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Media Releases

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

NATUC: BALGOBIN MUST GO

posted 18 Jan 2017, 18:49 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 18 Jan 2017, 19:00 ]

Michael Annisette, General Secretary of the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC) wrote the following undated letter to trade unions.

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:

https://www.change.org/p/angostura-chairman-must-resign-after-sexual-harassment-allegations-872d3c94-22f5-42c8-a44e-aadbce57813a

FITUN: GOVERNMENT IMPOSING WAGE FREEZE

posted 5 Jan 2017, 12:30 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 5 Jan 2017, 12:32 ]


Joseph Remy - President of FITUN
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. 

ECA CALLS FOR RETRENCHMENT AT PETROTRIN

posted 3 Jan 2017, 12:31 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 3 Jan 2017, 12:37 ]


Suzetta Ali, Chairman of the Employers Consultative Association
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)

NWU ASKS QUESTIONS ON THE DRAGON DEAL

posted 5 Dec 2016, 20:59 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 5 Dec 2016, 21:04 ]

ON 2016-12-06, the National Workers Union (NWU) issued the following statement

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 is

reasonable 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 

“NGC’s traditional business of compressing, purchasing, transporting and selling natural gas to industry provides over 75 per cent of its revenue stream. The gas aggregation and merchandizing roles have honed the Company’s expertise in natural gas services including, pipeline maintenance and construction and gas transmission and commercial activities.”

In effect what NGC does is purchase the gas from the upstream producers like Shell and BP, transport the gas by NGC-owned and operated pipelines to its subsidiary PPGPL which extracts the associated natural gas liquids like propane, butane and natural gasoline from the gas and through its pipeline network delivers cleaner residue gas to the downstream customers. Will NGC have any input in the development of the Dragon project except to receive gas from Shell (if that is the intention), and play its accustomed role as mid-stream distributor?

When will the project begin? How long will it take for first gas to be delivered? How much gas is expected to come from Dragon over what time period? How would the so-called gas curtailments affecting downstream producers be impacted? What kind of pricing arrangements have been worked out with the Venezuelans? What is the government’ take in the absence of revenue streams from royalties and production sharing contracts.

The National Workers Union calls upon the Rowley Administration to provide answers to the many questions raised so that the citizen of Trinidad and Tobago may have a clear idea as to whether the Dragon deal will benefit them and not just fatten the pockets of transnational corporations and become yet another instance of the people of Trinidad and Tobago providing corporate subsidies to transnational corporations.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

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

FITUN CALLS FOR IMBERT APOLOGY

posted 9 Nov 2016, 09:31 by Gerry Kangalee

Image result for IMBERTOn 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.

NWU: NO TO WAGE SUPPRESSION

posted 3 Nov 2016, 00:00 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 3 Nov 2016, 00:05 ]

On 2016-11-03 the National Workers Union (NWU) issued the following statement

It is not surprising that the government has adopted, just like the last government, a policy of wage suppression. It is ironic that the Finance minister let the cat out of the bag at an IMF conference in Port of Spain. 

It has been clear for those who have eyes to see, that the government has adopted the position, like many capitalist governments across the globe, that the working people must be made to pay for the persistent crisis of the global economy that has worsened since the financial collapse of 2008. 

Prime Minister Rowley has on several occasions claimed that government policy has been based on the need to avoid “going to the IMF” One news article (December 22nd 2015) states: “Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley wants to ensure his Government does not have to govern ­under ­International Monetary Fund (IMF) conditionalities. Speaking during an interview with I95FM yesterday, Rowley said the Government wanted to avoid “the final option, where decisions are made for you by the lender of last resort. We don't want that at all”.

He told Parliament on April 8 2016: “I will do everything that is required to ensure that this country does not end up in the arms of the IMF again.” On April 10 2016, he is cited as saying “every citizen will have to sacrifice in some way, including becoming more fuel conscious, and this “medicine” was necessary to keep the country out of the “arms” of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)...I have given a commitment to this country and I want to give it again to the population. As leader of this Government, as leader of Trinidad and Tobago’s business, I will do everything that is required to ensure that this country does not end up in the arms of the IMF.”

In September 2016 he stated: “priority number one is to ensure that we do not end up with an IMF programme, meaning we have mis-managed our affairs and we end up at the lender of last resort,”

Yet the IMF has been in the country since April, giving instructions to the government, according to the Finance Minister: “on a number of pressing matters” including to “determine an appropriate oil and gas fiscal regime in the current environment of low oil prices and declining production in our oil and gas fields.” The IMF, according to Imbert, is also assisting in disaggregating the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund.

Therefore, the government in an effort to keep us away from an IMF standby programme is implementing all the measures the IMF would have imposed. An IMF programme is being implemented even though no loans have been made by the IMF

The wage suppression policy is part of a package of measures that is designed to ensure that the so-called burden of the economic crisis lies squarely on the shoulders of working people and the poor. It follows the extending of VAT on thousands of items, the increases in fuel prices, the job losses in the public sector, the reduction of social welfare programmes and the speeding up of divestment/privatisation of state enterprises.

Other measures propagated by the IMF include:

Fiscal policy discipline, with avoidance of large fiscal deficits relative to GDP;

Redirection of public spending away from subsidies directed toward pro-poor services like primary education, healthcare and infrastructure investment;

Competitive exchange rates (currency depreciation)

Liberalization of inward foreign direct investment;

Whether we are in an IMF standby programme or not, we are being force fed the bitter medicine with more to come.


The National Workers Union urges working people to be aware of the danger to their quality of life being posed by the austerity measures that have already been inflicted upon us and to make it clear to the political and economic elites that they will resist these measures including government’s attempt to suppress wages.

The National Workers Union calls upon unionised workers to insist that the leaders of the trade union movement abandon the policy of sucking up to the very politicians that are leading the attack on the standard of living of working people and the poor.

NWU:WORKERS MUST DEFEND THEMSELVES

posted 22 Sep 2016, 11:59 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 22 Sep 2016, 12:06 ]

On 2016-09-22, the National Workers union issued the following statement.

The National Workers Union is clear that the government of Trinidad and Tobago is actively working against the interests of working people and the poor as it moves to secure the interests of those sectors in the society which have a vested interest in maintaining and increasing inequality and exploitation.

Addressing BPTT's Statistical Review forum in Port of Spain on Thursday September 15th, BP Trinidad and Tobago President Norman Christie, the most powerful economic player in the country, made the most significant political statement for the last few years.

Christie warned the country that efforts to update the nation's gas master plan "must result in clear policy decisions regarding matters such as gas allocation and price and must incentivize upstream investments in an increasingly competitive environment."

...Failure to bring clarity to these matters quickly will result in a sharp decline in investments, which will lead to a repeat of the circumstances that have materially contributed to the natural gas supply and demand imbalance that we are currently experiencing; only it will be worse," he said.

He went on to say "The next phase of planned major developments...are still not sanctioned and will not be sanctioned unless policy decisions properly recognize the context in which we are operating."

He then threatened to withdraw BP’s planned US $5 billion of investment over the next three to four years into natural gas projects, if the transnational corporation does not have its way. In other words, BP has no qualms about undermining and destroying the economy of T&T if the government does not bow to its demand for further concessions on top of those that ex-Energy Minister Ramnarine is so proud of boasting that the UNC government gave them.

Image result for norman christie
Norman Christie
BPTT is the largest producer of gas in Trinidad and Tobago and a major stakeholder in all four trains of Atlantic LNG. It is the largest contributor to government revenue and to the foreign exchange earnings of the country. The international energy sector is in crisis and BP is moving to ensure that T&T pays for the crisis and not BPTT.

How does the Prime Minister respond to this threat? With deathly silence! Not a word! After all the transnational corporations are untouchable!

There are billions of dollars in outstanding taxes that are not being collected. There is a serious land grab taking place with ex-Caroni lands and in Chaguaramas. There is obscene bias and inequity in the allocation of the precious foreign exchange, the vast majority of which emanates from the energy sector, and, therefore, belongs to all the people of T&T. There is a never-ending spiral of the cost of living, of food and pharmaceuticals are particularly hard hit.

What does the Prime Minister say about these oppressive and exploitative practices that are bleeding working people and the poor? Not a word! After all, the politicians, who are no more than enforcers for the ruling elites, cannot afford to alienate their financiers.

What does he talk about instead!? He is threatening to retrench public sector workers - police, fire officers, prison officers, health care personnel and those whose negotiations have not yet been settled, like T&TEC workers. The IMF must be rubbing its hands in glee. This is not surprising. It is classical neo-liberal medicine to ensure that working people and the poor are forced to pay for the capitalist crisis.

Mr. Rowley is irritated that workers are demanding their retroactive payments - a debt that is due to them, having already sold their labour power for wages that they have not yet received. If you get your retroactive, the goodly gentleman thunders, you may be out of a job. Actually, the intention is to reduce the size of the public sector anyway, backpay or no backpay.

The most vulnerable sector in the Prime Minister’s gun sights are the thousands of health care personnel who are not protected by a recognised majority union; unlike police, prison and fire officers. It is clear that the gloves are off!

What is pathetic about the whole affair is that trade union leaders continue to spout verbiage about “social partners” and MOU's and are calling on the government to tackle the economic crisis by ensuring that the proverbial “burden” is shared “equitably.” It's like telling a vampire that it must eat rice instead of drinking blood.

Two days after the PM made it clear that he has lined up the working class on the chopping block, two (or is it three?) Trade Union federations met with him and gushed about how fruitful the talks were. They were hopeful that if the government takes the lead in developing a “national consensus” the burden of adjustment would be shared equitably and the ruling elites would be expected to carry their "fair" share. What absolute rubbish! It's like telling a bandit just thief less now so that you could keep on thiefin' for a longer period.

The National Workers Union is quite aware that we are in the midst of a raging class struggle and no amount of appeals to the consciences of the ruling elites are going to cut it. They are moving to secure their pound of flesh and that flesh is being cut from our backsides.

The National Workers Union urges working people to defend the little that we have by exercising our power in such a way that if they do not back off it is going to hurt them. Our power is the power over production and the potential power to put numbers in the streets.

The National Workers Union calls upon the organised workers to put pressure on their trade union leaders to stop playing hansy pansy with the employers, the ruling elites and their political enforcers and to organise their resources to push back against the assault on the living standards of working people and the poor by utilising the power of the people against the people in power, both economic and political.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

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

WHERE WE STAND: birdsong response to Guardian editorial of 2016/09/03

posted 6 Sep 2016, 08:03 by Gerry Kangalee

The following statement was issued by birdsong on September 5th 2016.


birdsong acknowledges with the deepest gratitude the widespread outpourings of support for our cause that have been aired in both the conventional and social media in response to our recent eviction from the premises that we have occupied for the last 28 years.

We are particularly thankful to the editors in the conventional media houses who have seen it fit to give prominence to the underlying issues of the absence of a viable public policy framework to support the efforts of the cultural community and in particular the long standing problems of security of tenure for the steel band.

Even in recording our gratitude and appreciation, we must take strenuous exception to the inaccuracies vented in the Guardian editorial of Saturday September O3, 2016. Of particular concern is the position taken by the newspaper’s editor that, “in the face of ultimately being displaced or possibly having to purchase the existing panyard or some other property, the leadership of the band is said to have raised $l20,000" - a sum which, the editor dismissively describes as being "quite insignificant”.

Apart from being grossly inaccurate, these assertions convey the clear impression that the birdsong organization has been deliberately lazy and incompetent in its efforts to deal with the land tenure challenge which has been responsible for the demise of several steel bands in our country’s history. In order to correct this inaccuracy, we present the following 10 facts about the situation in which 
birdsong now finds itself. 

The facts are as follows:

l. Contrary to the assertions of the Guardian’s editor, birdsong’s major challenge is not the availability of resources to acquire a new site but the many externally imposed delays that have affected each stage of the land acquisition. The result is that today, after making a $120,000 down-payment 6 years ago on January 12, 2010 and securing approval for loan financing, we are unable to conclude the transaction and take possession of the property due to the failure of the relevant state agencies to appoint Registrar· of Friendly Societies who, according to the law, is the only office holder empowered to dispose of the assets of a defunct friendly society.

2. In the meantime, we have completed conceptual designs, obtained outline permission from the Town & Country Planning Division to develop the property, secured mortgage financing and prepaid more than one year’s instalments even though the approved mortgage has not yet been able to be executed.

3. birdsong is a socially responsible, self-sustaining, community-based, not-for-profit organization. Self-sufficiency is at the core of our value system and, as such, it is not a feature of our DNA to seek, negotiate or beg for handouts, special favours or sponsorship arrangements from fairy godparents in the political or commercial arenas. It is on the basis of this philosophy, that we have dutifully avoided the adoption of the sponsorship model that has become a standard feature of the resource mobilization strategy of the Steelband movement. Instead, as a deliberate policy choice, we have been developing and testing a business model that is both 
relevant to the needs of our community and supportive of our mission of continuously challenging the boundaries of steel pan innovation in music, music education and self-sustainability. We are essentially a self-sponsored cultural entity.

4. The "birdsong model" involves 2 incorporated commercial entities operating as a social enterprise and an incorporated music education and performing arm. So far, this model has served both our organization and our community well » we employ 60 persons on a full time basis and 15 experienced music teachers on a part time basis. Our trained corps of workers allows us to be the only steel baud to successfully bid for service contracts in the Carnival space. Our business ventures finance our core activities and our special projects have received support from a range of local and international agencies including the UNDP, the IDB, the JB Fernandez Trust, the Rockefeller Foundation and United Way. Our business entities are fully compliant with all relevant regulatory requirements. We maintain annually audited accounts and are up to date on all statutory payments, including income tax and VAT, national insurance, workmen’s compensation and public liability insurance. We owe nobody.

5. A defining feature of our business operations is that our directors receive no remuneration and all profits from our social enterprises contribute to the maintenance and development of our music education and performance operations including:

— The funding of our scholarship programme which supports graduates of our academy in the pursuit of tertiary education at universities in the US and Europe.

— Payment of tutors, purchase of instruments payment of registration fees for exams - all at no cost to our students.

6. The decision to seek mortgage financing for our proposed land acquisition is a matter of deliberate strategy which reflects, among other things, the strength of our balance sheet and, above all, the confidence that the financial sector reposes in our business model, viability prospects and management systems and processes.

7. Efforts to find a sustainable solution to the insecurity of tenure pre-date the landlord’s legal initiatives to regain possession. Indeed, our records show that we have beau engaging successive past Ministers of Culture on this issue from as far back as April 1986 when the Hon. Muriel Donawa-Mc Davidson was the relevant line minister.

8. It is precisely because of the apathy, indifference and tokenism that has characterized past political and bureaucratic responses to our efforts that we took the decision, in the immediate aftermath of the landlord’s initiation of legal action, to seek to establish our social enterprises and to acquire a suitable property on the open market, with the full confidence that our limited means at the time was not a constraint on us achieving any targets that we set for ourselves.

9. In the face of the landlord’s rejection of repeated purchase offers, subsequent attempts to acquire land focused on a property which is owned by a defunct friendly society. When we made our first offer to purchase this property, the value, based on the opinion of professional valuators, was of the order of $300,000. However, due to a combination of systemic inefficiencies and no small measure of bureaucratic ineptitude, it took a full 5 years before we were able to make a down- payment in 2010 by which time the market value had quadrupled to $1.2 million.

10. Effectively, 12 of the 20 years that have elapsed since the landlord’s initial legal action have been spent attempting to close a simple land purchase transaction that, in the normal course of business, ought to have been concluded in 3 months birdsong remains undaunted by the events of the past weeks. Rather, we are particularly pleased that the eviction has opened up the national conversation on pan, the role of community-based organizations and the systems for supporting education in the arts.

Inspired by the example of Servol in forging indigenous solutions to gaps in the social and educational support systems, we are encouraged by the emerging prospect of a partnership with UWI and UTT to develop a community-based prep-university music education programme to be replicated in other communities. We are determined to emerge from this crisis unruffled and committed to breathe new life into the description of the Steelband movement so artfully articulated by David Rudder - “out of a muddy pond, ten thousand flowers bloom"!

CWU: DO NOT TO BE MISLED BY TSTT

posted 12 Aug 2016, 09:13 by Gerry Kangalee

The Communication Workers' Union (CWU) would like to advise the national community that they should not be misled by the Figures that have been displayed by TSTT in the Company's Annual Financial Statements.

The Company has reported that they have recorded a loss of $316M for the Financial Year 2015-2016. If this massive figure is taken at face value, it would send the chilling signal that the Company is operating at a loss and as such is not a viable state entity. Well, we want to "Communicate the Truth" as we usually do.

Truth be told, the Company effectively recorded an After Tax Profit of over $500 Million Dollars. When we carefully examined the figures, we realised that the Company made an allocation of $575M for writing off obsolete technology equipment that they have in operation.

To quote the Chairman of the Board of Directors in his message accompanying the Statements: "During the next two years, our capital investments will be predominantly focused on both our wired and wireless broadband technology, and represents a significant allocation of the approved $3.7 Billion spend. Given this strategy, we undertook a comprehensive re-evaluation of our existing technology. This interrogation resulted in an Impairment charge of $375M and an accelerated depreciation charge of $200M. "

As you all can see, and I quote the Chairman once again: "Notwithstanding that the Company's other normal operations were profitable during the financial year, this re-evaluation cost of $575M negatively impacted our financial performance whereby TSTT recorded an after-tax loss of $316M." The CWU is concerned about the misleading signals that the statements can portray in the public domain, particularly in the face of the Government's pathetic weeping about their lack of Finances.

We are well aware that TSTT is one of the State Enterprises that has been the subject of interrogation by the Government appointed Committee to review the performance of State Enterprises. We are also aware that there is still the pending sale of the 49% Shareholding that Cable and Wireless has in TSTT, which the NEL has taken on the responsibility for, and we are well aware that the Prime Minister has publicly expressed his concerns about TSTT"s profitability.

The CWU believes that these statements can have the deliberate effect of coercing the Government to place TSTT on the chopping block to satisfy their public wailing for funds to run the country. In addition, this can facilitate those Private Mercenaries, either local and foreign, who have lined up to get their hands and pockets entrenched in TSTT whereby they would milk the Company and the Country of our patrimony.

TSTT is the only indigenous Full Service Telecommunications Service Provider in the Region, it is a profitable and viable State Entity, and in the face of the current abuse by the other providers, FLOW’s most recent announcement of a rate increase is a perfect example, TSTT must be allowed to flourish and demonstrate true Patriotism in the lucrative Telecommunications/ICT Sector.

The CWU vows to speak out on such issues of national importance to ensure that citizens have a major stake in the Telecommunications/ICT Sector. This Sector has provided in the past and will continue to provide in future an avenue for the facilitation of the long overdue and absolutely necessary diversification of our Economy.

We vow to ensure that the working-class and less possessed in society are not trampled upon in this crazy free-market and capitalist driven economic system that continues to make fewer people richer and billions poorer.

For that we will always Dare to Struggle!

NWU: WORKERS MUST FIGHT BACK AGAINST EMPLOYERS ASSAULT!

posted 22 Jul 2016, 07:17 by Gerry Kangalee

The Minister of Labour Jennifer Baptiste-Primus has made it clear that that her role is that of consultant to the employers relating to their industrial relations obligations and not, as was generally believed, to be a conciliator and guide as to procedure in industrial relations matters.

The Minister, according to newspaper reports advised employers at a Rotary function to consider implementing “agreed wage freezes, pay cuts, decreased work hours, temporary lay-offs, reduced benefits, redeployment of employees into other lines of businesses and job-sharing.”

The Minister is giving employers free advice on how best to make workers pay for the capitalist crisis they had no part in creating. This Minister has done nothing to protect steel workers, citizens of this country, from the depredations of Arcelor Mittal. This demonstrates the impotence of government to protect its citizens from foreign corporations and their exploitation of workers; it seems when citizens are workers, they deserve no protection from the state from the exploitative practices of their employers, foreign and domestic.

So here we have a Minister of Labour encouraging wage reductions and inferior benefits as an alternative to retrenchment and mentions nothing of high profits being reduced and reductions in obscenely high management salaries and bonuses, nor of tax evasion, money laundering, capital flight and corrupt practices.

If this is the advice being given to employers, then the National Workers Union warns all workers in the public sector, including at state enterprises and statutory authorities, that they have to move quickly to defend themselves seeing that the government is the biggest employer in the country and would certainly pay close attention to the advice of its Minister.

Unionised workers in the private sector must ensure that their union leaderships are prepared to struggle with all the resources available to them to defend their hard-won rights and obligations. Already Massy Pres-T-Con has proposed a wage freeze to the Transport and Industrial Workers Union. Non-Unionised workers in the private sector must move quickly to organise themselves into unions to give themselves a fighting chance to survive the onslaught of the employers.

The National Workers Union calls upon trade union leaderships to mobilise workers to fight back against this growing assault. In order to show commitment to ensuring workers benefits and entitlements are not devastated, trade union leaderships should withdraw from all the pappy show advisory boards and committees that are designed as permanent talk shops and that constrict the debates and struggles to behind closed doors and not where they belong - on the workplaces and in the streets.


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

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

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