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Media Releases

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

CWU CONDEMNS STATE ENTERPRISE GREED

posted 3 Mar 2015, 05:18 by Gerry Kangalee

On February 28, 2015, the Communication Workers union issued the following statement:

The Communication Workers' Union would like to publicly express its outrage at the disclosure made in Parliament recently by the Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Rudrinath Indarsingh, relative to the Compensation Packages received by Chief· Executive Officers/Presidents/Managing Directors of certain State Enterprises.What has us even more outraged, is the disclosure of the Compensation Package for the Chief Executive Officer of TSTT, which ranges from $210,000.00 to $300,000.00 per month for a local person, and, $287,000.00 to $400,000.00 per month for a foreigner, for the period 2009-2010. 

This can only be described as scandalous and borders on serious White Collar Criminal Activity'. How can anyone justify this exorbitant Package for the CEO of TSTT and in the same breath continually deny the hardworking, frustrated and demotivated Bargaining Unit Workers their just due. Imagine that the CEO is paid this obscene Package for the 2009-2010 period and the Company comes to the Industrial Court and is preaching economic and financial inability to afford a decent wage increase for its Bargaining Unit Staff for the period 2008-2010.

We wish to remind the nation that TSTT Bargaining Unit Workers are still operating on 2007 Salaries in 2015. Where is the internal equity in this scenario?

The CWU calls on the Board of Directors to immediately take steps to rectify this grave injustice meted out to the Bargaining Unit Employees of TSTT and conduct a comprehensive review of Executive Compensation Levels of TSTT Executives. We demand that the Board also immediately direct the Executive of the Company to initiate discussions aimed at resolving all outstanding Wage Negotiations for TSTT Bargaining Unit Employees to ensure that we at least gain some semblance of internal Equity relative to Compensation Levels within the Company.

With regards to the Compensation Packages for Executives of the other State Entities, once again this revelation is a demonstration of the Greed and Abuse. perpetuated by those persons charged with the responsibility to protect and advance the interest of the citizens of our Country. It is no wonder that the Country is bordering on a journey of unbridled lawlessness and immorality. This is definitely fuelled by the unfettered quest for opulence by a chosen few through the exploitation of the masses.

The CWU condemns this wanton abuse of State Resources and we call for an immediate Investigation to determine who is responsible for committing this alleged "White Collar Crime" on the unsuspecting citizens of our Country and bring to justice, those persons so accountable.

We commit to pursue this matter for and on behalf of
all Bargaining Unit Workers of TSTT and the ordinary citizens of Trinidad and Tobago until there is justice and equity for all.

NWU: SHOE DOES KNOW WHEN SOCKS HAVE HOLE

posted 26 Feb 2015, 23:50 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 26 Feb 2015, 23:55 ]

The following statement was issued by the National Workers Union (NWU) on February 27th 2015

Many people were puzzled by Labour Minister Errol McLeod’s claim at the swearing in of the new Registration Recognition and Certification Board (RRCB) that he was bullied into getting the

board going. The National Workers Union was not. There is an old creole saying that “Shoe does know when socks have hole” and McLeod’s socks have had holes for years. 

There has been no RRCB in place for more than a year. By any stretch of the imagination this is astonishing! According to the Industrial Relations Act, a repressive law that the PNM enacted during a state of emergency in 1972, any group of workers who exercise their right to freedom of association and organise themselves into a union of their choice cannot engage in collective bargaining unless they are so certified by the RRCB. 

Yet this former President General of the most important union in the Caribbean; this former leader of the MSJ who went into government proclaiming that he was about getting the Workers Agenda implemented, failed to appoint the Board for over a year, thus denying hundreds of workers their right to collective bargaining which is the bedrock of trade unionism. 

On January 11th 2011 at the function appointing the Board which went out of office in 2014 our bullied Minister said: “I wish to underscore the critical role which the RRCB must play in promoting the integrity and credibility of our industrial relations system and in the protection of our workforce by shaping the collective bargaining structure through its determination of the appropriate and majority trade union to best represent workers.” He was always a lyrics man, knows all the right things to say, but the taste of the pudding is in the eating. 

Our former trade unionist understands the “critical role” of the RRCB and then goes on to derail and sabotage that “critical role” by refusing to appoint the Board for over a year. Minister McLeod, on the same occasion, went on to say: “ It has been resoundingly reiterated that the determinations of the Board take too long and as such there is a backlog of applications, some dating far back as a decade ago. Something is wrong about that! Justice is denied to the worker when the recognition and certification process is delayed – for whatever reason!"

It boggles the mind that the former leader of the MSJ rants and rails against the length of time it takes the Board to determine recognition applications; talks about justice being denied to workers and then adds to the already interminable process by refusing to appoint the Board for more than a year, thus adding to the very backlog he claimed to be concerned about in 2011.

He goes on to quote Section 32(1) of the IRA which states that “The Board shall expeditiously determine all applications for certification brought before it” and goes on to say “the expediency of the work of the Board facilitates workers’ right to freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining by joining a trade union of their choice. This is in keeping with both our Constitutional and our international labour obligations as we are signatory to the International Labour Organization Convention No. 87 – Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize (1948) and No. 98 –Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining (1949).”

McLeod clearly understands that the lack of expedition in the work of the Board does severe damage to the workers’ “right to freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining by joining a trade union of their choice.” He even shows off his erudition by citing ILO Conventions.

But alas the devil may quote scripture. Words are cheap; by their deeds you shall know them! The Minister of Labour is quite aware that his government, through its refusal to appoint the Recognition Board for over a year is in flagrant violation of the very International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions that he cites, but this should not be surprising.

His government promised to support ILO Convention 189 in 2011, which calls for legal discrimination against domestic workers to be removed. This could have been done with a simple amendment to the Industrial Relations Act.

Four years later there is no ratification of Convention 189, there is not even a token attempt to implement the Workers Agenda and the government has not only not supported the aspirations of the labour movement (which is not surprising), but has actively put obstacles in the way of the labour movement moving forward; their delay in appointing the Recognition Board being one of the more flagrant attacks on the labour movement.

McLeod’s role as Labour Minister is quite in line with his role as a labour leader: in the words of the immortal Shakespeare, he has been “a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage…” His record is like “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.

The National Workers Union views McLeod’s claim of being bullied into doing his duty as just verbal distraction in a futile attempt to shift the focus from his contemptible retreat from positions that he espoused but never actually advanced or defended. But then it is much easier to join the feeding frenzy at the hog trough.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

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

FITUN: APPOINT RECOGNITION BOARD NOW!

posted 23 Feb 2015, 18:05 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 23 Feb 2015, 18:06 ]

On February 20th 2015, Joseph Remy, President of the Federation of Trade Unions and NGOs wrote the following letter to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar:
I write to you in your capacity as the Leader of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, in particular in your role as Head of the Cabinet of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. It is my understanding that in those capacities, you have ultimate responsibility for the conduct of the Government and the Cabinet of the Country and as such, takes charge of major decisions that impact on the lives of the citizens of the Country.

Honourable Prime Minister, in the circumstances, I wish to bring to your attention a matter that has been causing serious unease and disbelief within the Trade Union Movement. It relates to the protracted and inordinate delay by the Line Minister in appointing persons to serve as members on the Registration, Recognition and Certification Board of Trinidad and Tobago.

Under the provision of Part II, Section 21 of the Industrial Relations Act Chapter 88:01 Act 23 of 1972, (the IRA), a Board to be known as the Registration Recognition and Certification Board is hereby established. Section 21 (3) of the IRA specifically states that:

Subject to this Part, the Minister shall appoint the Chairman and other members of the Board as follows:

(a) In the case of the Chairman, a fit and proper person selected by the President of Trinidad and Tobago after consultation with such organisations or other bodies of persons as in his opinion are the most representative of workers, employers; and

(b) In the case of the other members of the Board —

i Three members, being persons nominated by such organisations or other bodies of persons as in the opinion of the Minister are the most representative of workers;

ii Three members, being persons nominated by such organisations or other bodies of persons as in the opinion of the Minister are the most representative of employers; and

iii. Two members, being persons jointly nominated by the organisations or other bodies of persons referred to in subparagraphs (i) and (ii)

Honourable Prime Minister, since January I0, 2014, the country has not been able to benefit from the services of a Registration, Recognition and Certification Board. This situation was brought to the attention of the Minister charged with the responsibility to so appoint such a Board, to no avail. The Trade Union Movement even engaged in Protest Demonstrations outside the precincts of the Industrial Court and outside the offices of the Line Minister to highlight their dissatisfaction about the absence of a Board.

This was followed by several Letters and Press Statements crying out for the appointment of members to serve on this critically important Board. All the pleas of the Labour Movement have so far fallen on deaf and uncaring ears.

For the avoidance of doubt about the importance of this Board Madam Prime Minister Section 23 (I) of the Industrial Relations Act outlines the responsibility of the Board as follows:

(a) The determination of all applications, petitions and matters concerning certification of recognition under Part III, including the taking of preferential ballots under section 34(2);

(b) The certification of recognised majority unions;

(c) The recording of certification of recognised majority unions in a book to be kept by it for the purpose;

(d) The making of agency shop orders under Part IV and the conduct of ballots and proceedings in connection therewith;

(e) The cancellation of certification of recognition of trade unions; and

(f) Such other matters as referred or assigned to it by the Minister or under this or any written law.

In addition to these responsibilities as stated above, under Part III, Section 32 (1) of the IRA, the Board is charged with the responsibility to expeditiously determine all applications for certification brought before it. Under Section 33 of the IRA, the Board is charged with the responsibility of determining the appropriateness of a Bargaining Unit based on an application submitted by a Trade Union; and under Section 34 of the IRA, the Board is charged with the responsibility to determine whether a worker is considered to be "a member in good standing".

Madam Prime Minister, these responsibilities are critical to the conduct of the work of a Trade Union. In the absence of a Board, critical matters relative to the above stated responsibilities have gone unattended to the detriment of workers., in particular workers who does not fall under the ambit of a Bargaining Unit. This is a fundamental pillar around which Trade Unions are supposed to organise the unorganized workers and to make representation for and on behalf of those marginalized and disenfranchised workers who are left to the mercy of some unscrupulous employers.

Honourable Prime Minister, FITUN recalls the pointed statement contained within the Manifesto of the People’s Partnership in 2010: "W0rkers at the Centre; Working to Build a Productive Nation’. The Manifesto went on to state that the Partnership will partner with Labour Unions to work beyond the frontiers of traditional collective bargaining, and, one matter that will be urgently addressed is the enforcement and protection of the right of workers to join a Trade Union of their choice.

It is apparent that your Government has departed profoundly away from those stated objectives and ideals. What has FITUN most disturbed however, is the fact that the Minister charged with the responsibility as outlined in the IRA is someone who was a fierce defender and advocate of the right of workers to join a Trade Union of their choice and be given the benefit of proper Trade Union Representation. We speak specifically about the current Minister of Labour, Small and Micro Enterprise Development, Mr. Errol McLeod.

Honourable Prime Minister, in addition to the Minister of Labour, there are other former and current Labour Leaders within the fold of your Government in the persons of Minister in the Ministry of Finance and the Economy, Mr. Rudrinath Indarsingh and the Vice-President of the Senate, Mr. James Lambert. The presence of these persons and the abject silence from them regarding such a fundamental issue for the Trade Union Movement is a major contradiction, but it is not surprising, since leopards can and do change their spots according to the situation that they are faced with and the prey that they are required to pounce upon.

In this case, the unsuspecting thousands of un-organised workers who are crying out for legitimacy in their representation are the victims and prey for the changing spots of those leopards.

Honourable Prime Minister, FITUN now call on you as the person with the ultimate responsibility for the Governance of the country, to take the necessary steps to ensure that members are immediately appointed to the Registration, Recognition and Certification Board, so that workers in Trinidad and Tobago can be given their constitutional right of freedom of association and be afforded the opportunity to be saved from the ravages of those uncaring employers who continues to exploit every ounce of productive capacity from their bodies and souls.

FITUN anticipates your urgent intervention to have the legislated persons appointed to the Registration, Recognition and Certification Board so that Trade Unions and the workers they represent could be given the opportunity to have their matters ventilated and addressed by the Registration, Recognition and Certification Board in accordance with the provisions of the Industrial Relations Act 1972 as amended, all in the interest of good governance.

 

 

SWRHA WORKERS ALERT

posted 23 Feb 2015, 09:48 by Gerry Kangalee

The National Health Workers Union (NHWU) wants to make it as clear as possible that it was not involved in any meeting with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the South West Regional HealthAuthority (SWRHA), Mr. Anil Gosine, and any other parties on Friday 20th February 2015.

The NHWU is meeting with Mr. Gosine and his Human Resources Management team on Wednesday 25th February at 10:00 am. In addition to the shift issues, discussions will centre on a dispute procedure proposal to be advanced by the NHWU and other pertinent issues that have been affecting workers at SWRHA which the Human Resources Department has so far been ducking having to meet and treat with the NHWU so as to resolve those issues. 

The NHWU advises workers of SWRHA to beware of the validity of any so-called agreements that bear neither signatures nor date. For an “agreement” to be valid it must be signed off by parties to the agreement and it must be dated. Any document that purports to be an agreement and is not signed by parties concerned and not dated has no standing and cannot be held to be an “agreement”.

 For further information contact Sylvan Wilson 758 8933.

FITUN ANGRY OVER TREATMENT OF NIB LABOUR REPS

posted 20 Feb 2015, 06:13 by Gerry Kangalee

On February 13th 2015, Joseph Remy , President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs (FITUN) wrote to Minister of Finance, Larry Howai.

 Mr. Howai, in response to a request from your Ministry, FITUN submitted a letter to the Permanent Secretary of your Ministry on January 20, 2015 advising that the Federation had submitted the names of Ms. Ann Chan Chow and Mr. John Boiselle as its nominees to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Insurance Board of Trinidad and Tobago, NIB. We also advised that their alternates would be Mr. Clyde Elder and Mr. Chandrasain Ramsingh respectively.

 Mr. Minister, both Ms. Chan Chow and Mr. Boiselle informed the Executive of the Federation that they were duly re-appointed to the Board of Directors effective February 01, 2015 for a period of two (2) years. They forwarded a copy of their appointment letters signed by you in your capacity as Minister of Finance and the Economy which were referenced as FE (1):2/ 12/2 dated February 9, 2015. 

The both representatives thereafter communicated to FITUN via letters dated February 11, 2015 advising that they were reappointed to the Board of the National Insurance Board of Trinidad and Tobago and that they were gratified to make representation on behalf of the Federation. 

Mr. Howai, FITUN was advised by Ms. Chan Chow that she was invited to a Special Board Meeting of the NIB on February 11, 2015 at the NIBTT’s Board Room at NIBTT’s Head Office, Cipriani Boulevard, Port-of Spain which commenced at 3.00 p.m. She further advised the Executive of the Federation that the main topics discussed at that Special Board Meeting were the process for the appointment to the Board of Directors of NIPDEC and the formalizing of the position that Labour was now to assume the Deputy-Chairmanship of the Board of Directors of NIB for this term. She advised that discussions on the person to represent Labour in that position were deferred to the next scheduled Statutory Meeting carded for February 25, 2015.

Mr. Howai to our consternation and in a most unprofessional manner, both representatives of FITUN were called by the Chairman of the Board on February 13, 2015 advising that he needed to speak to them urgently. Ms. Chan Chow reported that in a meeting she held with the Chairman on the said morning, she was advised that she would have to either resign from the Board or have her appointment revoked since there was a mistake made with her appointment.

She indicated to the Chairman that her appointment was the subject of an agreement between the Minister of Finance and the Economy and the Federation and as such she cannot make any decision on this request. Mr. Boiselle advised us that the Chairman communicated to him via a telephone conversation on the morning of February 13, 2015, that his appointment would be revoked since there was a mistake made relative to his appointment and went on to ask him if he had any questions.

Mr. Boiselle advised the Chairman that any question that he has would be directed to the Minister and that he felt that the Minister should communicate with FITUN since it was the Federation that nominated him to serve on the Board.

Mr. Minister, this is one of the most distasteful developments that we have encountered during the tenure of this Govemment and for that matter, under any Government in Trinidad and Tobago. This action reeks of naked political victimization and nepotism. It is quite inconceivable that a Government that has inflicted so much humiliation and mis-steps upon the nation can once again engage in such a horrible act. If it is really a mistake, then it is a pathetic display of gross incompetence on the part of the Ministry since both appointment letters were duly signed by your good self. If in turn, it was not a mistake, then you and your Ministry can be accused of engaging in nepotism and naked victimization against the Federation.

We wish to ask if this revocation has anything to do with the fact that a Labour Representative was supposed to assume the position of Deputy Chairman for this term and that the preferred person was Mr. Boiselle a FITUN Representative.? Is it that there was collusion between other sectors of the Labour Movement to deny the Federation the opportunity to serve in that capacity?

Or is it that there is some collusion between the Ministry and other sectors of Labour to ensure that persons of a certain political persuasion are once again given the opportunity to feed at the State Trough. It is rather curious that both representatives have informed us that they were told by the Chairman that they would be retained on the subsidiary Boards of NIPDEC and TTMF.

This is very questionable since the appointments to those subsidiary Boards were never the subject of any discussions and or agreement between the Federation and your Ministry. This raises questions as to why the focus is solely on revoking the appointments to the Board of NIB. We wonder if the vanguard, watchdog and strong independent positions adopted by the Federation with respect to national issues have anything to do with this.

Mr. Minister, FITUN would like to make it clear that we are not interested in securing largesse from any Government. We are not about "eating ah food" as is so brazenly demonstrated by other so called defenders of the working class. We are deeply concerned about the plight of workers and ordinary citizens of our country and have committed to stand firm in their defence.

In this light, we feel that the National Insurance Board of Trinidad and Tobago must not be tainted by such petty political machinations and shenanigans. The NIB was created to provide a social security net for the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago and as such, as defenders of citizens’ rights, we feel compelled to ensure that the Board carries out this mandate in the best interest of the said citizens. We would not sit idly by and allow any Government to play political football and use the NIB as a slush fund for their political survival.

In the circumstances, FITUN calls on you to clear the air on the alleged revocation of the appointment of its Representatives on the Board of the National Insurance Scheme of Trinidad and Tobago. FITUN demands an unconditional apology from your Ministry to the representatives and the Federation and a statement from you distancing yourself from such a dastardly act. Anything short of this will be construed as complicity on your part to victimize a legitimate Working Class Institution from making fair and transparent representation for and on behalf of citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. We commit to stand firm in defence of our Independence.

FITUN would like to remind you that "Birds Fly High, but must come back dawn to die”

SWRHA WORKERS FIGHT OPPRESSIVE SHIFT SYSTEM

posted 18 Feb 2015, 17:48 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 19 Feb 2015, 19:00 ]

On February 13th the National Health Workers Union (NHWU) issued a statement (see attachment at bottom of page) to workers of the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) dealing with the high-handed, dictatorial manner with which the management of SWRHA is attempting to introduce a highly oppressive shift system. This latest  by management attempt to screw the workers is meeting with angry resistance and has generated fierce debate among those affected.

The NHWU on  its Facebook page put the matter in perspective by placing it squarely in the context of the lack of a collective agreement governing terms and conditions of work in SWRHA which itself is because there is no recognised majority union in SWRHA. this is what was stated on the facebook page:

There is a lot of jhanjat in SWRHA about the proposed twelve hour shift. The real issue is that there would be no bacchanal if workers in SWRHA had a collective agreement.

Why do workers in SWRHA not have a collective agreement?

Because only a recognised majority union can negotiate a collective agreement!

What is a collective agreement?

A collective Agreement is a written contract negotiated between the union and the employer which contains the terms and conditions, which will govern the relationship between the employer and the workers over a period of at least three (3) years.

The collective agreement spells out the benefits to the workers e.g. wages, leaves of absence including surgical leave, hours of work, allowances, procedure for handling workers grievances, and all other benefits and conditions relating to the relationship between employer and worker. The collective agreement is signed and registered in the Industrial Court and becomes a legal document.

There are those spreading rumours that the PSA will have a collective agreement by March.

How come all of a sudden, a union that has had a presence in SWRHA for twenty years and never negotiated a collective agreement will negotiate one now? Somebody trying to fool somebody!

The fact is that the Industrial Relations Act (IRA), the law that governs industrial relations in T&T, prevents the PSA from negotiating a collective agreement on behalf of SWRHA workers.

How come?

In order to negotiate a collective agreement a union has to gain recognised majority union status. In the absence of a recognised majority union, any union can handle individual grievances (rights matters) but only a recognised majority union can handle INTEREST MATTERS.

What are interest matters?

Interest matters involve negotiating and settling collective agreements and negotiating pension, savings and medical plans involving ALL THE WORKERS in the bargaining unit or units.

How does a union gain recognised majority union status?

A union gains recognised majority union status by recruiting more than 50% of the workers employed by an employer. This enables it to apply to the RRCB (Registration, Recognition and Certification Board, a government appointed body) for certification as a recognised majority union.

So what prevents PSA from recruiting more than fifty percent of the workers and applying for recognised majority union status?

The Industrial Relations Act (IRA) does not allow a trade union to represent more than one group of workers in what it calls “an essential industry” Section 38(4) of the IRA states:
“… no application for certification of recognition under this Part shall be considered where the application relates to workers comprised in a bargaining unit in one category of essential industries and the claimant union is already certified as the recognised majority union for workers comprised in a bargaining unit in another category of essential industries."

What industries are considered essential industries under the law?

According to the First Schedule of the Industrial Relations Act, Essential Industries are: Electricity Service; Water and Sewerage Services; Fire Service; Health Services; Hospital Services; Sanitation Services; Oil, Gas; Port Operations; Sugar; Communications (internal and external); Public Bus Transport Service; Civil Aviation Services; the iron and steel industry.

The PSA has majority union status at WASA and at the airport, both of which are “essential industries”, therefore, the PSA is prohibited by law from gaining recognised majority union status at SWRHA which falls under health services.

It is clear that the issue of shift work will only be finally settled when there is a collective agreement; otherwise the management of SWRHA will keep changing up working conditions at their whims and fancies.

It is also clear that to get a collective agreement in place, there must be a recognised majority union.

It is clear that to get majority union status more than fifty percent of the workers must join the union applying for recognition.

It is also clear that a union that already has recognised majority union status for a group of workers in what the law defines as an “essential industry” cannot apply for recognition at SWRHA.

It is, therefore, clear that the PSA, the OWTU, the BIGWU, the TIWU, the CWU etc. cannot represent workers in SWRHA.

It is because of the situation explained here that the National Health Workers Union (NHWU) was born. We are a union formed specifically to represent the interests of health workers and are not prevented by the law from representing you.

NWU: WE JUST CAN’T GO ON THIS WAY

posted 5 Feb 2015, 10:24 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 6 Feb 2015, 21:35 ]

After all the tumult and the shouting regarding Kamla’s night of the long knives, what have we learnt that we didn't know before? The National Workers Union (NWU) fully understands  the anger, disgust and outrage being expressed by large sections of the people at the criminality that lies at the heart of the political system. 

The NWU is quite clear that the government has collapsed and damage control is the order of the day as the Persad-Bissessar administration limps toward the election. The NWU sympathises with the widespread calls by a frustrated populace to call elections now!

So here we go again! We are on a merry go round of throwing out those in whom we placed our hopes for salvation during the last election and letting back in those who we threw out last time around. We have been here before!

In 2010, we threw out the Manning regime on a wave of revulsion against the goings on of Calder Hart, the prophetess, the megaproject corruption typified by the Brian Lara stadium and the arrogant delusions of Manning himself. The collapse of that administration was signalled by the vicious battle between Manning and Rowley who is now being portrayed as the new Messiah, which led to the calling of early elections

In 2002, we got rid of the Panday administration which had its snout stuck deep in the trough of corruption: Piarco airport project, short pants man, the Duprey/Panday axis etc. The collapse of that administration manifested in the revolt of Ramesh, Romeo and Ralph which brought down the government.

We can go on and on. We can go back to the first Manning regime which collapsed because its financiers jumped ship and went over to the UNC – the very financiers who were central to the Section 34 fiasco and who for more than a decade have utilised the judicial system to escape paying for their misdeeds with the connivance of politicians of all stripes.

When we look below the surface of the bacchanal and comess, it becomes clear that the existing political order, just like the existing economic order it functions to facilitate, offers no hope, no respite for working people, the poor and the disadvantaged. In fact it thrives on the exploitation of those sectors.

While politicians of all type scramble and fight over the people’s patrimony, the health and education sectors are in a state of collapse, income inequality is growing and the ranks of the poor are swelling; drug traffickers sit in high positions and the police service is riddled with corruption and criminal collusion; merchants dig out people’s eyes with ridiculous price increases and the economic elite jockeys to corner the foreign exchange which they had no part in earning so that they could stash our money abroad and pay for their drugs and arms dealing.

We have switched between Bim and Bam for a generation and things have not only not improved they have steadily grown worse. The political arrangements reinforce ethnic chauvinism and division among the oppressed and afford rival gangs alternate opportunities to feed at the trough of public funds and enrich themselves by accumulating capital through corrupt dealings and acting as enforcers for those who really run the society from their boardrooms at home and abroad.

While the political arrangements are presented as designed to serve the people, they actually ensure that working people and the poor continue to be exploited in the interest of the transnational corporations, local conglomerates and an assortment of financial conmen, crony capitalists, political hustlers, jacket and tie bandits, money launderers, drugs and arms dealers; those who live off the fat of the land and gorge themselves at the trough of the national treasury. In the words of the Mighty Sparrow, those who “use their riches and their power to make a mockery of the law and have the law protect them same time.”

While we fight up for “good governance” and switch from Bim to Bam, the power structure remains in place – the transnational corporations, conglomerates and financial smartmen continue to rule the roost.

While people have the right to exercise their vote as they see fit, they should recall that the present Opposition for two generations has waged war against the working class. They have inflicted anti-worker legislation on the trade unions; they have pursued economic policies that have left the neo-colonial structure of the society intact and that are premised on cheap labour.

They inflicted numerous states of emergency on the masses over the years, began the dismantling of job security in the public service, tried to decertify the Communication Workers Union and the Transport and Industrial Workers Union and presided over an orgy of corruption.

So while exercising your franchise, be very clear that elections don’t actually disturb the power structure. The power of capital cannot be voted out of existence. It must be dismantled root and branch.

The people in their community organisations, sporting and cultural associations, credit union, trade unions, co-operatives, professional and other associations must insist on participating in their own affairs and through debate, discussion, joint mobilisation and organisation strengthen the institutions of people’s power and carve out their own space that can challenge the power of capital as we move forward.

The struggle is not just for “good governance”. The power structure in the country is based on corruption and inequality, exploitation and oppression. The watchmen for the system are part of a kleptocracy. The system cannot afford “good governance”. Appealing to the constitution or to the good conscience of those who benefit from the system is not going to cut it.

The organised people have to build alternative visions of the future and have to construct alternative institutions to take their interests forward. No matter how hard we try to reform the colonial institutions that we have been saddled with they can never serve the interests of the working people, the poor and the disadvantaged. They were designed to maintain and, indeed, strengthen the power of the economic elites over the whole of society.

Who wins the next election is not as important as how organised the people are in their institutions, how willing they are to encourage a culture of democratisation, to actively struggle against the tendency toward authoritarianism and dictatorship in their own organisations, to encourage a culture of mass participation in decision-making and implementing of decisions and to fight against the unbridled power of those who have control of the state.

History clearly shows that the solution is not just simply to change the guards but to change the power relationships in the society. The National Workers Union is willing to initiate and participate in conversations and discussions to help to bring about the state of affairs outlined above. We just can’t go on this way!

DIVERSION AND DECEPTION

posted 5 Feb 2015, 05:39 by Gerry Kangalee

Secretary General of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), Joseph Remy issued the following statement on February 3rd 2015

"The old standards have changed and given way to new demands and expectations". So said the Honourable Prime Minister as she addressed the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, who were waiting with bated breath to hear her pronouncements on the latest People’s Partnership fiasco of which she had knowledge of for quite some time.

Once again she flattered to deceive and instead of addressing the issue which give rise to this fiasco she launched an attack on those who were collateral to the matter and used the opportunity to penalize and discard those who dared to speak out on issues of poor governance and challenge the Cabal who is guiding her every move. All that was said by the Prime Minister was a diversion from the real issue of the allegations that the former Attorney General, Anand Ramlogan attempted to pervert the course of Justice.

But we should not be surprised by her defence of Anand, because he was handpicked by her and in her usual modus operandi refused to rein him in despite all the allegations against him over the last four and a half years, So what she told us was that he resigned as the Attorney General and that Gary Griffith resigned as National Security Minister. Only to be told by Gary Griffith that he was fired. Surely she must be aware that the essence of lying is in deception and not words.

The actions of the former Attorney General over the period of this Government’s term in office has been riddled with various questionable incidents such as Section 34, E-mailgate, Prisongate and this most recent alleged attempt to pervert the course of justice, yet he was only asked to resign and made to look like the victim in this issue when in fact he was the perpetrator.

Of further concern to us is the absence of any mention of the issue involving the Speaker of the House, Wade Mark, who from all intents and purposes sought to mislead the House on an issue that involved a senior member of her Government in the person of the Minister of Finance and he attempted to trivialize the issue with a simple apology. Yet, whilst there are no calls by her for his resignation, she has gone on record in this instance to make a call for the resignation of others.

The Prime Minister is also quoted as saying "I will continue to lead this nation with the same resolve to maintain the inviolable principles of good governance. You can rest assured that I have both the courage and personal fortitude to do what is right whenever it is necessary to so do regardless of the consequences".

In that regard, why didn’t she do the right thing by dissolving the Parliament and calling the General Elections now? Instead however, she is determined to steer her sinking ship into the harbor as she has once again changed sailors by reconfiguring her Government to make it appear as if she is in control. However, she once again appeared without vision as she failed to make clear at the time, what were the implications and residual effects of all the changes as a result of her Cabinet reshuffle.

Well Honourable Prime Minister, there are more questions to be answered. The Greek playwright Euripides wrote, "When one with honeyed words but evil mind persuades the mob, great woes befall the state". Citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, for too long we have been too passive with the shenanigans of this Government and their various repeated attempts to gloss over their incompetence.

We must not let the issues of Section 34, Emailgate, Prisongate, LifeSport and the unsolved murder of Dana Seetahal, to be swept under the carpet. Time to do the honourable thing Madame Prime Minister; call the Elections now and hold on to the remnants of your dignity instead of being written into the history books as the first female and worst Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.

Some words to the wise though is that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results and those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.

NATIONAL WORKERS UNION ASSISTS IN BUILDING NHWU

posted 28 Jan 2015, 19:27 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 29 Jan 2015, 02:07 ]

On January 28th 2015, the National Health Workers Union issued the following statement:

In some of the publications by the National Health Workers Union (NHWU), it is mentioned that the NHWU is affiliated to the National Workers Union (NWU). The National Workers Union (NWU) was formed in 2004 by a number of experienced well known and competent trade unionists who recognised that there were hundreds of thousands of workers in the country who were not unionised and were, therefore subjected to rank exploitation by their employers. They adopted the motto ORGANISE THE UNORGANISED!

The National Workers Union was approached by several NCRHA workers to join the NWU. Some of them were members of another union and were frustrated by the fact that although that union could handle rights disputes (individual grievances like warning notices, suspensions or dismissals, or any grievance concerning rights or entitlements), it was debarred by Section 38(4) of the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) from gaining RECOGNISED MAJORITY UNION status. This means that it could not negotiate collective agreements, medical plans, savings plans or pension plans. (See NHWU bulletin: GET ORGANISED).

Section 38 (4) of the IRA states: "…no application for certification of recognition under this Part shall be considered where the application relates to workers comprised in a bargaining unit in one category of essential industries and the claimant union is already certified as the recognised majority union for workers comprised in a bargaining unit in another category of essential industries." The problem was that the NWU was also debarred from becoming the recognised majority union because it had applied for recognised majority union status for a group of workers which the law deemed “essential industry” workers.

It was agreed that health workers should build their own union to cater for their specific needs and that the NWU, true to its motto of ORGANISE THE UNORGANISED, would assist health workers in creating a union from the ground up by having the NHWU affiliate to the National Workers Union.

On 25th June 2014, the National Health Workers Union was registered as a trade union. The major object of the NHWU is to secure the complete organisation of all health care workers in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. It must be borne in mind that the National Health Workers Union is not a previously existing organisation that health workers are joining, but a union that has to be built by the health workers themselves in their own image and likeness.

To build a union from scratch is a humongous task. A new union would have little in the way of resources, especially until it gains recognised majority union status. It would have no office, no full time staff, no ability to employ lawyers or other advisers or to undertake research While it is extremely difficult to start a union from scratch, the experiences of health workers’ attempts to organise themselves over the years make it absolutely necessary that they undertake this task of organising the thousands of health care workers, both at the RHAs and in the private medical industry for job security, decent pensions and an acceptable collective agreement.

This is where the National Workers Union comes in. The National Workers Union provides human, financial and material resources, technical expertise in terms of organising, industrial relations (grievance handling; collective bargaining), training, education, research and publications to its affiliates, including the NHWU. Several experienced, well known and competent Trade Unionists in the National Workers Union (NWU) to which the NHWU is affiliated, are assisting in training, in negotiations and grievance handling for Health workers in the country. Some of the people, associated with the National Workers Union, whom the NHWU can utilise in their union building campaign are:

Cecil Pau
l: Deputy President National Workers Union. Formerly Shop Steward, branch officer and president of the OWTU National Petroleum branch; chairman of the north co-ordinating council of the OWTU; Chief Labour Relations Officer and First Vice President of the OWTU; General Secretary of the Council of Progressive Trade Unions; Deputy General Secretary of the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC). He was central to the development of the Social Wage policy, negotiated numerous collective agreements, particularly in the Energy and manufacturing sectors.

Dave Smith: General Secretary, National Workers Union; Secretary, Labour Advisory Bureau and Formerly Area Officer, National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) England; Regional Officer with UNISON (largest union in Britain); Director of Communications, National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW); has extensive experience in grievance handling and the Industrial Court and in leading negotiations. 

Willock Pierre: Executive Officer National Workers Union; Member Labour Advisory Bureau; has negotiated collective agreements for the Transport and Industrial Workers Union (TIWU) including PTSC, Tracmac, CGA, Century Eslon and others; Formerly: Shop Steward and Branch President OWTU Contractors’ Branch; OWTU Labour Relations Officer; has vast experience handling workers’ grievances; has negotiated numerous collective agreements; one of the more experienced and respected industrial court practitioners.
 
Sylvan Wilson: Executive Officer National Workers Union; member Board of Directors of Home Mortgage Bank. Formerly Branch President OWTU Fedchem/Yara Branch; Executive Vice President OWTU; Acting Chief Labour Relations Officer OWTU; negotiated numerous collective agreements, pension plans, medical plans, savings plans; employee assistance programmes; led the Fedchem workers in their successful five months strike in 1980-1981; led the Fedchem workers to victory in their six months lockout in 1986-1987; represented OWTU at numerous conferences, seminars and committees at home and abroad; worked closely with others in developing and negotiating the union's social wage programme particularly in employee home ownership programmes (utilizing pension funds).

Frank Sears
: President National Workers Union and Labour Advisory Bureau. Formerly: shop steward and branch officer, OWTU Pointe-A-Pierre Branch; OWTU Health Safety & Environment Officer (first health, safety and environment officer in the labour movement); created the concept of a union-wide safety Council made up of safety stewards from OWTU branches; journalist attached to the OWTU Vanguard newspaper; OWTU Organiser. 

Gerry Kangalee: Education And Research Officer National Workers Union; Member Labour Advisory Bureau;Administrator NWU web site and Facebook page. Formerly: Education and Research Officer OWTU; Editor “Vanguard” (OWTU Newspaper); leading researcher in the trade union movement; has organised and led many seminars, workshops and training programmes; responsible for publishing numerous documents, branch bulletins, booklets, memoranda etc.; delivered many lectures at trade union training programmes. 

Sylvestre McLaren
: Executive Officer National Workers Union; member Labour Advisory Bureau; Formerly Executive Officer and Chief Organiser Transport and Industrial Workers Union (TIWU), member of the Registration, Recognition and Certification Board; Senior Labour Relations Officers NUGFW; one of the most experienced trade unionists in the country re: grievance handling and negotiating collective agreements; has served on numerous committees in his fifty years a
s an active trade unionist; benefitted from training programmes abroad and has represented the trade union movement at numerous conferences abroad; well known for his commitment to working class struggle. 

Carla Roxanne Walcott: National Organiser National Workers Union; Executive Officer National Union of DomesticEmployees (NUDE); has over ten years experience in the field of Trade Unionism and has been trained locally and internationally; represents workers at the bilateral stage with the Employer, at the Ministry of Labour and the Industrial Court; worked with Non-Governmental Organisations and prior to that worked in the Public Sector.

CWU: WHY WE BLANKED KAMLA!

posted 24 Jan 2015, 10:10 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 24 Jan 2015, 10:15 ]

Joseph Remy, Secretary General of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) issued the following statement on January 23rd.

The Communication Workers’ Union would like to place on public record, its position relative to its non-participation in the Public Relations Meeting called by the Prime Minister with so called "Labour Stakeholders" on Thursday 22"° January, 2015.

We wish to state that we decided to reject this discourteous invitation because it was over seven (7) letters too late and some four (4) years after repeated efforts by this Union failed to get the ear of the Prime Minister.

For the records, the CWU would like to chronicle its attempts to get an audience with the Prime Minister: —

• In December 2010 the Union wrote to the Prime Minister calling for a meeting after the Government summarily removed the CWU nominee from the Board of TSTT; at that time the Oil Price was around US $90.07 per Barrel.

• In January 2012, the Union wrote to the Prime Minister about the Union’s concerns about the Shareholders Relationship at TSTT relative to the Cable and Wireless arrangement; at that time the Oil Price at that time was US $106.89.

• In February 2012, the Union wrote to the Prime Minister again raising concerns about the Shareholders Relationship at TSTT and calling on the Government to outline its policy position relative to the future role for TSTT in the economic and social development of the Country; at that time the Oil Price was US $112.70.

• In March 2012, the Union wrote to the Prime Minister outlining several issues that were of concern to the workers at TSTT relative to (i) the Financial Status of TSTT, (ii) the Status of TSTT as a State Entity and (iii) the TSTT Group Health Plan and its impact on Retirees; at that time the Oil Price was US $108.06

• In September 2013, the Union wrote to the Prime Minister on the following concerns at TSTT, (i) the Financial Status of TSTT, (ii) The Industrial Relations Climate at TSTT, (iii) The TSTT Group Health Plan and its impact on hundreds of Retirees and (iv) The status of the TSTT and TELCO Pension Plans and their impact on thousands of Pensioners; at that time the Oil Price was US $108.78.

• In November 2013, the Union wrote to the Prime Minister raising concerns about the manner with which the Union’s several requests for meetings were being treated. We went on in that letter to once again raise concerns about the future role of TSTT in the economic and social development of Trinidad and Tobago; at that time the Oil Price was US $102.58.

On all those occasions quoted above, the price of Oil was above the Budgeted figure and the Government was wallowing in surpluses. This was evident by the wanton squander mania that was taking place inclusive of naked and obscene nepotism, cronyism and alleged corrupt practices.

At that time, the Government was busy ensuring that their supporters and party hacks were well fed from the State Troughs and "EAT AH FOOD,” was the order of the day; so therefore, the genuine and nationalistic pleas of the CWU were ignored by the Prime Minister. What was most distasteful was the Prime Minister’s promise to meet with the CWU in 2013. Such a meeting never materialized even up to this day.

In those circumstances, the CWU as an Independent and Progressive Working Class Institution, felt belittled and disrespected when we received a letter signed by the Minister of Labour, Small and Micro Enterprise Development addressed to”Labour Stakeholder" indicating that the Prime Minister will meet with stakeholders and representatives of the Trade Union Movement, Workers Organisations and Associations on Thursday 22"" January, 2015. This, coupled with the disrespect shown by the Prime Minister’s continued refusal to meet with the Union, emboldened our position that we would not be attending this Charade.

The Union wants to know why the Prime Minister did not meet with us when there was no turbulence in the energy sector and therefore there was no impact of lower oil prices on economies such as ours. Why all of a sudden, when there is a scenario of falling oil prices, (the Oil Price is now hovering around US $47.00 a Barrel), and the attendant economic fallout for Government revenues, there is now an urgent need to meet with the Trade Unions.

Once again, consistent with the failed economic practices of successive Governments and the neo liberal agenda, when there is Profit they CAPITALIZE them and distribute them among the few friends and financiers, but when there are losses they want to SOCIALIZE them and have the unsuspecting citizens bear the burden of adjustment. The CWU would not and would never condone such abuse and exploitation of the masses.

As such, we wish to reaffirm our commitment to the defence and advancement of the cause of workers and the less possessed in our society. We will not subject ourselves to the status of "hewers of wood and drawers of water" as was displayed by those other persons posing in leadership position of the Trade Union Movement 

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