FITUN TAKES STRONG OFFENCE TO DR. ROGER HOSEIN'S
CALL FOR ACROSS THE BOARD WAGE FREEZE
In a statement issued by its President Joseph Remy on November 25th 2015, FITUN made the following statement.
The Federation of Independent Trade Unions and Non-Governmental Organizations, FITUN, would like to publicly condemn the broad scale attack on the livelihood of workers in Trinidad and Tobago by controversial Economist, Dr. Roger Hosein.
In another of his attacks on the working class, Dr. Hosein has advised the Government that they should take a cue from the National Gas Company and institute a Wage Freeze across the Public and Private Sector. This advice having being publicly done by a leading Economist at the UWI, can only prejudice any discussion that may take place between the Government, Business and Labour as the Country is now reeling from the mis-management of the Economy by successive Governments.
What is quite disingenuous about this call by Dr. Hosein is the fact that this Economist was not publicly condemning the previous Government when they were engaging in mass squander mania and the rape of the Treasury over the past five (5) years. There was no call for the then Government to stop wasting and corruptly siphoning away state resources into the pockets of their friends, supporters and cronies.
As usual, Dr. Hosein and some other professionals in academia, only make noise about adjustment when the economy is in serious challenges and when they want the much beleaguered working class and the less possessed in society to bear the full brunt of adjustment policies. This they want to happen to ensure that they maintain their life of opulence and class differentiation.
FITUN expresses its support for the CWU and the other members of the Joint Trade Union Movement in their condemnation of the unilateral approach to the implementation of wage and benefits restraint at the NGC. We condemn the call by Dr. Hosein for such a broad scale restraint since over the years we have been publicly calling for a policy on price control and Executive Wage control.
We are convinced based on our research that the Wage differential between Executive Pay and ordinary workers pay has mushroomed over the years and has reached obscene proportions. In addition, the purchasing power of the ordinary worker dollar has shrunk to poverty level proportions, as such, while the Executives live of the fat of the Land, poor workers are bearing the brunt of economic activity with a shrinking dollar.
We demand that Dr. Hosein apologize to all workers of the Country and refrain from making such aggravated and vexatious pronouncements as we all seek to steady a sinking Trinidad and Tobago Ship.
At this critical time when our country is facing serious economic and social challenges, albeit not brought on by the working class and the less possessed, good sense must prevail and there must not be any attempt to place all the burdens of adjustments on the shoulders of the already burdened working class and the less possessed in society. While we seek mature discourse on a way forward, we would not abandon our commitment to the fearless defence of the rights of workers and the upliftment of the standard of living for those less possessed in society. We commit to stand in their defence without fear or favour as we continue our quest for equity and social justice.
General of the Communication Workers' Union (CWU), Joseph Remy issued the following statement on 2015.11.23.
The Communication Workers’ Union is deeply concerned about the recent announcement by the National Gas Company (NGC) about the implementation of a Wage and Benefits Freeze at the parent company and its subsidiaries, National Energy (NE), Phoenix Park Gas Processors Ltd. (PPGPL) and NGC CNG for the years 2015 and 2016. This decision was revealed to workers by the parent company in a Memo sent to them on November 16, 2015.
In addition to the Wage Freeze, the Company has also stated that it will cut Bonuses to its staff. In the current market driven economic environment, this is in effect a Wage Cut since there has not been any concomitant policy position on Prices and as such, these workers would now have to pay higher prices for goods and services on the same salary, which would effectively reduce the purchasing power of their dollar.
This announcement ironically comes just after the Prime Minister met with the Joint Trade Union Movement and on the eve of a meeting between the Joint Trade Union Movement and the Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development. From all reports coming out of the meeting between the Prime Minister and the Joint Trade Union Movement, the issue of a Wage and Benefits Freeze was not discussed nor brought up by the PM.
The CWU questions the process for this decision since from all reports; the Government indicated that it would engage in Consultation with Key stakeholders before any major socio- economic impacting decisions are going to be made. We need to remind that NGC is a fully owned State Enterprise which saw a new Board being recently appointed by the Government upon its assumption to office. This action therefore sends the message that there is some untold policy position of the Government as it relates to the Wages and Benefits in the State Sector, such a policy, we posit, was not discussed with the Labour Movement.
The CWU is not oblivious of the current economic circumstances and environment, nor are we oblivious of the current situation in the Energy Sector. We however wish to state that when such major decisions are to be taken that impact fundamentally on the general welfare of workers, then the obvious approach should be one of consultation before implementation.
This approach by the NGC has found favour with the Prime Minister who has publicly stated that it is a responsible act. But how can this approach be responsible when there was neither indication nor consultation with the Labour Movement, who is supposed to be one of the major stakeholders in the much touted Tripartite Process that the Prime Minister has committed to engage in very soon. From where we sit as a Union, we are concerned about the signals that this action sends and the trend that it can initiate. As we saw with the previous Peop|es’ Partnership Administration, the attempt to introduce a 5% Wage Cap was trumped and follow suited by both the State and Private Sector. This was only reversed through unified mass action by the Trade Union Movement.
As such, based on past experiences, we anticipate that the State and Private Sector would also seek to emulate the NGC and attempt to use the current self-inflicted economic crisis as a means to roll back on hard won terms and conditions of employment and benefits that workers rightly deserve. The CWU is strongly opposed to such an unjust reversal and would continue to agitate for the interest of the working class and less possessed in society, who perennially have been saddled with the burdens of whatever austerity measures and adjustment policies that Governments wish to implement when there seems to be some economic challenges.
When the Economy was buoyant, the working class did not reap any tangible benefits, all went to a chosen few who resides within a certain class structure. Now that we are having some economic challenges, once again the working class and the less privileged are called upon to socialize the losses and share the burden of adjustments.
with the recent endorsement by our Annual National Convention to recommit to the Butlerite Tradition of Trade Unionism, we stand in defence of the working class and less privileged in our society and as such, we call on the Government to reconsider this approach and immediately engage the Labour Movement in genuine consultation on the current state of the Economy and the determination of a mutually acceptable way forward to arrest the current economic challenges that we are faced with to ensure equity and social and economic justice.
A word to the wise is sufficient
The new board of NGC, led by former Ansa McAl CEO Gerry Brooks, justifies its oppressive action by referring to the fall in energy prices and the need for “controlling the major areas of expenditure.”
The workers are being made to pay for the wanton looting of the most profitable state enterprise by the last government which drained the cash reserves of the company to bridge its budget deficit and to finance off the books projects of a blatantly partisan nature, designed to enrich a favoured few.
It is clear that the government intends to make the working people of this country, who had no part in bringing it about pay for the economic crisis. It is also clear that what has happened at NGC is the template for how the other state enterprises are going to be dealt with.
The attack on NGC workers is actually picking low hanging fruit, because the workers of NGC are not represented by a recognised majority union. In such a scenario, there is a master-servant relationship between management and workers and workers are at the mercy of management. If those workers were members of a recognised majority union, then NGC could not unilaterally impose a wage freeze on them. They would have had to meet and treat with the union.
This brings sharply into focus the need for workers in T&T to organise themselves into unions so that they can have a fighting chance in dealing with the attacks of the employers and the state as working people are being forced to bear the brunt of the crisis that they had no part in creating.
Even when workers attempt to organise themselves into unions, the recognition procedures, designed to delay and frustrate them, take years and make a mockery of workers constitutional right to freedom of assembly and to the need for expeditious resolution of recognition claims.
The National Workers Union advises working people to take heed of the situation at NGC and warns all workers, whether unionised or not, especially those in the public service, state enterprises and statutory authorities, that they are on the chopping block as the government inevitably moves to impose austerity on the working people.
Workers have to organise to defend their standard of living and union leaders must not allow themselves to be used by the government to disarm the workers and to have them co-operate in their own oppression by encouraging workers to “share” in the burden of adjustment, when it is quite clear that the entire burden is being placed on their shoulders.
The Honourable Dr. Keith Rowley.
13-15 St Clair Avenue
Port of Spain,
The National Health Workers’ Union (NHWU) is one of the three (3) trade unions that represent monthly paid health workers employed by the five (5) Regional Health Authorities (RHA’s). Only two of the three can obtain Recognised Majority Union status which would allow for wage and all other negotiations and the NHWU is the only one organizing across all categories of monthly-paid staff. We now have hundreds of RHA employees in our membership.
We feel constrained to correspond directly to you on a matter that gravely affects thousands of monthly paid health workers. The issue at hand involves an outstanding debt owed to these workers for the period 2011 to 2013. We have written to your Minister of Finance by letters dated 2015.10.18 and 2015.10.25 but to date we have not had even the courtesy of an acknowledgment.
We have noted with great interest your Government’s appointment of a committee to investigate all aspects of the delivery of health care to the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. While we have major reservations about your approach we wholeheartedly accept that urgent changes need to be implemented to reform the sector.
We believe that one of the more critical areas to be addressed is that of the human and industrial relations environment existing at all the RHA’s. The climate which exists in these areas is so debilitating that the investigation being undertaken by your Government may not yield the desired results given broken systems that masquerade for human and industrial relations.
The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that there is no trade union with recognized majority status representing monthly paid employees save the doctors employed at SWRHA. This situation seems to have given license to the managements of the RHAs to perpetrate the most atrocious HR/IR practices.
Employees’ rights and benefits are trampled upon with impunity; efforts by the union to hold meetings with them are ignored; letters are not responded to and the litany of woes goes on and on. We believe that immediate and urgent attention needs to be paid to this situation.
Mr. Larry Howai, former Minister of Finance, had given a public undertaking that retroactive payments owed to these employees arising from the pay period January 1st 2011 to December 2013 would be paid by the end of November 2015. The NHWU has tried without success to have your Minister of Finance confirm this commitment.
These workers have been very patient and their devotion to duty has not waned. We urge that your Government honour the commitment made by Mr. Howai as it was made in his official capacity and the continuance of Government, regardless of regime change, is well established.
The union is of the view that this gesture will go a long way toward building morale among these dedicated employees who work under the most trying physical, mental and emotional circumstances. A simple review of their pay package will explain their urgent desire to have this matter settled.
The National Health Workers Union (NHWU) is forced to, once again, correspond with you about a matter which is causing great anxiety to health workers throughout the public health system. On 2015.09.18, we wrote to you and among other things said: “The NHWU had demanded of the former Minister of Finance that health workers be paid their new rates by August month end and that their retroactive payments be made by September month end.
He complied with the first demand but has now demitted office. The NHWU now calls upon you to have the back pay effected to these long suffering workers at the end of September...however we are certain that you and the entire country are aware of the pivotal role health care workers play in the society. These monies represent payment due since 2011; these workers have been very patient.”
We are now close to the end of October. While we understand that the government has been caught up in the budget debate, we were quite disappointed that at no time during the debate was any indication given about when health care workers would receive their retroactive payments.
Health workers were disheartened at your statement in the 2016 budget speech: “the previous administration has encumbered the new Government with $5.0 billion in arrears of salaries based on the conclusion of collective agreements with a number of trade unions in the frenzied run-up to the 2015 Election.” Your statement suggests that you believe the last government should not have settled workers’ just demands for a decent wage increase, which in the case of the health workers they had not received since 2010.
We are calling upon you as Minister of Finance to initiate, as soon as possible, the procedure to have health workers receive their retroactive payments. We demand that you give the instruction so that the monies can be released and the anxiety of health workers can be made to dissipate.
Failure to do so will increase the frustrations of health workers and may well result in action similar to that taken by them when the last administration attempted to pussy foot with the payment of their wage increase.
The SWRHA Branch of the National Health Workers Union (NHWU) will be holding its monthly meeting as previously agreed on the 4th Monday of the month (i.e. Monday 26th October) at the Union's Office at #4 Hart Street, San Fernando starting at 4:30 pm. This meeting is exclusively for members of the SWRHA Branch.
We congratulate the NHWU members for heeding our call not to participate in the bogus election that was scheduled yesterday at the nurses’ lounge. Those who organised this charade showed contempt for and insulted the intelligence of SWRHA members by trying to railroad them into participating in an “election” which was not properly organised and structured.
Imagine an “election” not under the control of an election committee whose responsibility would be to ensure a free and fair exercise so that all members throughout SWRHA including those on shift, those in the health centres, Area Hospitals and extended care facilities could participate.
Yesterday’s fiasco did not involve the publication of a listing of members entitled to vote, posted in enough time so that members could scrutinise the list for omissions and corrections; a properly advertised nomination period and procedures for nomination; a widely-advertised explanation on how the elections would be carried out, where ballot boxes would be placed and how they would be handled; how the non-SFGH members would be accommodated; the recruitment of poll clerks etc.
To add grievous insult to injury, the bogus exercise was orchestrated by an NCRHA worker who has resigned from the Union, having the gall to tell NHWU members of SWRHA who must be their representatives. When, due to the good sense of SWRHA members the fiasco was laid bare, this individual hand-picked a committee, supposedly to guide the affairs of the SWRHA branch. It certainly boggles the mind!
This Master - Servant relationship must not be tolerated, whether from the management of SWRHA or from those who believe the union is a vehicle for personal aggrandisement and not to achieve the ultimate objective of attaining recognised majority union status and achieving a collective agreement.
On a positive note, the process of taking up your grievances continues and reports on these will be given at the branch meeting of Monday 26th September. Special attention is being paid to health and safety problems at both San Fernando and Point Fortin and members can rest assured that grievances that are not resolved at bilateral level will certainly be forwarded to the Ministry of Labour and, if necessary, the Industrial Court. There is not going to be any bligh extended to SWRHA’s management for their inefficiency and incompetence in dealing with workers’ issues.
A word of advice: One of the benchmarks of the NHWU as a progressive trade union is that its representatives on the shop-floor must not only be model employees with a track record of punctuality and discipline but must serve their co-workers honestly, without fear or favour as we strive towards achieving a Collective Agreement.
The ringleaders will all be very familiar to health workers having demonstrated their disruptive behaviour over and over. This clique is claiming to be the leaders of our union although the two main players have resigned from our union.
Nigel Small submitted his resignation with “immediate effect” on 28th February 2015 (see attachment below). Andy Acosta “tendered” his resignation with “immediate effect” (confusing isn’t it?) at SWRHA branch meeting on 22nd August 2015 (see attachment below).
In Acosta’s case our General Secretary, Dave Smith responded ensuring that his resignation was indeed final to which there was no reply within the allotted time frame (see attachment below).
The group has been peddling lies that the National Workers’ Union to which we are affiliated is attempting to take over our union. What utter rubbish!!! It is the NWU which utilized its own resources to fund our union particularly in the early months.
Even now the NWU has spent more money on the NHWU than it has received as fees (dues). Audited financial figures are due within three months after the end of the financial year in December.
None of those who now wish to claim our union ever put one cent other than dues which we all pay. Financial reports on ALL revenue were presented to our branch meeting on 29th August 2015. All of those who now claim financial impropriety were present. Every single question was answered and the report accepted.
At an emergency meeting held on Monday 21st September a sub-committee was appointed to structure how a nomination and election exercise to elect shop-stewards and branch officers should be held with tentative dates suggested.
Although this three member committee (Carlanne Rhea St. John, Avion Bruce and Kern Webb) has not yet met the clique has decided to hold a bogus election on Wednesday.
This election committee is expected to propose a whole range of procedures that can ensure a free and fair exercise so that all members throughout SWRHA including those in the health centres, Area Hospitals and extended care facilities can participate.
For a proper election to be held there must be, among other things:
A listing of members entitled to vote;
Properly advertised nomination period and its attendant forms, time and place;
Election Day: how, where and when ballot boxes will be placed; bearing in mind that SWRHA members are not confined to SFGH and that many members work shift.
The counting of votes and selection of a cadre of people to oversee this democratic exercise: presiding officer; poll clerks for mobile boxes etc.
Indeed, an independent election committee must be in place wherein none of its members can simultaneously be candidates to become branch officials
This is in keeping with the commitment given by the NWU that health workers will be responsible for building a union in our own image and likeness. The objective is to ensure that there is full transparency in the process as demonstrated in the NHWU election of shop stewards for the Medical Orderlies, which was held on Friday 6th February 2015.
That process provided for proper advertisement including mass texting to those eligible to vote, a nomination exercise was conducted before the voting so that voters would be able to analyse all the candidates.
Voting was done by secret ballot and ballot boxes were provided in positions and at times as determined by the Orderlies. Election personnel were supplied by the NWU so that there would be no conflict of interest. Voters’ lists were also provided.
Compare this process to what is carded to take place on Wednesday!
We, as health workers, have all expressed our disgust over the years at the level and type of representation we got. This is the first time in our history where we have had the type of meetings and interaction with officers who KNOW what they are about.
Today most of us now know why the PSA could never represent health workers; we have also been educated on the benefits of having a collective agreement so that we will no longer have the agony we suffer hoping to get a salary increase. We also have available to us proper research material and training opportunities from experienced and competent trade unionists.
We have already won one victory at the Ministry of Labour for a member who works at the Mortuary. We have other disputes lodged at the Ministry. This is the progress which the clique is trying to stop.
Isn’t it a bit co-incidental, that at the very time when the NHWU has started to expand its membership and make an impact among health workers, we have elements introducing bacchanal and mauvais langue and trying to obstruct health workers from marching forward.
They want to be big fish in small pond, while we want Recognised Majority Union status and a Collective Agreement
Comrades your union’s office is at #4 Hart Street, San Fernando. Branch meetings are held on the fourth Monday of the month. Your union is strong and commands the respect of management, trade unions and officials at the Ministry of Labour. This we have achieved based upon our affiliation agreement with the NWU.
Let us not be sidetracked by those who see the union as a vehicle for advancing personal agendas and individual interests!
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) issued the following media statement dated September 29th.
The Communication Worker's Union, CWU, would like to publicly chastise the West Indies Cricket Board, WICB, for deliberately creating the current chaotic and insular state of Cricket in the Region. It is quite disgusting and vexatious to witness this current debacle with respect to the Suspension of the Coach of the Senior West Indies Cricket Team, Phil Simmons for what is alleged to be his open and frank articulation on the flawed and discriminatory process used for selecting the Best Cricket Team to represent the region. What is even more disturbing is the appointment of Selector, Eldine Baptiste to replace Mr. Simmons immediately after he was served with his suspension notice.
The CWU has taken note of the facts as outlined by Phil Simmons which reveals that the initiative was taken by himself and the Chief Selector, Clive Lloyd to engage in rapprochement efforts with discarded Cricketers, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard, with the aim of having them back into the fold of the West Indies Team. It was also revealed that this initiative also found favour with the current Captain, Jason Holder and as such, there was an optimistic expectation that these world class players would have been included in the Team for the upcoming Tour to Sri Lanka due to the strong and realistic support by the Coach, the Chief Selector and the Captain. What transpired subsequently indicates that the other three (3) selectors, Messer's Courtney Walsh, Courtney Brown and Eldine Baptiste, voted against the inclusion of these players based on the fact that although the Captain is involved in the selection process, he does not have voting powers. Phil Simmons, quite bravely spoke out against what he views as external interference in the selection process and that led to his suspension.
The CWU views this suspension as draconian and reeks of parochialism and insularity. It is quite clear that Messer's Bravo and Pollard are being victimised for standing up for their rights as employees of the Board during the ill fated tour of India. It is apparent that the President of the Board has taken offence to the fact that these players had the testicular fortitude to challenge the Board for attempting to enforce inferior terms and conditions of employment on the players, terms and conditions that are way below the accepted international benchmark for such players. This has now resulted in those players apparently being placed on Mr. Cameron's Black list and he has now used his influence on the other selectors to discriminate against Messer's Bravo and Simmons.
What has made this development even more frightening is the immediate appointment of Eldine Baptiste to serve as Coach of the Team for the Sri Lanka Tour. This is the same Eldine Baptiste who voted against Phil Simmons, the Chief Selector and the Captain; this is the same Eldine Baptiste who recently applied for the Job of Coach of the West Indies Senior Team for which Phil Simmons was successful. Everything surrounding this issue smells foul and needs public condemnation.
The CWU has always championed the cause of West Indies Cricket and has supported the unifying effect that it has on the Caribbean Region. Together with the Co-operative Credit Union Movement, Cricket is the other Institution that has been the glue that has kept Caribbean People together. Over the years, despite the failure of CARICOM and other Regional Institutions, the Co-operative Credit Union Movement and West Indies Cricket have been the flag bearers for Regional Unity, in the face of petty insularity and big and small Island Politics which have plagued the deepening of true Regional Unity.
The CWU is demanding the immediate reinstatement of Phil Simmons to his rightful position of Coach of the Senior West Indies Cricket Team, and calls on Regional Leaders to immediately convene a forum with the WICB to rescue West Indies Cricket from the demise and the abyss that Messer's Cameron and his band of disingenuous administrators are taking this noble Caribbean Tradition. We are also calling on our newly elected Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, the Honourable Dr. Keith Rowley, to make an intervention into this matter since three (3) of the key players in this current debacle are Trinidad and Tobago Nationals.
We all need to stand together in defence of West Indies Cricket.
Honourable Terrence Deyalsingh
Minister of Health
Ministry of Health
63 Park Street
Port of Spain
On behalf of the membership of the National Health Workers Union (NHWU) and, by extension, on behalf of health workers throughout the country, we extend congratulations to you on your recent appointment as Minister of Health.
Health workers throughout the Regional Health Authorities look forward with great interest and concern to your government’s policy and operational approach to the public health system which has been aptly described by those who operate within it as dysfunctional.
On 2015/05/05, the NHWU wrote to the former Prime Minister, informing her about the horrendous situation existing within the public health system and recommending mechanisms which may be applied to begin to ameliorate the situation in the short term. Needless to say there was no consequent action on our letter.
In the estimation of the NHWU the dual track system of senior medical personnel operating in both the public and private health care systems must be abolished. The External Patients Programme (EPP) benefits a clique of medical doctors in the public health system that actually operates a private hospital sector funded by the state.
This situation has become so scandalously corrupt that medical capitalists have transformed public health institutions into gathering stations for those in need of medical procedures. Public health institutions are now holding bays and clearing houses for the routing of patients into the private health system and the state pays - another disgusting incident of the looting of public funds by politically connected persons.
In your party’s manifesto you promised to institute the much-touted national health insurance system by 2018. Your manifesto describes it thus: “an appropriate health insurance system, financed by the Government in partnership with the private sector, all members of the public will be able to access high quality health care at any health facility, whether public or private, regardless of their personal financial circumstances” This sounds uncomfortably like the justification put forward by the former, unlamented Minister of Health for the corrupt external patients programme. Rest assured, Mr. Minister, that health workers will keep a keen eye on your government’s approach to this National Health Insurance system.
Other corrupt practices are associated with the External Patients Programme. Sixteen private dialysis centres are being supplied with patients and being paid for by the State. It would be interesting to uncover what were the criteria used in selecting these centres and how much it actually costs the citizens of our country. Worse still: two dialysis centres are scheduled to be built at Mount Hope and San Fernando in collaboration with Comprehensive Nephrology Services Ltd and Biomedical Medical Technology Ltd. Five days before the General Election, the sod was turned for the one at Mount Hope.
The two companies over time have registered the same addresses and have a common director in David Jaikissoon. The terms of the public-private partnership have not been revealed; neither have the track records of the two firms, which seem to exist only on paper. The NHWU strongly recommends that the relationship between the two companies and the former Minister of Health be carefully scrutinised as should the relationship between the companies and Fresenius Medical Care Deutschland GmbH.
The public Health system suffers from tremendous shortages of staff in most areas, particularly medical areas. Mechanisms must be put in place to fill the thousands of vacancies in the public health care system. According to official statistics, in the North Central Regional Health Authority there are, at least, six hundred and fifty vacancies to be filled, and in the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) there are three thousand four hundred and thirteen (3413) vacancies, nine hundred and ninety-two (992) of them being nursing vacancies.
According to the World Health Organisation, the nurse to patient ratio should be one nurse to six patients. At San Fernando General Hospital the nurse to patient ratio is most times closer to one nurse to twenty two patients and this has been made worse since the advent of the Teaching Hospital. This is unsafe and puts both nurse and patient at risk.
In a statement issued on 2014-12-31 by nursing personnel at the San Fernando General Hospital and the Teaching Hospital it is stated that the staff shortages “result in long hours, excessive overtime, tired workers, denial of legitimate leave etc. and this must negatively impact the quality of health care to the population.” The statement goes on to say: “Overwork, frustration and a total lack of respect by those in authority for our efforts coupled with a lack of appreciation for all of us who work overtime and extra duty for minimal compensation in order to keep the hospital running is what we tolerate every day.”
Dr. Victor Wheeler, in moving a motion at the fifteenth sitting of the fifth session of the tenth parliament on Tuesday January 20th 2015, calling for a comprehensive review of the regional health authority system, stated: "There is also a shortage of midwives; shortage of foetal monitors;”...The system clearly is not efficient. But in spite of all of these problems, I should state that there are many committed personnel in the health sector. There are many committed doctors, nurses and midwives who will still perform above and beyond the call of duty, and they are given little recognition for this…”
The shortage of medical personnel is bad enough, but there are also shortages of laboratory techs, phlebotomists, radiographers, pharmacists, dietetic and nutrition personnel, health, safety and environment personnel, medical social workers and many other specialisations.
Hospitals are being built, when according to Dr. Wheeler; “we have a shortage of specialists, shortage of nurses, shortage of midwives, shortage of lab managers, shortage of staff.” The Couva Children’s Hospital is a case in point. The former Minister of Health claimed it needs 2, 500 workers. Where are these workers going to come from? Are the other medical facilities to be cannibalised to staff it when they are already woefully short of staff?
There is no medical logic that can be discerned in constructing these mega facilities without first guaranteeing their staffing needs. Of course, it is logical to commission mega projects where hundreds of millions of public funds are being spent if the objective is not to provide services but to generate wealth and capital accumulation for politically connected persons through the siphoning of public funds into private purses.
Of course, there is a major problem in the RHAs with procurement systems, serious deficits in terms of equipment, staff, medication, utensils and everyday products, maintenance of tools and equipment, theft of valuable tools and equipment.
There is another insidious form of corruption that is sapping the morale of thousands of workers in the RHAs and has a direct bearing on the backward master and servant syndrome that pervades industrial relations in the RHAs. It relates to the ridiculous job appointment system in the RHAs which has as its base what are called cabinet approved positions and board approved positions.
In a nutshell, cabinet approved positions are so-called permanent appointments and board approved positions are short term contract provisions, These short term contracts may be (in the case of Aides to Nurses) month to month contracts; for other categories there are six month contracts, one year contracts and two year contracts.
The system is so chaotic that some categories of permanent staff that are offered promotions are told that they have to resign their positions and go on short term contracts to accept the promotion. This horrendous contract system affects both workers with professional qualifications and those without. Short term contract workers obviously suffer anxiety over their job security, are at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing mortgage and other loans and credit facilities. They cannot properly plan the future of their families or make significant investments.
The horrendous contract system must be done away with in the RHAs. How can workers who are not comfortable when it comes to their quality of life be expected to provide quality health care for the members of the public? This horrendous short term contract system must be abolished as a matter of priority.
Dr. Wheeler also stated: “Because many of the workers in the Regional Health Authority system were on contract, the environment for victimization flourished… and also said: “the manner in which permanent appointment was given to health care personnel did not demonstrate any logic or basis by which some people were given permanent employment, and others were not.”
This assessment of Dr. Wheeler dovetails with a statement issued by the National Workers Union on June 6th 2014 which stated: “Management of the RHA’s is based on political allegiance and not on providing a first class health service to the citizens. The industrial relations are abysmal and lead to low morale and frustration on the part of employees who are not connected to the party in power...”
In such an environment nepotism reigns unchecked; unqualified personnel are put in positions of responsibility which they cannot handle, promotions are denied to deserving workers because they are not management’s favourites, victimisation flourishes and the provision of health care deteriorates with each passing day.
Reports have been made to the NHWU that during the last nine days before elections mass interviews were being conducted and employment contracts
were being prepared at lightning speed at the South West Regional Health Authority. The Human Resources Department was virtually shut down during the period (see memo attached).
The reports also suggest that there may have been the destruction of application records and interview results. The NHWU requests that an investigation be done to ascertain the veracity of these reports. There have been long-standing accusations by workers that SWRHA engages in nepotism in their hiring practices. SWRHA’s Chief Operations Officer, Mr. Randolph Badall may be able to throw some light on the reports.
In conclusion, the NHWU reiterates its position that if the public health system is to survive and working people and the poor are to enjoy a decent, civilised standard of living and health care is not to become the preserve of the rich:
The dual track system of senior medical personnel operating in both the public and private health care systems must be abolished.
The horrendous contract system must be done away with, so that our workers may enjoy job security, without which they cannot properly plan the future of their families.
Mechanisms must be put in place to fill the thousands of vacancies in the public health care system.
Nepotism in hiring practices must be stamped out.
If these simple measures are put in place, we would have made a good start in reforming the public health care system, a reformation that is sorely needed.
In the service of the working class
The Communication Workers' Union (CWU) would like to give clarification to its absence from the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the JTUM, the PNM and the ILP.
The CWU wishes to remind the nation that on Friday 23rd September 2009, late in the evening, on the eve of the celebration of Republic Day, the CWU was issued with a notice that an application was made to the Industrial Court to have the Union DECERTIFIED as the Recognized Majority Union for both the Senior and Junior Staff Bargaining Units at the Telecommunication Services of Trinidad and Tobago, TSTT.
This action was publicly supported by the Minister of Labour in the then PNM Administration, Mr. Rennie Dumas. This application was made on the heels of TSTT taking action against seventy-five (75) Employees of the Company who, in the face of obscene disrespect by a disrespectful Foreign Chief Executive Officer at that time, Mexican, Roberto Peon, took legitimate action in furtherance of a Dispute over the Company's blatant refusal to settle their long outstanding Wage Negotiations.
Up to this time, the Union still has an outstanding Dispute at the Industrial Court with respect to sixty-eight (68) of those Workers who were ILLEGALLY SUSPENDED and whose illegal suspension was not lifted by the then Government nor the TSTT Management. This DECERTIFICATION effort was staved off by the collective efforts of the Joint Trade Union Movement in a massive Protest Action that eventually saw the Company and the then PNM Government relent under the strength of a United Labour Movement. Up to this day, the CWU has not received an apology or have even been shown any kind of remorse by the PNM who formed the Government of the day for what can only be described as the most heinous attack against a Trade Union.
While we have successfully and progressively soldiered on, we are ever mindful of the events of September 2009. Subsequent to that, the CWU made overtures to the Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley in an effort to garner support for our battle at TSTT against a corrupt Board, Management and Foreign Partner, Cable and Wireless, all in an effort to ensure the survival of our prized national asset TSTT.
To date our efforts were never even acknowledged. As a progressive and Independent Working Class Institution, we are wary of those who befriend the Labour Movement in order to hold the reins of power. We are reminded of the events of 2010 wherein progressive elements of the Labour Movement extended support for the Movement for Social Justice (M.S.J) as a signatory to the Fyzabad Accord which gave birth to the People's Partnership. This in effect demonstrated to many of our citizens, a show of support for the People's Partnership by the Labour Movement. What transpired since is well known to all.
We have seen the blatant betrayal of the Labour Movement by "This Most Corrupt People's Partnership Government, led by Kamla Persad Bissessar". We have even seen an attempt to fundamentally alter the Employer/Employee Relationship and by extension the Industrial Relations Environment through the ill-timed and ill conceived nefarious Industrial Relations Amendment Bill 2015, ironically piloted by a former Labour Stalwart, Errol McLeod, in his capacity as Labour Minister. All these were direct attacks against the Trade Union Movement.
With respect to the ILP, any association with that Party raises the question of Integrity and Credibility based on numerous local, regional and international allegations of Corruption surrounding the leadership of this party, headed by the colorful Austin Jack Warner.
As a Working Class Movement we have long been singing the refrain "I would want to be in that number when those who labour hold the reins of Power". In that regard the CWU is of the view that affiliation and association with these Traditional Political Parties will not promote that objective.
What we have seen presented in the MOU and respective Manifestos of those Parties do not give any comfort to the CWU and the Trade Union Movement. What we have seen reflected in the MOU and those Manifestos are surface measures that do not go deep to the root of the perennial problems that confront the Working Class in our Country, particularly in these challenging and frightening economic times.
There are no definitive and convincing policy proposals that suggest that the relationship with Labour and the policies that impact on the lives of the Working Class and ordinary citizens would be any different to what has been existing over the years. As a matter of fact, it seems that it would be worse off given what has been articulated in those Manifestos.
We have even seen the resurfacing of the dreaded Revenue Authority, which when introduced by the then PNM Government, resulted in the arrest of Comrade David Abdulah in a manner that sent frightening signals of Fascism to Trade Union Leaders. As such, as a Progressive Working Class Institution, we wish to state that it is imperative for us all to understand that the historical mission of the Working Class, which was started by the Butlerites, is yet to be completed.
So as one of the Trade Unions which is rich in the history of the Butlerite Movement, the CWU must be part of that mission as we seek control of our own political and economic destiny in Trinidad and Tobago. In the circumstances the CWU wishes to maintain its independence as an organization and as such, we feel emboldened in our position to absent ourselves from these recent developments. We however remain a part of the Joint Trade Union Movement at this time as we maintain our commitment for GENUINE LABOUR UNITY in Trinidad and Tobago; but we wish to state that we will at no time COMPROMISE OUR INDEPENDENCE AS A PROGRESSIVE WORKING CLASS INSTITUTION. We however remain committed to the struggle for those who labour to hold the reins of power. For that, We Dare to Struggle!