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Media Releases

These are the Media releases recently issued by the Union and other organisations/people..

CALL FOR PAPERS: Anti-Imperialism in the Twentieth Century Caribbean

posted 20 Jun 2019, 20:02 by Gerry Kangalee

CALL FOR PAPERS Anti-Imperialism in the Twentieth Century Caribbean 

A Special Issue to be published in Journal of Labor and Society Paper Submission Deadline Date: 01-01-2020 Special Issue Co-Editors: Godfrey Vincent, Associate Professor, Department of History, Tuskeegee University, Tuskeegee, Alabama, USA Herbert Brewer, Assistant Professor of History & Coordinator, African American and African Diaspora Studies Program, Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA (CONTINUE HERE)

NWU: STAND UP AND FIGHT OR CONTINUE TO LIE DOWN AND TAKE!

posted 18 Jun 2019, 20:40 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 18 Jun 2019, 20:45 ]

STAND UP AND FIGHT OR CONTINUE TO LIE DOWN AND TAKE!

Either we stand up and fight or we lie down and take! This was made by the late Comrade Thelma Williams whenever she addressed workers. The situation in which working people find themselves today demonstrates the correctness of the call made by Comrade Williams. 


We are in the midst of the greatest crisis faced by working people since the nineteen thirties. Not only has our plantation economy crashed, but the colonial social and political institutions imposed upon us are falling apart.

Parliament, the police, the judiciary, the church, the banks and conglomerates, the education system, the trade unions no longer command respect and are widely considered to be corrupt to the core.

Our country has become a killing field, where crime has become the leading industry involving international cartels run by Chinese Tongs, Mexican and other drug cartels, politicians, immigration and custom officials, parasitic lawyers, one percent importers and distributors, police and defence force officials and street level gundoleros.

We have become notorious as a country where human labour and sex trafficking has become widespread; where slaves are imported and young Latina women forced into the sex trade. Parasitic lawyers and security firms are making a killing and have a vested interest in the crime situation not being reined in.

The hustlers and confidence tricksters who call themselves politicians are only concerned with looting public funds, regardless of the damage they are doing to the quality of life of working people and the poor. We all know the precarious situation in which working people find themselves. The one percent who control the politicians have rammed the shaft straight up the backsides of working people and the poor.

Not only are they not satisfied with maximising their profits during this economic crisis by minimising their labour costs through retrenchment, wage suppression and the cutting back of hard won benefits; they are jumping up and wining now that they can deepen the exploitation of our Spanish speaking neighbours who have been denied the protection, as minimal as it is, of our labour laws.

Thousands of workers have been retrenched since Labour Day 2018 and continue to be retrenched. Workers at Petrotrin, TSTT, Trinidad Cement, RBC, Berger Paints and so many other firms have had their jobs stolen from them. The standard of living of tens of thousands, particularly in the Southland has been devastated. The gains made by working people through their intervention in the 1930s and 1970 are being reversed.

In the past when workers were subjected to the kind of attacks we are being subjected to now, we used to turn to our trade union
Thousands of workers have been retrenched since Labour Day 2018 and continue to be retrenched. Workers at Petrotrin, TSTT, Trinidad Cement, RBC, Berger Paints and so many other firms have had their jobs stolen from them. The standard of living of tens of thousands, particularly in the Southland has been devastated. The gains made by working people through their intervention in the 1930s and 1970 are being reversed. 
leaders for direction and support. Trade unions were built by workers as a defence mechanism to beat off the excesses that the capitalist system generates and to adjust the balance of power between those who produce and those who huff the fruits of production; between employer and worker; between the oppressor and the oppressed.

Today, our ability to use the trade union to defend our quality of life is quickly being reduced to next to nothing. To put it bluntly – trade union leaders are playing the ass!

In the midst of this game-changing crisis many labour leaders are indistinguishable from the employers. The employers are on the warpath in their mission to destroy the trade union movement and trade union leaders seem hell bent on assisting them.

Trade union leaders have no respect for their members; member participation in the affairs of the unions is at an all time low. The institutions of the unions are not functioning in the way they should, leaving union executives to do whatever they want. Union branches and sections, which are the foundation of the unions, have all but disappeared.

Trade union leaders seem more interested in sucking up to the very political parties that represent the interests of the employers and that take the lead in exploiting and retrenching workers and destroying our quality of life.

Trade union leaders seem more interested in attacking one another than in defending the interests of the working class. They see the employers as partners and fellow trade unionists as competitors.

One trade union leader recently collaborated with a company to deny workers severance pay and instead to pay them an ex gratia payment, which of course is subject to tax. The union agreed that it would “refrain from commencing any legal claims or demands against the company relating directly or indirectly to the cessation of the company’s operations and to release and discharge the company from any liability in relation to any such (actual or potential) legal claims or demands.”

Many masquerade as trade union leaders when, in fact, they are businessmen who utilise union resources to build up personal fortunes through engaging in supplying labour and even try to defend exploitative practices when their employees file grievances against them.

Image result for ANIMAL FARMMany trade union leaders have no interest in organising the unorganised workers of this country who make up the vast majority of the working class. Even though the law makes provision for it, many have stopped even offering representation to workers who are not part of a recognised majority union bargaining unit. If the trade unions will not speak for these workers who will?

There are many issues that workers need to grapple with through their unions, but it makes no sense calling on union leaderships to tackle issues like Retrenchment, growing incidence of contract labour, the flouting of minimum wage laws, the discrimination against domestic workers, the struggle for an expeditious recognition process, negotiations two and three rounds behind etc., etc. They are just not capable.

The present leadership are more concerned with who going Geneva and how they could play the political game for self advancement.

As the austerity programme bites deeper and deeper the trade unions will have to rise to the occasion or be made redundant. Under the present leadership it will be made redundant. Mass participation in the unions’ business is the way to go. The union’s business is not the business of the President or the executive or the people at headquarters. The union’s business is the members’ business!

For the trade unions to carry out their mission of protecting, defending and advancing the interests of the working class, the perspectives, policies and practices of the unions must be transformed. The present leaderships are not capable of leading that transformation...A word to the wise.

STAND UP AND FIGHT!


2019/06/19

RBC TELLS WORKERS VSEP, VERP OR RETRENCHMENT

posted 20 May 2019, 19:55 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 20 May 2019, 20:12 ]

Mario Als, Deputy President of the Banking Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU), issued the following statement on May 20th 2019.

STOP MASS RETRENCHMENT AT RBC NOW!!

Mario Als
Once again, the Royal Bank of Canada is engaging in the mass termination of employment of workers. We have been advised that the Bank has issued an ultimatum to eligible workers in Service Delivery to apply for their Voluntary Separation of Employment Package or Voluntary Early Retirement Package, if age 50 and over. The Bank has made it clear to all that “if the voluntary programmes do not attract the anticipated employee participation, RBC may undertake an involuntary programme to achieve our productivity objectives, consistent with local legal requirements and provisions.”

In other words, the Bank is saying to the workers that it is either they leave willingly or they will be thrown out on the breadline. Either way, workers or their families once again are being sacrificed by this foreign investor so that it could maximise its profits.

Already, we have seen that since the Union applied for recognition in 2011 the number of Workers in the Bargaining Unit then was l,999. By ZOI7, the number of workers was cut down to 1360. Over the past eight (8) years, over 700 workers and their families were sacrificed on the altar of profits.

lt must also be recalled that this bank fought and continues to fight against the Recognition of our Union so that its workers would not have a Trade Union to represent them. To make matters worse, because of the reduced workforce and the closure of several branches, the remaining workers have been put under tremendous stress to cope with the workload.

This exploitation of workers is no different to how customers reacted to the increase of fees and introduction of new charges for on-line transactions and paper statements for two (2) consecutive years in a row.

Given the fact that the Prime Minister has already admitted that since 2015 to now, some 20,000 workers have lost their jobs and more are slated to go, our Union calls on the Minister of Labour to intervene at RBC and stop the continued retrenchment orgy. The working people of this country have already been over traumatised with the sending home of thousands of Petrotrin and TSTT workers. This has to stop! The workers must not be made to pay for capitalist greed.

BIGWU Responds to Allegations of Representation in Sexual Harassment Case

posted 30 Apr 2019, 10:42 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 30 Apr 2019, 10:43 ]


Image result for bigwu logo
The Banking Insurance and General Workers Union wishes to publicly record its strongest protest against the utterly wicked unjustified attack launched against our Union in particular and Trade Unions in general in an article in the Sunday Guardian on 21st April, 2019 (Page B14). 

The central theme of the article article “Nusrat and us” was the constant attack on trade unions as being archaic and irresponsible, including on the subject of sexual and other forms of workplace harassment, completely ignoring that it is the trade union movement that has led and continues to lead the fight against same. 

The article stated inter-alia: “For instance, in the case mentioned by Ms Thompson-Ahye, the banking union BIGWU challenged the firing of a man found guilty of sexual harassment by arguing it was a harsh decision by Republic Bank… If they continue to behave like BIGWU did in the Republic Bank case, they risk siding with the perpetrators at the expense of the victims. Just imagine for a moment how the women involved in the Republic Bank case felt when their own union openly argued in court that the perpetrator, not them, was the one treated harshly because he was fired. In today’s world, no union can be forgiven for defending that line.”

Firstly, we want to state emphatically that all accused workers are entitled to due process and are also entitled to appeal against the severity of their sentence. We must emphasise the Union's representative role to ensure that good and proper Industrial Relations is observed even where the Union may agree that the evidence supports that a worker is guilty of an infraction.

It is appalling to note that the writer makes reference to a case that is more than two decades old and then proceeds to infer that the positions held in that case is the positions of all Unions today.

For the record it should be stated that the 1996 case referred to was the then Bank Employees Union (BEU) vs Republic Bank. BIGWU was not the Union involved. BIGWU WAS NOT EVEN FORMED THEN. The name of the Union that represented the worker was Bank Employees Union (BEU) which was one of the heritage Unions of the now Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU).

BEU was fulfilling its mandate and oath of representation to a dismissed worker and nowhere in its representation was there a “defence” of the worker’s actions where the allegations were proven. Instead the position of the Union was that even if there was wrongdoing, given his length of service and seniority the Bank should have taken this into account in the application of a penalty. 

In other words, if he was guilty, a penalty other than dismissal should have been applied. Every worker has the right to be heard in mitigation as was the case of Cain in the Bible.

It is unfortunate that both the writer and Senator Hazel Thompson-Ahye have to paint Unions as implicitly defending the perpetrators of sexual harassment when this is far removed from the reality of what really happens.

In fact, this Union is currently representing a worker against her employer for allegedly dismissing her under the guise of restructuring because she reported her supervisor for sexually harassing her.

It is little wonder that no mention is made of this case. No mention is also made of the number of Collective Agreements where our Union and others have ensured that there are clauses to deal with sexual harassment. All of this is because the intention of the article was to demean and diminish the Union by presenting the RBL case as one in which the Union sought to support an act of workplace harassment rather than to fulfil its representative role.

While the writer makes reference to Unions, little or no mention is made of high priced Attorneys (some of them senior counsel) who defend Executive management officials like Rolph Balgobin in the recent Angostura matter. Where was the Chamber of Commerce and the ECA then? Did they openly voice their concerns?

It should be noted that in that matter the SWWTU, supported by several other Unions, led several picket demonstrations to get the company to act against sexual harassment.

We also note with serious concern the statement attributed to Ms. Sabina Gomez, the Chief Labour Relations Officer at the Ministry of Labour which was carried in the Trinidad Guardian on 12th April, 2019 as she outlined aspects of the Labour Ministry’s policy on sexual harassment before a Parliamentary Oversight Committee. The newspaper report stated inter-alia:

“Gomez said work­ers cur­rent­ly don't need a union to rep­re­sent them and could ap­proach the Min­istry. They are ad­vised to write the em­ploy­er about the is­sue and the Min­istry would fol­low up.”

Not having heard any rebuttal of this statement, we are left to strongly denounce any such approach as advocated. We state without hesitation that sexual harassment is a workplace issue. Workers formed trade unions to represent them and we openly call on workers who need representation on these and other issues to join a union to represent them in such matters.

Finally, it would be remiss of us if we did not point out that this latest attack against our Union in particular and the Trade union movement in general in the column titled “INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS” is part and parcel of the vicious assault launched by the 1% against non-unionised and unionised workers and their trade unions. We call on all working people to reject their weekly Sunday verbal garbage and close ranks against them.

NWU:TIME FOR A CAMPAIGN OF DIRECT ACTION AGAINST THE ONE PERCENT!

posted 10 Apr 2019, 04:07 by Gerry Kangalee

On 2019-04-10 the following statement was issued by the National Workers Union:


The employers, led by the one percent, have launched the most vicious assault on the rights, entitlements and interests of working people, both unionised and non-unionised. The campaign, started by the business owners/employers in March 2018 in an attempt to immobilise the workers’ movement, is coming swiftly to a climax.

The latest tactic of the employers is to get rid of industrial court judges who may have a grasp of industrial relations and to replace them with bobble heads of the one percent.

As their contracts come to an end, many judges are being released and replaced by others who are ignorant of the dynamics of industrial relations but who are loyal to the business class and/or to the political party in government which is itself obligated to its financiers of the one percent.

Since March last year the industrial court has come under constant attack from the employers. The propaganda has been intense. They have utilised the Guardian (which has always been a mouthpiece of the one percent) to demonise the trade union movement, its leaders and particular industrial court judges, including the President of the Court.

They have appealed judgements of the industrial court using high maintenance lawyers, knowing full well that in the overwhelming majority of cases they are not going to be successful. But the idea is to drag out and delay matters and frustrate and weaken an already weak trade union movement and to ensure that long suffering workers do not enjoy the minimal remedy that may be available at the industrial court. They boast that they have deep pockets and carry the workers for a run.

Why is the focus on the court now? The vast majority of workers are not unionised and union membership continues to shrink as more and more workers are retrenched. The employers are smelling blood. They are no longer afraid of the power of unionised workers. They have succeeded in compromising many trade union leaders. They have succeeded in shifting the struggle between capital and labour from the work place and the streets to the industrial court.

The trade union movement has for years been calling for security of tenure for industrial court judges who are all contract employees appointed by the cabinet which gives the governing party enormous sway over the quality of judgements delivered by the court. Like many other contract employees, the judges of the Industrial Court have no job security and are subject to political pressure.

The one percent has, it seems, taken full control of the industrial relations policy of the government. This is not surprising because these mark-up merchants are the ones who finance the leading political parties and, as is well known, he who pays the piper calls the tune. The government has been assiduously serving the interests of the one percent, in that it has taken the lead in eliminating jobs in the state enterprise sector and in downsizing the public service and turning it into a nightmare for contract workers.

What do the employers and the one percent want? The objective is to maximise their profits by minimising their labour costs; by 
Image result for tRINIDAD industrial courtdemoralising their workforce through retrenchment, wage suppression and the cutting back of hard won benefits. They want to have the freedom to make maximum use of multiskilling and to be able to write job descriptions that are open to manipulation.

Ninety percent or more of the matters that are decided in the Industrial Court are from workers who are not members of a recognised majority union bargaining unit. The employers have come up with a strategy that involves further weakening the unions while ensuring that non-unionised workers know and stay in their place.

  • They want to remove the provision in law that says that a worker, whether previously unionised or not, must be represented by a union in the industrial court.
  • They want to have the right to examine unions’ financial status (the books) when unions make applications for recognition.
  • They want what they call small and micro enterprise employers to be exempt from punishment for unfair dismissals and from the procedures that apply to other employers when it comes to trade disputes.
  • They want to make it illegal for the Recognition Board to grant recognised majority union status to a bargaining unit of less than twenty workers.
  • They want unions to be decertified for bargaining units that fall below the magic number (twenty).
  • They are against domestic workers being treated like “workers” under the law, despite the government pretending to support ILO recommendation 189 and promising to enable it through legislation.
  • They want unions to pay costs in matters that employers win in the industrial court.
  • They are against workers who have been unjustly dismissed being re-instated.
  • They want to be able to retrench so-called “contract workers” at will.
  • They want to cut back on leave provisions in collective agreements.
  • They have developed legal mechanisms to delay and frustrate the already long drawn out process of recognition which they developed to frustrate the RBC recognition struggle by BIGWU.
  • They want restrictions on appeals against industrial court judgements to be removed.

What the one percent and the ruling party do not understand is that the gutting of the industrial court and the introduction of legislation to further the interests of the business and political elites will have the effect of shifting the workers’ struggles for economic security back to the workplace and the streets.

Instead of ensuring dominance over their workers, it will lead to an intensification of the class struggle, which will not be restricted to industrial relations issues, but will involve the question of the quality of life and, inevitably, to the question of how power is exercised; who exercises it and in whose interest it is exercised. The employers and the government are ordering what they cannot eat!

The National Workers Union (NWU) demands that government holds its hand on the appointing of judges; while it moves to scrap the contract system for industrial court judges and institutes a system of appointment based on security of tenure.

The National Workers Union calls on the trade union federations and all trade unions to condemn this vicious plot by the employers and to engage in a mass education campaign both within the unions and for the mass of non-unionised workers who are facing the brunt of the attacks and for the general population.

The National Workers Union calls upon the trade unions to convene an all union Conference of Shop Stewards and Branch Officers to strategise and kick off a campaign of direct action to beat back this vicious assault on workers’ rights, entitlements, standard of living and quality of life.

- END -

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Gerry Kangalee (National Education and Research Officer – Cell: 785-7637)

GUYANA BAUXITE WORKERS UNDER PRESSURE

posted 17 Feb 2019, 10:04 by Gerry Kangalee

Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union 
Press Release 
15th February 2019 
Striking workers BCGI threaten with dismissal –sovereignty at risk

This morning workers at the Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI) downed tools protesting the Russian management’s imposition of one percent wages increase. This is an embarrassment to all Guyanese. The workers’ protest was responded to by management at a meeting held where they were brutally told that they will be fired if they do not return to work within the day, that they can seek redress wherever they want, and to hell with the government. The operation at the mines and maintenance departments have come to a halt.

Article 147(2) of the Constitution of Guyana protects the right to strike. And whereas in the Collective Bargaining process strike is considered an industrial weapon to be used whenever the circumstances become necessary, all are reminded that since December 2009, under the noses of successive governments, BCGI has been engaged in a series of violation of the law and transgressing of the workers’ rights. The management continues to refuse to treat with the recognised union of the workers’ choice, the Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union (GB&GWU).

GB&GWU has earlier today informed Chief Labour Officer, Charles Ogle, of the industrial action taken by the aggrieved and deprived workers. The Union stands in solidarity with these workers in the exercise of their basic right and for the upholding of their attendant rights. GB&GWU calls on all Guyanese to understand the struggles faced by these workers, to empathise with them, and to lend them your support. GB&GWU calls on the international community for its solidarity. The continued violation of BCGI workers threatens multiple family units and the entire communities within which they reside. The threat to one is a threat to all; and injustice here is an injustice everywhere.

Workers of BCGI have been suffering since under the previous government and continue to suffer under the current. How many more have to suffer, how many families and children have to suffer. As Guyanese, citizens of the world, one and all will have to face the reality now. The best defense for the unaffected lies in the protection of the rights of those around them. GB&GWU calls on the Government and Opposition to intervene immediately and stop this violating of the Guyana Constitution and the Rule of Law and the transgressing of the workers’ right by a foreign sovereign power.

In this period of political division and external tension with our neighbour Venezuela, who is facilitating a growing presence of Russia in its ongoing pursuit of geopolitical relevance, is management’s new threats and intensified violation a strategy we must pay attention to. Moreso, in the context of a heated upcoming election and the exploitation of our oil and gas resources. This matter is no longer a simple labour issue. There seems to be a hidden agenda with potentially dangerous consequences that both the Government and Opposition should take immediate action on. This is about a nation's sovereignty and national interest, the respect for worldwide comity.

NWU: YES TO NON-INTERFERENCE; NO TO THE INVASION OF VENEZUELA!

posted 25 Jan 2019, 05:17 by Gerry Kangalee

On 2019-01-25 the National Workers Union issued the fiollowing statement


YES TO NON-INTERFERENCE; NO TO THE INVASION OF VENEZUELA! 

The National Workers Union (NWU) calls on the people of Trinidad and Tobago to pay serious attention to the ongoing fast climaxing creeping coup that has been taking place in Venezuela orchestrated and financed by the government of the United States.

It has already had a serious impact on Trinidad and Tobago and which, if it continues, as all indications suggest it will, promises to be a game changer in Latin America and the Caribbean and for Trinidad and Tobago in particular.

Our country has always adopted in times like these a stance of non-intervention in the political affairs of sovereign countries, just as we would desire other countries, whether great powers or not, to refrain from interfering in our political affairs.

The NWU urges the Rowley administration to hold fast to that principle, which we applied to our relationship with Cuba, in the face of opprobrium from the United States in the 1970’s. We urge the Rowley administration to recall that the government of Trinidad and Tobago resisted the pressure from the Reagan administration and many Caricom heads of government and did not participate in the shameful assault on Grenada in 1983.

The danger of war is looming large in the Caribbean. This possibility becomes a frightening probability if the masses and the military in Venezuela do not follow the script penned by the USA.

We must remember as David Rudder said that we are in the Orinoco mouth and any military assault on Venezuela will affect us in that the USA will have no qualms about violating our sovereignty in order to carry out its assault on Venezuela. T&T is the ideal staging post for sabotage, surveillance and even the massing of troops and materiel in case of war.

We must remember that T&T had the biggest American base in the Western Hemisphere during the Second World War and that the treaty giving the USA the right to operationalise that base is still in force and only lapses in the late 2030’s. So any invasion of Venezuela may also result in an occupation of T&T.

If as some people believe that our analysis is alarmist, just remember that the USA has been engaged in never-ending wars since the end of World War II. Over the last few years the USA has implemented military action in Eastern Europe, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya where they murdered Gaddafi, turned Libya into a number of warring factions which resulted in a massive refugee crisis form which Europe is reeling and revived a human trafficking trade that is no different to slavery.

The Russian government has already warned the United States not to intervene militarily and this raises the possibility of the Venezuelan situation morphing into a wider war as hyper-military powers square off or it may have the effect of making the US think twice.

The people of T&T must not allow the government to succumb to the, admittedly, overwhelming pressure that may be applied by the declining superpower to support their position. We must insist that the government hold fast to the position that they have publicly expressed and act in the best interests of Trinidad and Tobago and not act as pawns in the effort of a declining, but militarily dangerous super power, to maintain its dominance in the face of challenges from fast rising militarily powerful adversaries.

Further massive continued destabilisaton of Venezuela which already impacts Trinbago and foreign military intervention will create chaos and economic, military and social problems never before experienced in our country.

- END -

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Gerry Kangalee (National Education and Research Officer – Cell: 785-7637)

THA MUST PREVENT COLLAPSE OF HEALTH CARE IN TOBAGO! INVESTIGATE TRHA NOW!

posted 19 Nov 2018, 07:19 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 19 Nov 2018, 07:36 ]

Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles must intervene and investigate
The National Workers Union is calling on the Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) to intervene and investigate the operations of the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) to prevent the collapse of Health Care and Health Services in Tobago.

As the Union indicated in our last article, the current “Interim CEO” is regarded as someone who has placed a huge value on her integrity. She is expected to demit office on Monday 19th November 2018. It is our understanding that the Board of Directors, headed by Ingrid Melville requested for her to stay on but she has refused. Be reminded that her predecessor resigned with immediate effect after he refused to compromise his integrity.

The TRHA seems incapable of obtaining and retaining a CEO. It seems that anyone worthy and capable of being the CEO at TRHA, will not tolerate being manhandled by the Board to carry out their directives of nepotism and corruption and therefore will not be hired.

The organization spent thousands of dollars between 2015 to 2018 in an attempt to recruit a CEO. During that time at least one person was successful but was not given the nod by the Secretary of Health – Dr. Agatha Carrington. It was reported that that decision was the reason for the immediate resignation of the then Chairman of the TRHA Board – Mr. Oswald Williams. Mr. Williams also served the THA in the capacity of Secretary of Health and Social Services from 2005 to 2009.

Over the period 2015 (after the then Board terminated the services of Brent Murphy after only six (6) months in office), to 2018, the TRHA has rotated more than four (4) persons acting as CEO including Ingrid Melville who was at the time the Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors. This speaks to a high level of incompetence at the level of the Board.

The Government claimed that there is a reduction in revenue in the country due to the drop in oil and gas prices. As a consequence there has been cuts in the allocations to the various Ministries and the THA. The THA is directly responsible for funding the TRHA. Who then is monitoring the wastage of the resources at the TRHA when the procurement, and recruitment processes are constantly being drained by the Board of Directors and the Secretary?

Is the Board, and by extension the Division of Health, aware of the procurement process and the process for engaging suppliers for
Board of Directors
goods and services? What then was the process to engage the services of Consultants within the TRHA?

· What process was used to engage the services of GLR and Associates for Human Resource Management (Recruitment & Selection) and how much were they paid for the period of their service?

· What process was used to engage the services of Dr. Carol David for Human Resource Management (HR Strategy) and how much was she paid for the period and her service?. Yes this is the same Carol David who is busting workers’ throats at TSTT.

· What process was used to engage the services of Ms. Adana Castellano Jones for Human Resource Management (Recruitment & Selection) and how much has she been paid thus far and how long will she be engaged with the organization?

Clearly a pattern is noted in those “Consultancies” listed above. There has been NO Transparency, NO Accountability, NO Value for Money and most important NO care for the Public that the TRHA is responsible for serving. The general public in Tobago has lost all trust and confidence in the Public Health Care System.

This is evident by the number of persons opting to seek healthcare services privately. The staff has lost confidence in the Board and the Secretary of Health. This is evidenced by the lack of motivation shown by staff. Who can blame them? Staff is owed Performance Pay dating back to 2015; there are little or no materials to effectively carry out their duties; there are severe staff shortages in critical areas, yet the recruitment consultancy has only been able to recruit sanitation and lower level staff.

It should be noted that the Human Resource Department of the TRHA, although severely short staffed (based on the number of employees in the TRHA vs. the number of HR staff) has the competency to carry out ALL the services that consultants past and present are engaged to do. In fact, the existing staff has greater confidence in their colleagues than they do in the Consultants.

Although we respect the Autonomy of the THA and the Tobago Public and the rights of every Tobagonian to self-determination, we feel obligated at this point, if the THA Chief Secretary lacks the will to reign in the Secretary of Health and the Board of Directors of the TRHA, to make a public call to the Ministry of Health and the Central Government and the Prime Minister to intervene to prevent a total collapse of the Health Care system and service on the island.

TO DEFEND OURSELVES AGAINST THE ONE PERCENT WE MUST TAKE BACK OUR UNIONS!

posted 18 Jun 2018, 20:25 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 18 Jun 2018, 20:26 ]

The statement available here was published by the National Workers Union on the occasion of June 19th/Labour Day 2018. It may be downloaded from the attachment at the bottom of the page.

FOOD SECURITY PROBLEMS RIPENING by Omardath Maharaj

posted 9 May 2018, 07:01 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 9 May 2018, 07:08 ]

Omardath Maharaj, agricultural economist
Planning and advancing food and nutrition security is a clear challenge for Trinidad and Tobago. In the absence of an overarching policy framework for sustainable agriculture and rural development, key stakeholders continue to misdirect advocacy and resources jeopardizing the national good. This multi-dimensional issue needs vision and leadership.

Glaring examples of our failure to mobilize and organize basic agricultural commodity production, marketing, and processing is becoming more evident as we aim to satisfy the national appetite.

In responding to a question on the Order Paper in the Senate recently, Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon said that

“At a recent meeting between the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries of Jamaica and a Trinidad and Tobago trade delegation, the issue of a trade imbalance between our two countries was discussed.

Both countries agreed to explore ways in which Jamaica’s products such as agricultural products can be utilized as inputs into the manufacture of Trinidad and Tobago’s products. In particular, Jamaica outlined its interest in supplying specific products to Trinidad and Tobago.

In addition, attention is to be placed on the removal of regulatory obstacles which may be restricting trade between the two countries. Further collaboration between the private sectors and the public sector agencies in both countries will continue in this regard.”

Simultaneously, in the House of Representatives in Jamaica, there was celebration. Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Audley Shaw, reported that there was growth in seven sub-sectors in agriculture in 2017, when compared to their production in 2016. These are corn, plantain, banana, pineapple, dasheen, coconut and milk.

He said “Notwithstanding an overall decline of 3.8% in agriculture, we have seen growth in specific sub-sectors with a 7.9% increase in the production of corns, including hybrid corn, which grew by a substantial 14.9%. We also registered an increase of 6.1% in plantains, 10.4% increase in the production of bananas, 2.2% increase in pineapple production, 13.3% increase in dasheen, 24.9% increase in coconut, (and) while milk production increased by 10.6%.”

He added that “We've also had growth in exports. We exported 35% more bananas, 18% more yams and fish, more baked goods and 11% more meat and meat products.”

Image result for Jamaican bananasHowever, in December 2017, The Gleaner reported that “the first weekly banana shipment left Jamaica bound for Trinidad. With the support of European Union-funded capacity building training there was a 7.5% increase in productivity in the Jamaican banana industry.”

By January 2018, The Gleaner reported that “Trinidad had increased its weekly order of Jamaican bananas following the signing of a six month contract. Jamaica started by sending one container or about 900 boxes of bananas each week.” Former Agriculture Minister Karl Samuda had announced that “Trinidad wants three containers a week.” The Jamaican government has been working to consistently increase the export of bananas through the Banana Export Expansion Programme.

Of interest to me is Jamaica’s recognition that the success is due largely to a businessman's appreciation for the high quality of the Jamaican fruit. Janet Conie, General Manager of the Banana Board, explained to The Gleaner that “This businessman is the largest importer of bananas into Trinidad. He had a chance to visit fields in Jamaica and see the steps in banana cultivation, harvesting, and packing. The deal was sealed after he sampled the ripe fruit.”

"He wanted to see what we have, and because the quality is so good, he wants to up his price over there. We want him to up the price over here as well, so we think that six months will give us enough leeway to increase output. He is going to distribute in the Massy group, and at least 20 of the retailers are already asking for Jamaican bananas. We have a lot of fruit that's going to come in very soon in the Spring Gardens Agro Park, a lot of young fields that are coming in, all for this market."

“The Trinidad-based businessman is already exploring the option of importing potato and yam as well from Jamaica”, The Gleaner reported.

While I support the need to strengthen relations and reciprocity within CARICOM and trading partners, T&T’s position of declining foreign exchange earnings and reserves has allegedly put greater pressure on our capacity to import although the food import bill continues to rise. We remain hard-pressed to report expansion in food production and any permanent displacement of import dependency. There is, however, serious misinformation in the public domain and perhaps a misunderstanding of the situation at a policy level.

Food imports must be understood in relation to essential products which cannot be produced locally, significant intermediary products and concentrates which service the local manufacturing sector, food and beverages for the high-end consumer and restaurant market, and the influx of primary agricultural commodities and products that directly compete with farmers, fishers, and entrepreneurs.

According to UN COMTRADE Statistics, T&T would have imported just over $231 million in bananas and plantains between 2010 and 2015 primarily from Suriname, Dominican Republic, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

As I have said repeatedly and publicly over the years, while politicians and policy have seemingly attempted to promote local food production, they have simultaneously given greater facilitation and promotion of other sectors which demand billions of dollars in imported food and beverages to survive.

Image result for trinidad agricultural floodi9ngAfter several years of fiscal budget deficits and economic hardship, damage to the major food producing areas from flooding, dilapidated infrastructure, tenancy and other issues, it is a burden to maintain our dependency on food imports coupled with food price inflation and the urgent need to return value and opportunities to rural agricultural and fishing communities.

The food production sector continues to be misunderstood and suffers from a history of underinvestment and failed policy. In order to systematically reduce our reliance on foreign food products and bolster our own capacity, there must be a fundamental shift in the sector’s priority, raising it on the national development agenda which is to be supported by an overarching national policy framework for sustainable agriculture and rural development.

The stakeholders of the sector will then only begin to be motivated through greater consultation, collaboration, and coordination of the already limited resources since they have grown accustomed to doing more with less.

Policy includes identifying strategic programmes and projects aligned to measurable outcomes and its financial, human and technical resources. We must be mindful of the history of neglect of the agriculture and fisheries sector overall and appreciate that we cannot now try to do things in a recession which should have been planned and implemented in better economic times with greater fiscal space.

Higher prices in local markets, increased demand for imported equivalents – which we should be producing in this country - and foreign exchange pressure may put food and nutrition security out of the hands of men, women, boys and girls who need it the most.

Certainly, national support for the “local” notion will overwhelm current production in all sub-sectors. I am confident that demand will create supply but there are significant pre-cursors for growth and development that are unaddressed. Some of these issues will fortunately be ventilated at an upcoming symposium hosted by the UWI Faculty of Food and Agriculture entitled “Food and Nutrition Security”.

While much effort has been expended by some stakeholders on highlighting the issue of housing versus the St Augustine Nurseries, we must also be advised of other important matters facing the agriculture sector, food and beverage industry, trade relations, and the people of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Please contact 683-1173 for any further information.

Additional Notes

• The Gleaner - First Weekly Banana Shipment To Trinidad Leaves Jamaica Today - http://jamaica-gleaner.com/…/first-weekly-banana-shipment-t…

• The Gleaner - Trinidad Increases Jamaican Bananas Order - http://jamaica-gleaner.com/…/trinidad-increases-jamaican-ba…

• The Gleaner - Bananas Break Into Trinidad Market - http://jamaica-gleaner.com/…/…/bananas-break-trinidad-market

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