minister at a Post Cabinet Weekly Media briefing at the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort on Thursday 9th March, 2017.
The Union would like to bring some clarity to this situation so that the citizens can be more educated and informed.
THE MANDATE OF THE TDC
TDC Is a special purpose State Enterprise established in 2005 with the expressed mandate to develop and enhance all aspects of the tourism sector in Trinidad and Tobago. With that mandate was the clear delineation between Trinidad and Tobago, with the TDC having the responsibility for the development of the Tourism product while the Tobago House of Assembly had specific oversight for Tourism development in Tobago.
When the PNM came into Government office in 2015, they appointed Ms. Denise Demming as the Chairman of the Board of Directors and the then CEO Mr. Chin was removed from Office. Mr. Warren Solomon was appointed as the Acting CEO. Early in the life of the new Board, confusion started with the Line Minister removing Ms. Demming as the Chairperson and replacing her with Mr. Richard Duncan.
The Union wrote to the CEO on August 23, 2016, seeking to have several outstanding issues impacting on the Employees employment relationship resolved. We thereafter wrote to the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Mr. Richard Duncan, via letter dated September 21, 2016, alerting him to the obstinacy of his Executive Management and to the Company’s blatant and flagrant violation of the Industrial Relations Act of Trinidad and Tobago. We did remind the Chairman that the TDC, as a State funded Entity, had an obligation to abide with the Laws of the Country.
At a Standing Finance Committee during the debate on the 2017 Budget which was held in the Lower House. The Minister was on record as stating that the Tourism Development Company was now undertaking a comprehensive Structural Review including a Human Resource Review and that she was sure that there were some positions that were not relevant to the operations of the Company. She also stated that there is a problem of duplication of positions at the TDC that will be treated with. All this was said in the face of a significant reduction in Budgetary allocation where staffing was concerned.
The Union wrote the Minister via letter dated October 24, 2016 seeking her intervention and an urgent meeting based on the challenges we were having with the Chairman of the Board of Directors and in the face of her recent articulation in Parliament. We got no response from the Minister, but sometime in November, the Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development called the Secretary General and seeking to facilitate a meeting between the Union and the Minister. This meeting was held on December 01, 2016.
At that meeting, the Union indicated to the Honourable Minister, that the Job Security of the members of our Bargaining Units was placed under threat as several Contracts were not renewed and there was no indication as the future tenure of the workers. We also reminded the Minister that for years and under successive Governments, the TDC was used as a Political Football with the staff suffering from the negative effects of mis-management, cronyism, nepotism and flagrant political manipulation which were all allowed to fester to the benefit of whichever regime was in power.
We also articulated that the excellent professional, analytical and creative work done by the staff was ignored and sidelined in favour of un-professional and disingenuous strategies and plans which only facilitated the obscene plundering of the state coffers. While all this malfeasance was taking place, the positioning of Tourism as an alternative means of economic development and diversification was derailed and abandoned.
As such, the CWU which now has Recognized Majority Union status for those de-motivated Bargaining Unit Employees has taken the position that we will not allow this economically challenging period to be used as the excuse to endanger the Job security of those workers who would have shouldered the burden of the responsibility for keeping the TDC afloat while politicians were having a field day. The Minister did indicate that the Ministry was undertaking a Human Resource Audit at the TDC and she would consult and engage the Union on the completion of this Audit on the way forward for the TDC.
The Union would like to make it pelluicidly clear that we were never consulted prior to this decision being taken. We wish to state that in January 2017, the TDC commenced an investigation into the award of a Contract to Beckles Environmental Services Limited on July 7, 2016 relative to Drainage and Associated Works along the Maracas Bay Car Park. This Contract was awarded after the names of four (4) Contractors were allegedly submitted by the then Minister of Works. Subsequent to that, the Ag. CEO was sent on vacation Leave in January 2017 and has been on leave since then. Two other employees have also been sent on Vacation Leave and Administrative Leave simultaneously, one of them being a member of one of the CWU Bargaining Units.
A meeting which was supposed to be held on Monday 6th March, 2017 to reveal the findings of the investigations was subsequently postponed. On Wednesday 8th March, 2017, the staff was introduced to a Mr. Cliff Hamilton who was identified as the Interim CEO of the TDC. Curiously on Thursday 8th March, 2017, the Minister hastily announced the Cabinet decision before the findings of the investigation are revealed.
The Union questions the timing of this decision, which was done before the investigation into the award of this contract can be revealed. We are left ask what would become of the findings of this investigation. In addition, we believe that this decision reeks of anti-union, anti-worker tendencies. Months after the Union submitted its proposals for a new Collective Agreement for the workers of the TDC, the Government wants to now dissolve the Company and start over with two (2) new entities. In effect, the Government would be denying those workers their right to have Trade Union representation, which they are legitimately entitled to have.
On March 9th, the Communication Workers Union issued the following statement signed by General Secretary, Joseph Remy.
The Communication Workers’ Union condemns in the strongest and most vociferous manner the
recent cabinet decision announced by the Minister of Tourism, Ms. Shamfa Cudjoe, to dissolve the Tourism Development Company, TDC.
Like a thief in the night, the Minister of Tourism, hiding under the comfort and opulence of the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort, Lowlands Tobago, announced on Thursday 9"" March, 2017, that the Cabinet has taken the decision to dissolve the TDC and replace it with two (2) separate entities, with one focussing on Trinidad and one focussing on Tobago.
In a very disrespectful manner, the Tourism Minister has placed the jobs and the lives of over one hundred and twenty (120) workers in disarray, in addition she has now effectively destabilised over one hundred families. This decision was made without any consultation with the CWU, which is the Recognized Majority Union for two (2) Bargaining Units at the TDC.
Consistent with her statement made in Parliament early on in her term of ofhce, the Tourism Minister has attempted to demonstrate that "they are in charge now" and has disregarded all basic principles of Industrial Relations and good and proper governance and employment practices.
This action comes months after the CWU submitted proposals for a new Collective Agreement for the Bargaining Unit Workers at the TDC while the Government was procrastinating in commencing negotiations for a new Collective Agreement for these workers. We can only deduce from this action that the Government wants to prevent the CWU from making representation for and on behalf of these workers, in essence, this self professed pro-worker PNM Government is engaging in anti- worker, anti-union tactics.
This action demonstrates in a most brazen manner, the worst form of Governance. Imagine workers having to hear about the dissolution of the Company that they work for, through a press statement and on messages on Social Media. Is it that the CWU is now targeted for not signing the MOU with the PNM prior to the last Election? If that is so, then we cry shame on this PNM Government for another attempt at Union Busting!
We also question the timing of this statement, which we believe is coming on the heels of an investigation that is now being conducted into the award of a Contract by the TDC early on in 2016 during the tenure of the current Government. A lot of questions have been left unanswered about this contract which was awarded to a purported PNM Financier for the clearing and de-silting of Drains along the Maracas Bay Car Park.
Based on information gleaned so far, we have been advised that some startling revelations have been made and as such, there is now this haste to close down the TDC before that information reaches the public domain. We at the CWU has signalled our strong support for Lady Gypsy and her 2017 Calypso and have taken a cue from her and wish to and advise the PNM Government that the CWU would Ring the Bell for Justice, we would Ring the Bell for Job Security for the TDC workers and we would ring the Bell for the right of Trade Union Representation for the workers at the TDC.
The CWU is demanding that the Government lays its hands of the Jobs of those TDC workers, who are not responsible for the poor management and misspending of Funds that the Minister is alluding to. Thereafter, the Minister must immediately engage the Union in discussions about the current status of the Bargaining Unit Workers at the TDC.
We thought that this Government would have learnt a lesson from what happened with the Peoples Partnership Government, so we wish to remind them that the PP Government was warned about adopting anti-worker and anti-union strategies and tactics and was advised that they would pay the ultimate Political Price. It seems that less than two (2) years into their term of office, they feel that they could take people for granted, but by their uncaring actions, they have signalled that they want to suffer the same consequences as the PP Government.
Well the CWU wishes to warn them that we, together with the TDC Workers are prepared to engage in an intense struggle to protect the Jobs of all members of our Bargaining Unit and by extension protect the livelihood of their families. lf they don‘t take heed, then we can assure them that they too would pay the ultimate political price.
For that we dare to struggle.
A word to the wise is sufficient
On 2017-02-15, the National Workers Union issued the following statement:
Petrotrin does not belong to whichever political party controls the government. It belongs to the people of Trinidad and Tobago and is critical to the short term economic future of the country. Petrotrin is one of the largest employers in the country; is critical to the service sector in the South and is the third largest taxpayer in the country after NGC and BPTT.
It stands to reason, therefore, that the OWTU, which over the years has distinguished itself as an organisation defending the interests of working people, needs to be as transparent as possible concerning its proposals for restructuring. The union has a duty to publish, for all to access, the entire document that was submitted to the government.
The “restructuring” of Petrotrin cannot simply be a matter between the union and the government, but is of great importance to the welfare of the people of T&T. The OWTU proposals and any other proposals for the restructuring should be as widely debated as possible in keeping with the philosophy of mass participation by the people in the politics of the country, outside of election season.
While, the OWTU proposals are not in the public domain, the Union’s President General has been cited in the media as saying that Petrotrin is top heavy and suggests that “the company’s mega structure be broken into different segments to ensure greater efficiency...Trinmar should be operated on its own. The land operations should be separate and the refinery operations separate for all to deliver on their fullest potential,”
It is a bit puzzling that the OWTU which has strongly and rightly condemned the staffing of management positions in state enterprises with party financiers and political hacks should propose a structure where the company is broken into segments to ensure greater efficiency. On the surface, and not having seen the entire document, this proposal seems to be cutting road for PNM ‘gouti to run. It seems to be more jobs for the boys to feed at the trough.
The union leader says that Trinmar should be separate as should land operations and refinery operations. What is meant by separate is not clear. Does it mean that three “separate” companies should be established? How does this ensure efficiency? If, the state enterprise governance model is flawed, as the union has argued for years, how is dividing the company into smaller segments going to address that problem.
It must be borne in mind that Petrotrin is operating in an international industry dominated by the largest, vertically integrated transnational corporations in the world – companies like BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon etc., not to mention the huge state-owned firms like Aramco, Petronas, Petrobras, Statoil etc.
Without having the benefit of accessing the entire OWTU document, it seems that the president general’s utterings suggest a one hundred and eighty degree turn from OWTU’s long-held position as stated in a memorandum submitted to the government of Trinidad and Tobago on the nationalisation of the oil industry in 1982. The document was published in booklet form and was accessible to all those interested. There was no social media in those days.
On page 61 of the booklet, the union states: “...it is pointless that in a small oil producing and refining country such as ours, to have several separate and distinct companies carrying out their operations.”
The National Workers Union (NWU) respects the OWTU’s right to change policy over the years, but the reasons for those changes, as they affect the interests of working people, should be explained.
The following is an open letter dated 31st January 2017 to the Governor of the Central Bank co-authored by Afra Raymond and David Walker. It raises a number of troubling questions about the legal basis for actions being taken under the purported rescue of CLICO/CLF with the use of more than 20 billion dollars of our money.
Whether you agree/disagree with the positions taken by the authors of the letter the point is that you should endorse the call for answers from the Central Bank. The Governor is duty bound to share with the public his legal opinion on what are very troubling matters.
The authors are seeking support from individuals, organisations and collectives for the request that the governor of the Central Bank carry out his role as a “public servant” and disclose the information to which the people have an entitlement. After all, it is our money, isn’t it?
For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
We, the undersigned, have become very concerned about the direction of the “rescue” of CLICO et al after over eight years under the control of the Central Bank and the government.
Our principal concern is at the apparent regulatory forbearance being exhibited by the Central Bank in this matter. Our further concerns relate to the legality of the ongoing control and any untoward consequences arising from that; the inordinate delay in the return of billions of dollars to the taxpayer and the impact that must be having on economic decision making; and finally, the nature of some recent ministerial statements which appear to be at odds with the stated goals of the rescue as articulated in the Central Bank Act.
We respectfully ask for your guidance in addressing these concerns as follows:
The Central Bank has a duty to enforce its fit and proper regulations to ensure the stability of the financial system by disqualifying unfit and improper persons from acting as Directors, Officers, Actuaries and controlling Shareholders in Financial Institutions. Official statements surrounding the events in this large-scale failure of the CL Financial group and four of its Financial Institution subsidiaries – CLICO; British-American Insurance Company; Caribbean Money Market Brokers and Clico Investment Bank present a prima facie case that the then principals in those companies are no longer fit and proper to be Directors, Officers or controlling Shareholders.
The Central Bank issued a Press Release on 7th June 2011 to advise of its lawsuit against Lawrence Duprey, Andre Monteil and others, after certain forensic investigations. That Press Release was explicit in stating the Central Bank's position - “...the subordination of the interests of CLICO, its policyholders and mutual fund unit investors to the private interests of Mr. Duprey and Mr. Monteil and their companies; the lack of proper governance and serial mismanagement; improper dealing with CLICO’s assets and the funds of policyholders and mutual fund unitholders...”
Given that the Central Bank arrived at that position over five years ago, it is entirely unacceptable that no action seems to have been taken to have the responsible parties declared unfit under the fit and proper regulations. Is it the case that such action is still in progress or is it that the clear view as then articulated is no longer the official position? Either way, in the light of previous statements, what is the Central Bank’s current position on the matter?
It is apparent from a reading of the Central Bank Act that the control exercised is not to be open-ended. Indeed Section 44G defines the conditions upon which such control shall be relinquished. That appears to be the only reasonable interpretation of the section which is copied below.
“44G. (1) Where the Bank has under section 44D assumed control of an institution, the Bank shall, subject to subsection (2) remain in control of, and may continue to carry on the business of that institution until such time as the Bank publishes in the Gazette and in such newspapers as it thinks appropriate a notification that it has ceased to be in control of the institution.
44G. (2) The Bank shall relinquish control and shall not continue to carry on the business of an institution where-
(a) the circumstances on the basis of which the Bank assumed control of the institution under Section 44D have ceased to exist;”
Our question is that given the removal of the risk of contagion and the stated solvency of the Statutory Fund, does the Act not now require demand that control be relinquished? Given that the former Governor of the Central Bank and other officers have made statements to the effect that the Statutory Fund is now in surplus and that the company is no longer in deficit is it not now mandatory that the Section 44 control be relinquished?
There are also conditions that must be met before the powers are to be exercised. Here is the extract.
“44D (2) The powers of the Bank under subsection (1) shall not be exercised unless the Bank is also of the opinion that the financial system of Trinidad and Tobago is in danger of disruption, substantial damage, injury or impairment as a result of the circumstances giving rise to the exercise of such powers.”
Our question is whether the Bank is still of the opinion that the financial system of Trinidad and Tobago is in danger of disruption, substantial damage, injury or impairment as a result of the circumstances giving rise to the exercise of such powers? If not, do the immunities defined in section 44 still apply to the actions of the Bank and its appointees? Can they carry on dealing with the assets and operations of the institution with impunity?
The Central Bank Act suggests that actions undertaken during the rescue are to be guided by the interests of creditors and policyholders. These are the only two groups so mentioned. To quote the Act again “44D (1) (c) have power—
(i) to investigate the affairs of the institution concerned and any of its affiliated institutions and to appoint a person or persons for that purpose;
(ii) to such extent as it thinks fit, to assume control of and carry on the affairs of the institution and, if necessary, to take over the property and undertaking of the institution;
(iii) to take all steps it considers necessary to protect the interests, and to preserve the rights of depositors and creditors of the institution”.
Our question is whether the Central Bank and Minister are free to pursue other goals such as unrelated government objectives as their primary driver(s) in executing the rescue.
Following upon Question 4, was the acquisition of policyholder rights (The Resolution Plan) done under Section 44 powers, and if so how does that action “preserve the rights of depositors and creditors of the institution” as the Act seems to demand?
To whom does the decision as to the relinquishing of control of CLICO fall?
a) Central Bank
b) Minister of Finance
c) Both of the above
d) Some other individual(s) or agency(ies)?
There is a fundamental contradiction between the position implied by official statements that the CL
Financial principals are not fit and proper and the requirement that the Central Bank now relinquish control.
The question is therefore what are the proposals being considered to resolve this so that the companies are released from Central Bank control without the former principals regaining any positions as Directors, Officers or controlling Shareholders. It is our respectful view that this is an important aspect on which the public deserves a clear explanation so that we can be reasonably assured that there is no chance of those persons, against whom the Central Bank is litigating, re-entering our country’s financial system in any manner which could again jeopardise our collective security.
We trust that you will address these questions with the seriousness that they deserve and expect that your excellent legal team will provide their usual expert advice. Indeed, we expect that these questions must have been already addressed by you and your team in the course of managing the rescue of CLICO in conformity with the Central Bank Act and other relevant legislation.
David Walker - email@example.com
Afra Raymond - afraraymond.net
Disclosure Today - https://www.disclosure.today/
Following a meeting of the Executive Committee of NATUC on 06/01/2017, we were mandated to write to you with respect to the disturbing report which was brought to our attention by our member union, the SWWTU. The SWWTU has informed the NATUC that allegations of sexual misconduct have been levelled against Mr. Rolph Balgobin, Chairman of Angostura Holdings Limited by a senior female manager.
It has been further revealed, that for over a period of ten years and over a span of several organisations, allegations of sexual harassment has been made against Rolph Balgobin by several women.
We in the NATUC are very concerned with the negative impact of the allegations on the company and the wellbeing of the workers, particularly because the company is one of the few local businesses that operate at a domestic, regional and international level. With the reputation of the company already affected by the newspaper reports that the Company is in breach of the European Union's rules of origin about rum blending integrity, these allegations levelled at the Chairman have the potential to bring the company and the Board into disrepute locally and internationally. Further, we strongly condemn any harassment of employees, sexual or otherwise at any level of the organization.
The NATUC supports the view of the SWWTU that the nature of these allegations is particularly disturbing and the matter should be dealt with swiftly. In so doing, care should be taken to secure and maintain both the public and employees confidence in the Board and the company. Since these allegations speak to personal behavior and unbecoming conduct, we are of the view that it should not be allowed by extension/ association to tarnish the image and brand of the company which is a public listed company that operates in the domestic, regional and international arena. These allegations can detract from the company and have already begun to do so since the position of Chairman is the highest position in the company.
In light of the foregoing, the NATUC supports our affiliated union the SWWTU and is calling for the resignation of Mr. Balgobin, or at the very least, that he demits his position and refrains from attending all meetings of the Board of Angostura until there is an independent and transparent investigation into these allegations. The issue of corporate governance cannot be swept under the table and for the Chairman to continue to perform his duties under these circumstances, would be sending the wrong message and will tarnish the image of the Board and its members.
We are seeking your support in this respect and by asking you to write to the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and the Minister of Finance, requesting that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago act to either request the resignation or alternatively revoke the appointment of Mr. Balgobin as Chairman of Angostura Holdings until the matter has been conclusively determined.
The NATUC believes that transparency and accountability go hand in hand and should be of high relevance for any company or organisation. We believe that until these allegations are refuted, it would be principled on the part of Mr. Balgobin to vacate the position of Chairman.
We look forward to your staunch support and solidarity. We take this opportunity to also invite you to support our online petition at:
The Federation of Independent Trade Unions and Non-Governmental Organizations, FITUN, would like to publicly express its solidarity with the OWTU in its current struggle with PETROTRIN and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago relative to its outstanding wage negotiations for the periods 2011-2014 and 2014 to 2017.
In the face of public concern about the impending Strike Notice as pronounced by the Union, the Federation would like to condemn the mis-information and inconsistent statements emanating from the Government about PETROTRlN’S obscene offer to the Union. In one breath we heard from the new Government’s mouthpiece, Minister, Stuart Young that there was no directive given to the PETROTRIN Management to make an offer of "0% x 0% x 0%" for the both periods.
While we also heard from the Finance Minister that no State Body, in particular, a fully owned State Entity, has any authority to make any offer on wage Negotiations without the expressed directions of the inter Ministerial Negotiating Committee.
If we are to believe Minister Young, then it is obvious that the PETROTRIN Board breached their authority by making on offer without being authorized, but on the other hand,if we are to take Minister lmbert’s statement in context, then it can be deduced that the PETROTRIN Board acted consistent with the clear public mandate given by the Finance Minister when he stated that the Government’s offer to Trade Unions would be 0% x 0% x 0%.
It is either the Board acted with the mandate of the Finance Minister or if not; then they acted without authority and as such, they breached their authority and in those circumstances, the necessary action ought to be taken against the Board.
We can only deduce that in the midst of all these confusing statements from the Government and the stated and un-challenged statement from the Union about the wage offer by the PETROTRIN Management, the Union is now facing an imminent WAGE FREEZE. As such, any progressive Trade Union would take the necessary and legitimate action to protect the interest of its members and all other workers in the Country since a WAGE FREEZE would have very debilitating consequences to all workers of the country.
It is clear to FITUN that what is playing off in the PETROTRIN case is an attempt to institute a Government Wage Policy on the Trade Union Movement, and, they believe that if they can be successful against the most powerful Trade Union in the Country, then all other Unions would have to fall in line. We wish to remind the public that another FITUN member the CWU was also faced with a 0% x 0% x 0% wage offer for their 2014 - 2016 Wage Negotiations.
In the face of all these circumstances, FITUN would like to express its solidarity with our member Union, the OWTU in this current scenario. We demand that the Government immediately engage in the necessary discussions with the Union and the respective Federations with the clear mandate of bringing this imbroglio to on end; an imbroglio that they have created by their mis-management of the situation.
FITUN stands ready to work with parties to have this situation resolved, but we would not deviate from our support for the Union's call for the removal of the obscene WAGE FREEZE offer from the Negotiating Table. We believe that once this offer is removed and the process of Free and Fair Collective Bargaining is allowed to be pursued consistent with the principles of good industrial Relations Practices, we would save the country from the inconvenience of Strike Action.
The Government must not be allowed to mask its WAGE FREEZE Policy in the face of the Economic Challenges that the Working Class had absolutely no responsibility for. In addition, we at FITUN are strong in support for the Labour Movements Economic Alternative Plan, which strongly advocated the position of Wage Led Growth to stimulate economic activity which could take our Country out of this economic Mess that was created by previous Governments.
We therefore await the Government’s next move which we hope would be announced today, failing which we can only lay the blame at their feet for any inconvenience that the Public would face from any Strike Action that may result.
A word to the wise is sufficient.
On 2017-01-03 the National Workers Union (NWU) issued the following statement: The Employers Consultative Association (ECA) has called on citizens to resist the anticipated strike by the OWTU against Petrotrin. The National Workers Union (NWU) sees this call by the ECA as encouraging extra legal action against Petrotrin workers who, if they go on strike, would be in conformity with due process and the law.
The ECA spews its usual nonsense about this being a time “when collaboration and cooperation is of importance if the country is to rebuild its fractured and damaged economy.”
What the ECA suggests is that if workers forego wage increases and give up their hard won rights, this would rebuild the economy. What they really mean is that working people who are already reeling from retrenchment, higher taxes and price increases must pay for the capitalist crisis in order that ECA members maintain their income levels and their standard of living.
Far from the proposed strike being a declaration of war against the population as the ECA would have us believe, it may very well be a defensive move by working people to maintain their quality of life as they reel under the blows of the economic and political crisis, while the wannabe bourgeoisie continue to purchase their super luxury vehicles and dance Old Years Night away at their five star hotels.
The ECA talks about “building our common future together”. Since when have employers and workers built anything together? All that workers have has been acquired through struggle and strife, resisted all the way by the employers and their political enforcers in the government. The ECA claims that Petrotrin workers are asking for parity with other groups of workers and that this claim is not “fair and reasonable”. The Petrotrin workers do not want parity; they want to be treated in an equitable manner. They do not want to subsist on 2011 salaries in 2017.
The ECA cites Petrotrin president who claims a ten percent wage increase will cost the State an additional $444 million. They do not say that Petrotrin has historically been the third largest contributor to government revenue behind NGC and BP and that in the period 2011 to 2014 Petrotrin contributed more than $12 billion to government revenue!
The ECA then makes a plug for the oil sector to be classified as an essential service and thus the workers be legally debarred from striking. This, suggestion comes at the very time when the trade union movement is agitating for the expunging of the essential service provisions in the Industrial Relations Act, thus entrenching workers right to withhold their labour.
They then go on to talk about this not being the time for demanding wage increases, thus making it clear that workers should take what they get and shut their mouths and allow those who have been exploiting their labour to intensify that exploitation under the guise of serving the national interest.
The boldfaceness of these make-believe capitalists prattling about reviewing workers “total compensation” as opposed to just “pay increases”! The ECA is quite aware that a collective agreement contains scores of provisions governing the relationship between employer and employee; and does not just deal with wage increases.
The National Workers Union condemns the ECA for its statement that “the focus of Petrotrin needs to be on increasing efficiency and productivity, and reducing its cost of operations, with lower effective staffing numbers.” This is the crux of the situation. The call is for Petrotrin to retrench workers – a move that will devastate the economy of the South which depends heavily on the thousands of permanent and contractor workers. But, in the inimitable words of Colm Imbert they haven’t rioted…yet!
Bizarrely, the ECA states: “This ultimately allows further negotiations for improved compensation to be linked to performance considerations, resulting in a win-win for all parties involved.” So: retrench workers; devastate the economy and those workers who remain at Petrotrin can enjoy “improved compensation.”
While there may be different views about the wisdom and efficacy of strike action held by different sections of the society, the position of the ECA is craven, self serving and reeks of class bias and contempt for working people.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Gerry Kangalee (National Education and Research Officer. Cell: 785-7637)
After all the dancing and the prancing in Caracas, we still know precious little about the gas agreement which was signed by Prime Minister Rowley and President Maduro on Monday. What do we know?
At the post-Cabinet news conference on Thursday, Rowley said that he was going to “to sign the government to government agreement and the commercial structure which will open the door for commercial exploitation of the Dragon gas field in Venezuela which is to the north of us here, just beyond the Bocas.”
Well, there seems to be two documents that were signed: “the government to government agreement” and the “commercial structure.” The government to government agreement, probably, clears the way for the signing of what Rowley refers to as the “commercial structure.” We are not aware of who signed this latter document and what the contractual obligations of the signature parties are.
The Prime Minister informed us that Shell would be at the signing ceremony so it isreasonable to assume that Shell would have been one of the parties to have signed the “commercial structure.” This assumption is strengthened by the knowledge that Shell, since its buy out of British Gas, is the largest shareholder in Atlantic LNG, whose business it is to compress and liquefy the natural gas for export.
This operation hardly adds any locally-accruing value and is no different to when Caribbean slave-driven sugar cane production was exported as molasses – the so-called muscovado bias -which relegated colonial economies to producing unprocessed commodities for export.
According to Rowley Shell is “partnering with Trinidad and Tobago in this exercise” in its capacity as the “owner of pipeline and platform in Trinidad and Tobago which can be considered for utilisation in the entry of/receipt of any gas from Venezuela”.
If and when this natural gas does come to market it would be interesting to see how it is apportioned between Atlantic LNG and the Point Lisas petrochemical companies who are at this time in a fierce struggle for natural gas supplies and who are putting great pressure on the government from the upstream and downstream sides of the equation to support their respective interests. The two largest shareholders in Atlantic LNG BP and Shell are themselves the leading producers of natural gas.
Who is going to make the capital investment needed to bring the Dragon Field into production? Media reports state that the Venezuelan state-owned PDVSA reckons that four wells need to be drilled and that eventually an offshore platform has to be installed. Then there are pipelines to be run to hook up with Shell’s structures (if that is the intention).
What is the role of the National
Gas Company (NGC) in this project? According to its website
On November 6th 2016, the Federation of Independent Trade unions and NGOs (FITUN) issued the following statement.
The Federation of Independent Trade Unions and Non-Governmental Organisations, FITUN, demands that the Minister of Finance, Mr. Colm Imbert, immediately issue an unconditional apology to the Trade Union Movement, the National Tripartite Advisory Council (NTAC), all workers and all dispossessed and poverty stricken citizens of Trinidad and Tobago for his disrespectful, disingenuous, ill-conceived and ill-spoken comments that he made at an IMF Forum on Wednesday of this week.
In addition, we demand that the Minister exercise communication restraint where issues of the Free and Fair Collective Bargaining Process is concerned since his utterances violated the International Labour Organisation ILO, Conventions, #87 and #98, which speaks to Freedom of Association and the Protection of the Right to Organize and of the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining.
With respect to the emergency meeting of the NTAC which was held last Friday afternoon, FITUN did indicate that we are still committed to the process since we are aware of the current economic challenges that the Country faces and as such we supported some of the ideas proposed to move the tripartite process forward. But we were adamant that the Minister must unconditionally publicly apologize for his statements.
We did indicate that we were not in agreement that he was misquoted, misunderstood or misrepresented. We made it quite clear that the Minister misspoke and exposed his hidden IMF Agenda and in those circumstances, he must humble himself and unconditionally publicly apologize. We are therefore demanding that he should be disengaged from the NTAC since he has compromised the integrity of the Council and remains unapologetic for his disingenuous statements.
For the records, FITUN agreed to be part of the National Tripartite Advisory Council, since we believe that the process of Tripartism is a fundamental pillar around which any modem Society can organize its socio-economic policies to ensure some degree of social stability. In addition, we are cognizant of the severe economic challenges that the country is facing which we are convinced beyond any doubt, were not the making or doing of the workers of this country.
For years we have been articulating that the neo-liberal socio-economic model that successive Governments have followed has caused us to be in this unholy mess that we are currently facing. Notwithstanding our diametrically opposed ideological views and our evidenced based arguments against this model, we are mindful of our responsibility to ensure that the workers that we represent and the communities that we operate within are at least provided with a decent standard of living, that their rights are protected and that they benefit from the natural resources of the country in a fair and equitable manner, consistent with the provisions of our Constitution.
As such, we took strong offence to the Ministers statement which was made in a forum held by the major proponents of the neo-liberal agenda, the International Monetary Fund, IMF. His obscene reference to Wage Restraint and his flippant statement alluding to the fact that he has raised Fuel prices and there were no riots and as such he is looking at raising it again since all that workers and their unions would do is to hold placards with his name and picture and wave it during protest demonstrations are clear indications of his Government’s intention to institute harsh austerity measures under the dictates of the IMF.
We are convinced that this is a strategy to force the Trade Unions to abandon the Tripartite process and leave the Government with the freedom and the unfettered right to institute harsh austerity measures consistent with the IMF dictates. We have identified the deceptive tactic and as such we would not be side-tracked from our mission to ensure that the working class and less possessed and disadvantaged citizens would not be saddled with the burden of adjustment in these challenging economic times.
If that was not a deliberate tactic, then the Minister committed a serious act of deception and disingenuousness, which the Prime Minister must immediately address since he can cause further embarrassment to the Government and by extension the Country.
In these circumstances if the Minister fails to heed to our legitimate request, the Prime Minister must do the honourable thing and disengage the Minister from this very important and critical forum. The issue of trust is a fundamental pillar around which Tripartism would succeed, and in the face of this blatant, unapologetic breach of trust by the Minister, his further participation in this process could only cause further distraction, contamination and the failure of the NTAC to deliver on its mandate.