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Media Releases

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

posted 6 Sep 2016, 08:03 by Gerry Kangalee

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

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

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

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

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

The facts are as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


posted 12 Aug 2016, 09:13 by Gerry Kangalee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For that we will always Dare to Struggle!


posted 22 Jul 2016, 07:17 by Gerry Kangalee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


posted 28 Jun 2016, 23:47 by Gerry Kangalee



The National Workers Union (NWU) notes with concern Finance Minister Imbert’s statement in the Senate on June 28th 2016 that 50% of the backpay owed to certain categories of public sector workers, including monthly paid employees of the RHAs, should be paid “within a day or two.”

The government has persisted in treating this issue that is of great concern to health care workers in such a cavalier, contemptuous fashion that it has become a festering sore. The National Workers Union is constrained to point out that these arrears go back to 2011 and represent monies already worked for and that in these times of economic stress, workers are fed up of being jerked around by fancy talking politicians who seem to be clueless as to how to lead the country out of the quicksand.

The Minister of Finance, after several months of silence, announced in his April midyear budget review that workers will get half their retroactive payments by the end of June (another date in the long line of promised dates) and the other half in government bonds at the end of September or in two instalments at unspecified dates in 2017. The position of the National Workers Union was then, and remains so now, that the workers should be paid all their arrears in cash.

Mr. Imbert’s statement is more interesting for what it obscures rather than for what it reveals. He has not named a date for the payment of the other fifty percent which, he had said, would be paid either in government bonds at the end of September or in two tranches in 2017.

There has been no concluded agreement with the Public sector unions involved that if bonds are to be accepted what the conditions applying to these bonds would be such as maturity date and interest rates. If the government imposes and not negotiates these terms with the public sector unions involved, it would be acting in an illegal, unethical and dictatorial fashion and the public sector unions will surely resist. Health sector workers are not represented by a recognised majority union and are forced to accept whatever the government decides.

The National Workers Union calls on the Minister of Finance to meet government’s obligations to the workers in full by the end of June.

The National Workers Union calls upon the managements of the five RHAs to avoid creating chaos among workers who are to receive their part payment by providing them with detailed documentation which would show how the retroactive payments were broken down. This would serve to reveal the inevitable calculation errors that will arise and allow workers to have those errors corrected. These documents, ideally, should be distributed to the workers before payment

These detailed statements should include: the amount of each and every increase in benefits that is to be applied and for each respective year and a breakdown of sums calculated for each benefit for each year for each employee.


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


posted 23 Jun 2016, 12:50 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 24 Jun 2016, 07:07 ]

The National Workers Union issued the following statement dated 2016/06/23:



The National Workers Union warns the working people of Trinidad and Tobago that if they do not intervene with all the muscle at their command, they are going to be forced to bear more burdens than they already bear as the international Monetary Fund (IMF) recommends more austerity measures to the government.

The IMF has outlined the measures they recommend the government of Trinidad and Tobago take to deal with the economic crisis. These measures are contained in a press release issued on June 20th 2016 and arise from the Article IV Consultation carried out on May 6th. It should be noted that IMF personnel have been entrenched in the Ministry of Finance for some time now.

The IMF claims that the T&T currency is grossly overvalued and has stated that its Directors have recommended “greater exchange rate flexibility” through “a careful adjustment strategy.” This is just a fancy way of saying that the IMF recommends that the T&T currency be devalued. By saying it is “grossly” overvalued; the IMF is suggesting a massive devaluation and by talking of a “careful adjustment strategy” it is warning the government not to do a one and done devaluation, but to devalue by increments, for fear of provoking  resistance from working people and the poor.

Because we import nearly everything we consume, devaluation is going to hit working people and the poor where it hurts most – in our pockets, because the cost of most goods and services is going to become even more expensive than they now are.

The IMF argues that so-called exchange rate flexibility should be part of a “comprehensive demand-management package.” What this means is that demand for goods and services should be suppressed; that working people and the poor should have less disposable outcome and this would decrease the demand for foreign exchange to be spent on everyday goods and services.

As part of this so-called demand management package, the IMF that “priority should be given to broadening the revenue base with a comprehensive VAT reform...” Not content with devaluation as part of their demand management recommendation, the IMF urges the government to increase the tax burden on working people and the poor through the Value Added tax.

Another measure recommended by the IMF that would send the cost of living skyrocketing further is the phasing out of fuel subsidies, a measure which the PNM government has already begun to implement.

The IMF further recommends “strong comprehensive structural reforms...” and emphasises the “importance of pushing ahead with energy sector taxation reforms”. The IMF is supporting the international energy giants that squat offshore in their quest to adjust the Supplemental Petroleum Tax (SPT) to reduce the tax liability of the energy corporations. This, of course, will mean less revenue for the State and less foreign exchange coming into the system. They go on to talk about “addressing inefficiencies in the public service”, which is IMF-speak for the reduction of personnel in the public service and the health service, which has already begun with the ongoing attack on contract workers and daily paid casual and temporary workers.

It is clear that the IMF is ideologically committed to inflicting austerity measures on working people and the poor. It is clear that the government of T&T is committed to implementing over time the recommendations of the IMF, even in the absence of an IMF standby arrangement.

The National Workers Union calls on working people and the poor to make it clear to the government that they will not bow down meekly and accept this back breaking austerity programme that just makes the rich richer and takes away the little that working people and the poor have.

The National Workers Union calls on the leaders of the trade union movement to stop flirting and fooling around with governments made up of politicians who have pawned their souls to capitalist financiers and get down to the task of informing and educating the members of their unions about the very real threat to the quality of life of themselves and their families for generations to come.

The National Workers Union calls on trade union leaders to engage in serious, sustained mobilisation of their members and the community to devise methods to beat back the threat by the power of our numbers and the power over production so that the business elites do not crush the interests of working people and the poor by forcing them to bear the burden of an economic crisis they had no part in making.


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


posted 18 Jun 2016, 19:53 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 18 Jun 2016, 20:07 ]



 The National Workers Union (NWU) issued the following statement on June 19th 2016. 

June 19th 2016 finds the working class is under severe pressure. The capitalists, employers and the State are adopting measures to force working people and the poor pay for the economic crisis brought about by the collapse of the price of oil and natural gas and the resultant drying up of the foreign exchange which is the lifeblood of our colonial economy. They call it sharing the burden and some of us support their call. 

The problem is that the whole burden has been placed on the backs of the working people. The big shots, the billionaires and their enforcers in the government are doing fine, while we suffer the slings and arrows of retrenchment, wage freeze, higher prices for food and pharmaceuticals and a crippling VAT burden.

The employers, including the government, have embarked on an orgy of retrenchment. While transnational corporations and local enterprises have sent home thousands of workers, the government has eagerly jumped into the arena and are getting rid of contract workers and temporary and casual daily paid workers. The government, bypassing the collective bargaining process, has unilaterally imposed by decree how public sector workers must access their arrears – their own money

BP, the largest of the oil-sucking vampires, is seeking to renegotiate its contract with NGC and the Atlantic Train One contract, so that they could get a bigger slice of the revenue at the expense of the treasury. Foreign onshore energy firms are calling for changes to the Petroleum Profits Tax (PPT) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is proposing that the Supplemental Petroleum Tax (SPT) be amended to reduce the tax liability of the energy corporations. The IMF has taken charge of the Ministry of Finance and is preparing the way for further privatisation and for a massive devaluation

Five employer organisations have produced a document stating that “every employee must have unfettered access to the law and the freedom to associate as they see fit, including the right to represent themselves.”

It also says that individual workers must have “the right to determine their own individual terms and conditions of employment.” and that “many non-unionized businesses already provide a fair and equitable work environment for employees...Employees in such businesses should have the ability to access employment rights and remedies without having to join a trade union.”

The Employers’ Consultative Association (ECA) has proposed that the definition of employer be changed to “protect” small and micro enterprises “from the impracticality of what can sometimes be exacting standards, with respect to unfair dismissal claims and trade disputes”. So no “good industrial relations practice” if you work for a small employer; 

  • if an employer has less than 20 workers, there should be no right to collective bargaining; 
  • unions should be de-recognised in workplaces where the number of members falls below twenty (20); 
  • a worker/union found guilty of illegal industrial action should pay the employer for lost profits; 
  • employers should have the right to unfairly dismiss workers if they have been employed for less than a year. We can now anticipate
  • probationary periods being extended from three months to 364 days; 
  • “fees” be introduced to process matters. So they can dismiss you, take away your wages and then expect you to pay for processing a claim for unfair dismissal; 
  • the amount of compensation that the court awards should be limited. They quote Barbados which is limited to five weeks pay for workers with less than two (2) years service. 

While the employers are closing ranks and seizing the opportunity to intensify the class struggle and step up the attacks on the rights, benefits and entitlements of workers, many trade union leaders continue to engage in divisive behaviour and seem more concerned with their personal self-interest than with defending and protecting the working class.

It is ludicrous that we have NATUC and FITUN and now we have JTUM in a dogfight with one other, scrambling and snarling to get the favours of a government which has taken the lead in piling on the pressure on their members by raising taxes, allowing the merchants to increase prices at will and sending home hundreds of contract workers.

In the midst of this carnage some trade union leaders are still calling for consultation, complaining about non-implementation of the toothless Memorandum of Understanding and tripartite approaches as if they do not understand that we are involved in a vicious class struggle, the outcome of which will determine our quality of life for years to come. There is no relief from those who profit from our misery. There is no way the capitalists are going to share anything – unless they are forced to do so! We cannot hide from the reality of the class struggle!

There is need for a massive fight back against this ongoing assault by the employers, the capitalists and the State. The French working class is showing the way. They are fighting tooth and nail to defeat the austerity measures inflicted by their government. If we want the laws relative to severance changed; if we want the laws restricting the right to strike changed; if we want the laws governing recognition of trade unions changed; if we want the Workers Agenda implemented, it is not good enough to simply call for the changing of those laws. We must be prepared to bring all our power to bear on those who can change the laws.

We must engage in a sustained campaign of mass mobilisation not only of our members but also the unorganised working people. Mobilisation cannot be done through the media. The workers must be involved at the branch, workplace, mass membership meeting, COSSABO and community levels.

The implications of the assault by the capitalist class must be discussed thoroughly with the members and the community and guidance must be sought from them as to what they are prepared to do to bring a halt to this growing attack. We must look at the lessons of 1989, when we stopped the then government in its tracks with the General Strike of March 6th (Day of Resistance)








posted 16 Jun 2016, 09:36 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 16 Jun 2016, 09:44 ]

THe National Workers Union (NWU) issued the following statement on 2016/06/16

The National Health Workers Union (NHWU) is under attack from within. In a January statement we reported that since December your union dues have been deducted and not delivered to your union’s headquarters in Barataria, the address you instructed it be sent to on your check off authorisation form. NCRHA and SWRHA managements have sent your dues to another office on the advice of a person purporting to be the General Secretary of the union.

Steps to correct this have been initiated. Letters were sent to the CEO’s of SWRHA and NCRHA and other measures are being undertaken. The Registrar of Trade Unions convened a meeting between Comrade Dave Smith, General Secretary of the NHWU and Mr. Nigel Small. She requested both parties submit copies of all relevant documents leading up to this state of affairs.

Comrade Smith has submitted his documents and is awaiting further intervention by the Registrar. Notwithstanding these efforts YOU the members must take a stand on how your union functions. It is YOUR money which YOU instructed directed to a particular address.

What is undermining the goals of the union is the apathy displayed by the members of the NHWU who seem content to just pay their dues, sit back and not participate in shaping the union.

The first objective of the NHWU is to gain recognised majority union (RMU) status for the monthly paid workers of the respective RHAs. Without RMU status, there can be no negotiated collective agreement. To gain RMU status a continuous, sustained campaign of recruiting workers into the union is absolutely necessary.

The membership at NCRHA, where the clique is based has scarcely grown (our last listing shows forty four members), while the membership of SWRHA grew steadily to over three hundred and fifty. This shows that they are not interested in getting RMU status.

The second objective is building a democratic organisation which would involve members participating in the activities of the union, attending meetings, electing their branch leaderships and shop stewards and utilising the facilities offered by the union to educate themselves as to their rights and duties as workers and union members.

With a properly structured democratically organised Recognised Majority Union, proposals for a collective agreement will come from the workers and will deal clearly with

· hours of work;

· salaries according to classification and not incentive allowances that can be removed at the whim of management;

· clearly spelt out shift allowances, overtime calculations, sick leave provisions, vacation leave that cannot be interfered with;

· negotiated medical (including dental) and savings plans;

· negotiated and not imposed pension plans;

· clearly spelt out disciplinary procedures and not a mishmash of policy manuals, thirty year old memos and provisions that apply to public servants but have nothing to do with RHA workers and no legal standing.

Through the affiliation agreement the National Workers Union (NU) provides human, financial and material resources, technical expertise in terms of organising, industrial relations services (grievance handling; collective bargaining), and training, education, research, printing and publications, communication and media services.

The NWU provides office facilities; secretarial and administrative support; maintains a membership records data base and maintains the union accounts. All of these services are provided to your union the NHWU.

When the NHWU was formed the national executive of the union came from one branch and was elected by five people. Who were the only members at the time. These positions were considered interim until such time as the membership could elect its leadership. Since then what we have seen is no consultation by the clique with the membership but they have changed the union’s logo, head office address and bank account.

They do not handle grievances, make no representation on pensions, and overtime pay; they have not engaged in training programmes and have collaborated with SWRHA’s Human Resource Department to prevent members from having their grievances processed.

They have sabotaged all attempts to hold duly constituted branch meetings so that SWRHA’s membership could organise themselves to elect their branch representatives and shop stewards. They have even foisted a worker who was never elected by the SWRHA branch as a National Executive Officer of the entire union in a non-existent post of Public Relations Officer.

The leader of the clique resigned his post with “immediate effect” by correspondence dated 28th February 2015, yet he continues to pose as leader.

We have made representation and raised issues on staff shortages; salary increases and retroactive pay, held demonstrations in Couva, POS, San Fernando and Point Fortin; dealt with sick leave entitlement on your off-day; gratuity and short-term contract issues; pensions and matters affecting ATNs and Health and Safety problems.

At least twenty four grievances have been taken up with five going to the Ministry of labour for conciliation and one is before the Industrial Court. We have interfaced with the Ministers of Finance and Health about salaries and arrears and have appeared before the Welch committee and submitted a detailed analysis of the health system to that committee.

This foolishness must stop and it is only you the members who can put an end it to this nonsense. You must seize the opportunity to correct this illegal situation. You have to intervene.

Contact your CEO in relation to your dues. Demand to know why your dues are being sent to an address you did not authorise. Instruct payroll to remit your dues to the original address on your check off authorisation form! Do not send or allow your dues to go anywhere you did not authorise.

You must convene branch meetings to discuss your business and organise yourselves to hold properly structured branch and executive elections. Your silence and non-participation facilitates misrepresentation; the non-processing of your grievances and ensures that you will never achieve recognised majority union status.

For the NHWU to move forward, it must do so on the basis of democratic membership participation and truly belong to its members and not to a handful of “leaders”. It is, therefore, vital that you devote some of your valuable time to ensuring that you are part and parcel of the union’s progress.

If you, the dues paying members of SWRHA and NCRHA, do not intervene NOW and DECISIVELY, then the consequences will be paying your hard earned money and getting no representation. If you choose to stop paying dues then the present rut will continue; persons working every day in permanent positions but classified as temporary or contract workers.

Many of you will retire and get $600.00-800.00 per month as pensions and the management will continue to violate your existing terms of employment as they now do. The future is in your hands. ACT NOW!

You can call the NWU at 223-4700 for further information.


posted 18 May 2016, 11:12 by Gerry Kangalee

The National Workers Union issued the following statement on May 18th 2016:

The National Workers’ Union (NWU) notes the blatant double standard being displayed by this Government, as it continues the proud tradition of previous regimes of fixing up the big boys while workers (voters) continue to eat the bread that the devil kneads. 

The Minister of Education publicly announces that his ministry is seeking to pay off by June, some $800 million in debts owed to contractors involved with school repairs. He went on further saying that government will have to pay yet unquantified “penalties” for its tardiness. The NWU accepts that debts owed should be paid.

The problem arises however in how government is treating its debts to its employees, policemen, firemen, health workers employed by the RHA’s, etc. Their attitude is as though paying workers their hard earned backpay is some sort of favour being granted to them. Government operates as though it can pay those workers if, when and however it feels; that it can unilaterally decide to pay part cash, part bonds on terms it determines. Debts to contractors however will be paid in full by June inclusive of penalties.

The NWU believes that this $800 million being paid to contractors involved in school repairs is but the tip of the iceberg. The Minister of Finance had stated publicly in 2015 that debt to contractors ran into billions of dollars. In his mid-term review when he dealt with the debt to workers he was ominously silent as to how GOTT was dealing with this obligation to contractors.

The conspiracy thickened when the previously vocal contractor groupings fell deafeningly silent. Circumstantial evidence suggests that a secret deal may have been struck with the contractors. While workers are urged to be patriotic in these “difficult” times and are blasted for being greedy in demanding their just due, contractors’ bills are being settled in full.

What is particularly heartless about this approach is many former employees of the RHA’s are today subsisting on pensions of $600.00-$800.00 per month and are in desperate need of their backpay, having been blasted by soaring prices on virtually every item or service needed.

The NWU calls on the Minister of Finance to immediately halt this bias against workers. ALL DEBTS MUST BE PAID IN CASH AND IN FULL BY END OF JUNE. Affected workers must resist this contemptuous treatment by the government regardless of which party they belong to or who they voted for.


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


posted 3 May 2016, 10:19 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 3 May 2016, 10:23 ]

The National Health Workers Union (NHWU) issued the following statement on May 3rd 2016:

Minister of Finance Imbert, in his mid-year budget review stated that "public officers" will get half their retroactive payments by the end of June (another date in the long line of promised dates) and the other half in government bonds at the end of September or in two installments at unspecified dates in 2017.

Once again, instead of workers receiving the income for which they have already worked and which is their personal property, they are treated as if they are begging for something. Now, the term public officers actually refers to those workers who come under the jurisdiction of the public service commission and does not refer to police, prison and fire officers and to employees of the regional health authorities. It is possible that the Minister himself is referring to them all as public officers, but this must be made clear so as to not cause further confusion. We call upon the Minister to clear up the confusion and state clearly what the position is with the payment of the backpay of RHA monthly paid workers.

It is indeed curious that the Minister who has admitted that the government owes billions of dollars to contractors said not a word about meeting that obligation in his mid year review. In fact there is a deafening silence from all quarters, including from the usually voluble spokespersons for the contactors. This suggests that a deal may have already been made with the contractors and that they are satisfied with it. If this is so then this is a clear case of double standards and bias being practised against workers.

Public officers, policemen, fire officers and prison officers have stated clearly that they are not comfortable with the Minister's attempt to railroad them into accepting half their backpay in June and bonds or two tranches of the other half being paid sometime in 2017. The minister has acted illegally in trying to force his proposal down the throats of public sector workers who are represented by recognised majority unions as public officers, police, fire and prison officers are. They will not allow it. RHA monthly paid employees are not represented by a recognised majority union so we may have to swallow whatever the Minister decrees unless we come together as ne
ver before and stop being sidetracked by old talk that is taking us nowhere

The government cannot decree that workers must accept variations in their terms and conditions of work. Salary and wage levels and how they are to be paid including arrears are matters for Collective Bargaining. The Government can't decide how and when backpay is to be paid. The law mandates that these are matters for negotiations with representative unions.

In the 1980's, the NAR government illegally imposed a 10% salary cut and removed Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) to public officers. 
Bernadette Hood-Caesar
Bernadette Hood-Caesar, an enrolled nursing assistant employed at the Port of Spain General Hospital, took the government to court on behalf of the Public Services Association and the Court ruled that the Government acted unconstitutionally. Its unilateral action was declared to have deprived public officers of their property without due process of law. 

Government's illegal action created a debt of over $2 Billion owed to public officers and public sector workers. How and when this debt was to be paid then had to be negotiate
d between the Government and various employers and the public sector associations and unions. The government is quite aware that they are engaging in illegal action. In fact, the present Minister of Labour was the president of the PSA when the court finally disposed of the matter in 1997. Even worse than being illegal, the government action is unethical, immoral and discriminatory. Health workers are subsisting on 2013 salaries and the retroactive payments are an outstanding debt originating in 2011. 2016 is the last year of a new contract period but the employer is paying no attention to that fact, no consideration is given to the further slipping back of health workers when compared to their former colleagues in the public service and the others who have RMU status

Bonds have been a part of the financial system for as long as one can remember. Corporations and government have floated bonds in order to raise revenue. To do this they offer attractive rates of interest in order to attract lenders to invest in this loan instrument. If government wants to raise (borrow) money on the capital markets as they have been doing over the years then it should package an attractive offer, pay health and other public sector workers their debts and educate and encourage them to invest in their bond issue.

The government, without negotiating with public sector unions are trying to force workers to accept bonds as payment of their arrears. They have not even said under what conditions the bonds would be floated, at what interest rate, over what time period etc.

A piece of misinformation that is being peddled to play on workers’ partisan political sympathies is that the precedent of settling arrears of public officers by utilizing bonds was set in the 1990’s. This refers to the transaction of the then Patrick Manning Administration’s efforts in resolving the debt to those workers arising out of the illegal removal of Cost-of Living and the ten per cent cut in salaries under the NAR regime. The entire process and terms and conditions of the bond issue were negotiated with the unions representing public sector employees. This attempt now is a unilateral imposition.

For those workers who are between a rock and a hard place and have sympathies for the ruling party, just remember that the cost of living is skyrocketing every day as cost of fuel goes up, as avaricious merchants gouge out our eyes and as the dollar depreciates day by day against the US dollar; that workers are being retrenched and contract workers are being dispensed with.

Every day that passes (and five years have already passed with health workers’ arrears) your dollar is worth less and less, but then the Prime Minister stated that the debt owed to health workers should be treated as a savings! It is the only savings that loses value as time passes.

The NHWU calls on all employees of the RHAs to stand up and resist this assault on your property. Move past all the dividers, check those who have represented and served the interests of health workers over the last year. Let us put together a simple plan of action and implement it. Grumbling, quarrelling in the corridors, worse yet just sitting by and doing nothing will not help. This is just the beginning as we had warned, worse is yet to come. If we fail this test then heaven help us with the rest.

For further information contact Arlene Maillard # 725 8950; Keish Murrell # 716 8762

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