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Media Releases

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

GUYANA BAUXITE WORKERS UNDER PRESSURE

posted 17 Feb 2019, 10:04 by Gerry Kangalee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

posted 25 Jan 2019, 05:17 by Gerry Kangalee

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- END -

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOOD SECURITY PROBLEMS RIPENING by Omardath Maharaj

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please contact 683-1173 for any further information.

Additional Notes

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

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

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

NWU: ORGANISE TO STOP RATE INCREASES!

posted 4 Apr 2018, 11:01 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 4 Apr 2018, 11:07 ]

The National Workers Union issued the following statement on April 4th 2018.

Working people and the poor in T&T are faced with more and more pressure as the government seeks to make up for the tremendous loss in revenue from the energy companies (from $20 billion to $1 billion), by picking the pockets of those who could least afford to suffer a drop in income.

The National Workers Union (NWU) alerts the population to the move by the government to raise utility rates, more particularly to raise rates charged by the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA). Along with increase in water rates the intention is to, once again, eliminate jobs at the public utility.

At the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on 28th March 2018, WASA Chairman Romney Thomas lamented that rates were “unusually low”, which was one of the reasons for lack of profitability. He also argues that higher costs and low tariffs mean that there are less funds for investment. WASA officials also argued that the intention was to transform WASA to operate independent of subventions.

WASA argues that water usage is “excessive” because it is cheap and actually leads to higher costs for WASA. They didn’t add that one third of WASA’s production does not reach the consumer, but is allowed to leak all over the place, though they did admit that only 20 percent of homes receive pipe-borne water every day. This figure is at variance with Minister Le Hunte’s figure of 38%.

In addition to subsidising WASA to the tune of $3billion per year, citizens, who can afford it, have had to install water tanks and now those who can afford and those who can’t are being made to pay increased rates.

This same WASA has become a happy hunting ground for contractors and suppliers. This is how the financiers, suppliers, contractors, friends and families of the politicians thrive. Corruption is the lifeblood of the economic system in T&T.

This is the same WASA that hires private contractors to make 47,000 truck borne deliveries per year at a cost of $18,800,000 and some of these contractors turn around and put a surcharge on consumers. This is the same WASA that gave a consultant a US$70,000 contract to prepare a business plan to submit to the Regulated Industries Commission (RIC) because it did not have the competence to do it in house!

This is the same WASA that signed an agreement valued at US$594,280 ($3,833,106) with Spanish firm Aquagest Solutions (a subsidiary of Agbar), for the provision of consultancy services for the design, preparation and presentation of an operational transformation plan for the utility.

WASA has also entered into an agreement with a Ugandan firm at a cost of US$309,325 for the development of a performance improvement plan for WASA that includes staff training, development of a decentralisation strategy and the development of successor annual plans. Everybody benefits from by feeding on WASA, like corbeaus on a corpse, except working people and the poor.

So, in addition to the hefty subsidy, the spending of money on water tanks, the overpaying of corrupt contracts, we now are going to be forced to pay increased water rates. Don’t forget that WASA has taken loans to the tune of US$600,000,000 from the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) for the Waste Water Rehabilitation Project which citizens also have to pay back.

Dr. James Lee Young, Chairman of the Regulated Industries Commission, former head of the Energy Chamber wants WASA to eliminate jobs.
James Lee Young, Executive Director of the Regulated Industries Commission (RIC) to which WASA must apply for a rate increase, told the JSC that WASA has a poor rating for efficiency. He defines efficiency not as WASA’s ability to supply a safe and reliable supply of pipe-borne water but in the number of employees per thousand connections. He claims WASA has 12-13 employees per thousand connections and that top companies have 3-4 employees per thousand connections.

What Lee Young is doing is setting the stage for implementing the conditionalities contained in the IDB loan. US$50 million of the loan is for the re-organization of WASA. According to the IDB, the plan is to “decrease the number of employee per 1,000 connections from 12.5 in 2011 to 5.8 in 2016.” This means that more than half of WASA’s workforce in 2011 was supposed to have been eliminated by 2016.

According to the Program annex to the loan “2.03 …The activities financed through this component will include: (i) support to the implementation of transformational actions concerning the organizational structure, financing voluntary selection separation plans; and (ii) voluntary vocational training for employees accepting the separation plan.”

The loan proposal states “the economic regulator has issued a new methodology that will allow WASA to update its tariffs; and WASA’s Board has approved a strategic plan to transform WASA into an autonomous commercially run company with a strong corporate governance.”

This is a clear signal that when WASA applies to the RIC for a rate increase, a major consideration by the RIC is going to be how many workers per connection does WASA have? With the Rowley government pushing the envelope because we ent riot yet, it is clear that the government intends to implement the conditionalities contained in the contracts with the IDB.

Working people and the poor must not allow this further burden to be placed on our shoulders in addition to their plans to raise electricity rates and to sell as much of the publicly owned assets as they can.

The National Workers Union urges community organisations, trade unions, non-governmental organisations, professional groups and citizens at large to organise themselves to prevent the increase of utility rates. It can be done with co-ordination and unity. It is high time that the working people and the poor take direct action to protect and defend their interests and stop expecting sell out politicians and confidence tricksters to do so.

- END -

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:


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

NWU TO GOV'T: EXPLAIN DOMINICA VOTE!

posted 28 Mar 2018, 11:29 by Gerry Kangalee


The National Workers Union (NWU) expresses its bewilderment and disgust at the position adopted by the government of Trinidad and Tobago in opposing the request by the government of the Commonwealth of Dominica to waive membership dues of the Organisation of American States (OAS) for two years because of the difficult situation in which Dominica finds itself in the aftermath of the massive destruction suffered by our Caribbean neighbour from Hurricane Maria.

The NWU is bewildered because this is the same government that extended assistance in the immediate wake of the hurricane and offered sanctuary and school places to Dominicans. The NWU is disgusted because this unexplained action by the government will surely enhance the image of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean as one of arrogance and fecklessness.

The National Workers Union calls upon the government to explain its stance in this matter, being the only country to oppose Dominica’s request. We wish to point out that when it comes to foreign policy, government (of which ever political party) and the present invisible foreign minister seem to believe that citizens have no right to consultation, information or explanation as to what our country’s stance should be on foreign policy issues or why the government adopts particular positions. The craven abstention of the government on the United Nations vote censuring the USA for its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel springs to mind.

Government seems to subscribe to the view that it is the only entity that should have access to information that could be critical to the present and future well-being of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. The much touted concepts of transparency and accountability go out of the window, it seems, when it comes to foreign policy.

The NWU reminds that nation that on 2013-06-04, the we called upon the government to publish the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) it signed with the United States in May 2013, which by all accounts would have given the United States armed forces extraordinary privileges in Trinidad and Tobago, a worrying development given the USA’s military threats and aggression toward Venezuela.

We wish to further remind the population that on 2013-09-24 the NWU called upon the government to publish the memorandum of agreement between the governments of T&T and Venezuela concerning the Loran Manatee gas field. They have never done so.

It is time that the veil is removed and the government take the citizenry into its confidence on foreign policy issues, which in many respects are as critical to our survival as domestic policy positions. There is no better time to do so than now, by explaining the thinking behind the government’s stance on Dominica’s request.

SOLIDARITY WITH BARBUDA

posted 22 Mar 2018, 11:05 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 22 Mar 2018, 11:06 ]

The following media release was issued on March 16th by Pan-African Unity Dialogue, based in New York.  It is titled Pan-African Unity Dialogue in Solidarity with the People of Barbuda; Efforts Underway to Prevent a “Land Grab” by Actor Robert DeNiro. The group's contact is Don Rojas donrojas636@gmail.com Tel: 410-844-1031.

The Pan-African Unity Dialogue (PAUD), a regular forum of African diaspora organizations in the New York metro area, is expressing support and solidarity with the people of Barbuda as they struggle against a land grab being orchestrated by movie actor and real estate developer Robert De Niro in collusion with the current government of Prime Minister Gaston Browne. 

In addition, PAUD is calling for a #Shame on You De Niro Twitter campaign to draw public attention to this egregious situation and to pressure both DeNiro and the Browne government to cease with this greedy land acquisition and to fully respect the democratic rights that the residents of Barbuda had enjoyed before Hurricane Irma devastated the island in September last year. 

“DeNiro represents a face that stands for an array of wealthy investors who fail to be sensitive to the history and traditions of participatory democracy practiced by Barbudans before staking a claim to their paradise,” said Dr. Ron Daniels, Convener of PAUD and President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century.

Recently, a backroom deal was hatched between the Gaston Browne government and DeNiro and his investor partners that would exploit the horrific damage Barbuda faced in the wake of Hurricane’s Irma’s devastation of the island which resulted in 90% damage to buildings and infrastructure and to the evacuation of all 1800 residents of Barbuda to Antigua. To date, about 400 residents have returned to the 62 square mile island that the Washington Post described as a “forgotten Eden.”

On December 12, just a few weeks after the hurricane struck Barbuda, a sweeping 13-page “amendment” to the hard-won Barbuda Land Act was officially introduced in Antigua and Barbuda’s House of Representatives. It includes changes that entirely reverse the meaning of the law.

In the amendment, a clause declaring Barbuda “owned in common by the people of Barbuda” was deleted and replaced. “The fundamental purpose of the Act is to grant to Barbudans the right to purchase the [land],” the amended act reads.

To add salt to the wound, the amendment also altered the definition of a Barbudan, eliminating those whose grandparents lived on the island. With the law’s passage, a swath of the Barbudan diaspora’s claims to the land were erased.

Days after the Barbuda Land Act amendment passed in the Antigua & Barbuda

Parliament, the Clinton Foundation and the Rocky Mountain Institute announced, unbeknown to the Barbuda Council members, “a new effort to redesign Barbuda’s power sector and to shift to a renewable energy model.”

Members of ‘Barbuda Silent No More’ filed a request for an injunction, calling the amendment illegal. But a judge denied the injunction,
Robert De Niro
and last month, the amendment to the land law was approved and signed by the governor general.

The deal would change the island’s communal land ownership law in the interest of developers and particularly DeNiro who has plans to build a luxury resort on Barbuda called ‘Paradise Found Nobu’. The resort is to be built on 555 acres of land leased to DeNiro for 178 Years, for just $6.2 million, plus an array of tax benefits.

PM Browne has declared DeNiro an official “economic envoy” of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.

However, a large number of Barbudans including a majority living in diaspora communities in New York, Atlanta and Toronto regard DeNiro, not as an envoy but more as a predator who’s playing a role of disaster capitalist in the Caribbean.

“Invariably, such investors get their hands on virgin land, cheap or at no price. They then turn around and sell these lands as luxury properties for the rich and famous and make a quick profit with huge returns….getting a big name attached to your venture is seen as a way of selling to the clientele,” said a member of the ‘Barbuda Silent No More’ group.

There are painful historical echoes in this series of events. Barbuda’s history is sparsely documented, but according to residents, the special land law has its roots in 1834, when a pitched conflict erupted in response to an attempt to forcibly relocate newly emancipated slaves in Barbuda to plantations in Antigua so that a slave owner, Sir Christopher Bethell-Codrington, could collect compensation for his lost “property” from the British Crown.

The Barbudan slaves refused to move, preferring to stay on the land and waters where they had long raised animals, farmed, and fished. After a failed attempt to quash the resistance by British forces, the freed slaves eventually gained control over the land on their island.

Indeed, on the land where they had been slaves, Barbudans created a democratic, communal ownership structure, which they have fiercely protected for almost two centuries. Land in Barbuda could not be bought and sold willy nilly to rich and powerful developers. The island ran like a co-op with decisions about land use driven by an elected council and approvals for major developments going to a general vote.

Tiny as it was in numbers, pre-Hurricane Barbudan society offered the Caribbean and the black world, more broadly, a rare example of participatory economic planning and communal land distribution to freed slaves and their descendants from emancipation in 1834 down through the generations to the present. The steep social and economic inequalities that are a fact of life across the Caribbean did not exist in Barbuda. The ocean provides food security, and any Barbudan could claim occupancy of beachfront property.

“The Pan African Unity Dialogue is demanding that Barbudans be given the right by the central government in Antigua to return to their island without hindrance and to re-settle their ancestral lands and resume building Barbuda as a fine example of sustainable, people-centered, democratic development in the Caribbean, ” said Dr. Daniels.

Some Barbudans are calling on DeNiro to express support for the will and desire of Barbudans to maintain their communal land ownership. They concede that his project could still proceed but it would require the consent of the community.

For many Barbudans, recovery from Hurricane Irma has not been “a just recovery.” They cite as a bitter irony that Barbudans with their history of participatory democracy and careful land use practices had all of these rights before the hurricane struck. And now, dispersed from their homes after Irma, they are in the midst of losing them. 

NWU: RE-INSTATE DISMISSED PSA WORKERS NOW

posted 20 Feb 2018, 13:22 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 20 Feb 2018, 13:27 ]

The following statement was released on February 20th 2018.

Image result for bigwu logoThe National Workers Union (NWU), categorically and unreservedly condemns the
Watson Duke
action of the President of the Public Services Association (PSA) and the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC), in dismissing eight workers employed by the PSA for wearing jerseys of the Banking Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU), the union to which they belong.

This dastardly action on the part of the president of the PSA and NATUC is without precedent in the annals of trade unionism in T&T. It is mind boggling that a trade union leader would so wantonly violate the rights of trade union members to peaceful protest and to engage in such blatant victimisation of workers for engaging in traditional trade union activities. This is illegal under the labour laws of T&T.

It is significant to note that among those dismissed are the President, Vice President and Secretary of the BIGWU branch of the PSA staff and two of the workers who were engaged in compiling a new PSA voters’ list as ordered by the High Court.

The employers must be rubbing their hands in glee and raising their glasses in a toast to what can only be considered their fifth columnist in the trade union movement. The irony is that employers have accepted over the years that union members are within their right to wear their union jerseys on the workplace, but here we have a trade union leader dismissing workers for engaging in a practice which has been engaged in by the very members of the PSA from time to time.

Watson Duke’s horrifying action, while disgusting in the extreme, should come as no surprise, since this is not the first time he has dismissed PSA staff members. At least nine such dismissals have been deemed by the court to be unlawful.

The National Workers Union urges the leadership of the PSA to immediately re-instate the dismissed workers.

The National Workers Union calls upon members of the PSA to make it crystal clear that they stand for justice and the right to union representation by calling upon Watson Duke to resign immediately as President of their long-standing organisation.

The National Workers Union calls upon all trade union leaders to condemn strongly this attack on the heart of trade unionism inflicted by one of their own and to make it clear that such a person has no place in the business of defending, protecting and advancing the interests of workers which is the raison d’être of the trade union movement.

The National Workers Union calls upon the National Trade Union Centre to condemn this gross violation of trade union principle and to call for the immediate re-instatement of the dismissed workers and move quickly to initiate proceedings for the removal of Watson Duke from his position as president of NATUC.

The National Workers Union calls upon the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM), of which BIGWU is a member, to stand in solidarity with the dismissed workers and their union and to render whatever assistance they may deem fit to the workers.

The National Workers Union stands in solidarity with the dismissed workers and with the Banking Insurance and General Workers Union as they seek to ensure that this gross perversion of justice is rectified.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

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

N.U.D.E.: SUBMISSION ON NIS TO JOINT SELECT COMMITTEE

posted 24 Jan 2018, 07:05 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 24 Jan 2018, 07:22 ]

Ida Le Blanc
The National Union of Domestic Employees (NUDE) supplied the following document as preliminary comments to the joint select committee on finance and legal affairs. It is entitled AN ENQUIRY INTO CERTAIN ASPECTS OF THE NATIONAL INSURANCE SYSTEM IN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO dated January 12th 2018 and signed by General Secretary Ida Le Blanc.

On the request of the committee it deals with the extent to which employers of domestic employees in Trinidad and Tobago fulfill their responsibilities as per the national insurance act. It also deals with the potential implications of an increase in the retirement age on workers and the performance of the National Insurance Board in distributing benefits to employees under the union`s remit.


BACKGROUND

The National Union of Domestic Employees (NUDE) was registered as a trade union in December, 1982 under the Registration of Trade Union Act. The union organizes domestic workers, who work as cleaners, cooks, housekeepers, caregivers, handymen, drivers, ironers, gardeners, who work in private residences.

They complained that they worked without contracts so their duties would be changed unilaterally by the employer and they are expected to perform additional duties that was not agreed to when they first started the job, low wages and the non existence of paid vacation leave and overtime payment, they are also not paid for statutory Public Holidays when it falls on their work day. Sleep In domestic workers are always on call and they are expected to work `round the clock when they are hired to do care-giving work.

Sleep In Domestic Workers complain that they are always on call and the National Insurance is not paid on their behalf. They are not registered in some instances and when they enquire from the National Insurance they are fired and they have no means of recourse
under labour legislation because they are not considered as workers under the Industrial Relations Act (IRA).

This action by the employer denies them the right to benefits that other workers enjoy, sickness, injury, pension, etc. They sometimes have to work under poor and abusive working conditions and when they are injured they are unable to access the National Insurance injury benefits nor compensation under the Workmen Compensation neither can they access the Occupational Safety and Health Act for redress. Frequently when they are injured on the job they are fired and have no means of recourse under the Industrial Relations Act and if they were not registered under the National Insurance System they cannot access social security benefits as other workers. Where live-in workers are fired without notice, they are left homeless, especially in the case of migrant domestic workers.

In 1992 NUDE expanded its membership to include general workers to concentrate on organising workers in the informal sector into the union, persons who work as drivers, janitors, bartenders, loaders, waitresses, store clerks, merchandisers, production workers, quarry workers etc.

Their complaints were no different to the domestic workers the only difference is that they are considered workers and the union can seek recourse on their behalf in matters of wrongful dismissal claims and any other trade dispute that may arise.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) the provision of social protection is an effective and important means of reducing poverty and social exclusion as it prevents people from falling into poverty and enables the poor to escape the poverty trap. In the absence of social protection, people, especially the most vulnerable, are subjected to increased risks of sinking below the poverty line or remaining caught in conditions of poverty.

The biggest problem for our members with the system is the registration of domestic workers and low income workers in the informal sector and the payment of their contributions to the NIB, some employers deduct contributions from the workers` salary but never pay the required contributions to the NIB. Some employers tell them they are paying the contributions but they never do.

They only become aware of this when they seek out the benefits, whether it is injury, sickness or maternity benefits. Sometimes it is when they apply for their pension then they realise the amount of contributions missing even though it was deducted from their salary. The NIB officer will then ask the worker for proof that she/he worked with the person in the case of the domestic worker or the company with other workers.

When domestic workers proceed on sick leave which they are entitled to under the Household Assistant Order (Minimum Wages Act) once they have been continuously employed for a period of at least six months and once they produce a sick leave when leave is taken in excess of two days. They are entitled to two weeks sick leave paid by the NIB and the employer.

But if the worker was not registered with NIB which is the employer`s responsibility to register them and pay the contributions that were deducted from their salary with their corresponding contribution to the NIB, to enable workers to access their benefits under the system as all other workers. The same happens with the other benefits such as maternity, injury etc.

Domestic workers are frequently not given a formal written contract which is a provision of the Minimum Wages (Household Assistant) Order set out in section 10 which states the duties, hours of work and rest periods of every household assistant shall be clearly set out in writing by his employer when the household assistant first assumes duties. This written information by the employer could be used as evidence that you worked with the employer but that is never done so domestic workers has no proof of working with the employer. There is no effective monitoring system to ensure that employers abide by the law.

THE POTENTIAL IMPLICATIONS OF AN INCREASE IN THE RETIREMENT AGE ON WORKERS

Most workers look forward to their pension from NIS when they reach the age of 60. Domestic workers are preparing and awaiting with anticipation to reach the age 60 to receive their pension, because of some of the arduous tasks they have been performing for years, which becomes more difficult to perform as they age and the work itself is bad for the domestic workers` health after the age of 60.

Some domestic workers have made domestic work a lifetime occupation and performing these jobs for years especially ironing, lifting and moving around furniture, taking care of the children, elderly and disabled lifting and turning the aged and disabled has its effects around 60. That is when ailments start affecting workers who do these jobs, this is arduous work.

The trend across the world is to increase the retirement age to deal with the ageing population (especially the baby boomers generation) and the pressure this is putting on old age pension schemes. However, the Convention 128 on invalidity, old age and survivors benefit convention contains a provision that says that certain categories of workers should be treated differently and allowed a different retirement age because of their type of work.

Art 15 (3) of the convention says 'If the prescribed age is 65 years or higher, the age shall be lowered, under prescribed conditions, in respect of persons who have been engaged in occupations that are deemed by national legislation, for the purpose of old-age benefit, to be arduous or unhealthy.'

However we all know that pension reform is inevitable. Therefore we suggest a formalization policy to get more workers paying National Insurance before taking action to increase the age, we need a pension reform bringing all the stakeholders together to have a national dialogue.

The ILO has well researched the issue of social protection for all in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which states in SDG-1.3: Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable”

National Insurance is only deducted when you work in continuous service, if a domestic worker was to get a job at a private residence you cannot pay for her if she comes in once in a while, or when needed, which may be once over a long period if their expertise is house cleaning. After one month employers have to notify the NIB if the worker no longer works with you if NIS is not paid on the workers behalf, so they are left out of the system. These workers who may work in different homes on a “when needed basis” NIS is not paid on their behalf, all these workers should be picked up in the system.

The National Union of Domestic Employees (NUDE) conceptualized The Service Workers Centre Co-operative in its venture to formalize domestic work to ensure domestic workers are registered with National Insurance and contributions paid on their behalf, the formation of the co-op was a natural progression to address these issues and other issues of abuse and poor working conditions.

Twenty five members of NUDE who are domestic workers, caregivers, ironers and those other workers who have experience in domestic work came together and formed the Co-operative, to offer services in care. The maintenance of the private homes and small establishments, caring for the elderly, disabled and children in private homes our membership is made up of women and men willing to work together towards getting a decent life for themselves. They expect in the future to open their own home for the elderly.

We recommend a simplified scheme for small contributors or difficult to cover groups, NUDE, The Service Workers Co-operative and other organisations like the maxi taxi association, the taxi association, farmers, etc can work as Intermediaries of The National Insurance Board to bring on more contributors.

NUDE is suggesting that the government look into the use of the Service Vouchers as a simplified scheme which is ongoing in France, Belgium and the canton of Geneva. According to Samuel Grumiau, a free lance journalist specialized in international labour issues in his report prepared for the ILO Bureau for Workers` activities (ACTRAV) on formalizing domestic work through the use of service vouchers.

He said, all over the world, a large proportion of domestic workers remain in the informal economy and this prevents them from fully enjoying all rights enshrined in these new standards. Various countries and regions have set up service voucher to help domestic workers to emerge from the informal economy by easing the administrative burdens on the private citizens who wish to employ them. This report briefly describes how schemes of this kind have been put in place in France, Belgium, and the Swiss canton of Geneva, three places that they work particularly well.

NUDE is recommending the Service Vouchers for domestic workers who work on an irregular basis, this in no way is advocating for a change in the registering and paying for full time and part time domestic workers into the National Insurance System. It could be used for street vendors, farmers, and other workers who are left out the system. All this should be implemented with much needed quality service. This will also include many other workers in the system, workers who are marginalized and are denied the right to social protection. Hiding employers will become visible to engage in formal agreement with difficult to cover workers. The system must also combat fraud and corruption.

THE PERFORMANCE OF THE NIBTT IN DISTRIBUTING BENEFITS TO EMPLOYEES UNDER THE UNION REMIT WHO SUBMITTED NIS CLAIMS

Workers who are unable to read and write complain that they receive no assistance from NIB in filling out the complaint form and the request for contribution statement; if the union representative tries to assist we are told by NIB that we are not the insured person.

They complain about the length of time they have to wait when a complaint is made against the employer, the investigation stays too long leaving the worker despondent, having negative things to say. There should be more transparency and communication.

The contribution statement should have the employer`s name to enable workers to keep their own records over time, especially important in preparing for retirement.

When workers apply for pension benefits and they are “sent up and down” as they say seeking information on their past employment which may be forty years ago, they end up leaving frustrated and fed up and discontinue the process to access the benefit.

RECOMMENDATIONS

1. A Reform Commission should be set up with the stakeholders, inclusive of trade union, employers, civil society, government, NIB, to discuss the way forward in a positive, peaceful and meaningful way that will preserve the right to pension.

2. Rigorous campaign to encourage employers to register workers and capture unpaid national insurance contributions from employers, especially in the case that they have deducted contributions from the workers` wages.

3. Efficient and effective solutions to deal with complaints.

4. Make it mandatory to give payslips to workers.

5. Follow the Uruguay model that produces a book in school for students and teachers to inform about responsibilities and obligations under the social security system.

6. Awareness/sensitization exercise towards changing the mindset towards National Insurance

7. Capacity Development Training

8. Transparency is needed for workers who are contributors

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