These are the Media releases recently issued by the Union and other organisations/people..
The Communication Workers Union published the following analysis of the 2015 budget.
A budget is an estimate of income and expenditure for a set period. Simply put it is an itemized summary of likely income and expenses for a given period. It is supposed to be an invaluable tool to help you prioritise your spending and your money regardless of how much or how little you have.
In the political arena a Government Budget is a Government document which reflects a Government’s proposed revenues and spending for a financial year. Such a Budget is supposed to answer questions such as how much money the Government spends, where are my tax dollars going, what services are to be provided in the Budget, how much will go to reducing debt, how much will be allocated to areas such as Health Care, Education, Crime etc.
Has the Minister of Finance fulfilled these theoretical aspects of a Budget; it appears so but if a careful analysis is done it would reveal that successive Finance Ministers has failed to provide a Budget document with any clear philosophy, taking into account our social, cultural and economic environment.
Additionally, nowhere in this presentation was an analysis done or a report given on what was supposed to be done in the last budget and the status of those said proposals. As such the ordinary citizens are not able to appreciate the performance of the Government based on its previous Budget Presentation. Further no mention was made of any of the critical analysis of fundamental concepts used or looked at in developing this Budget Statement.
What we have experienced once again is a political statement which began when the Prime Minister put on the hat of the Finance Minister and made a premature pronouncement on what can best be described as a “baby fund.” This pronouncement was very unethical as it is part of the Budget Statement and should have been left for delivery by the Finance Minister. Instead the Prime Minister attempted to politicise this measure in order to claim ownership of the idea.
On the surface some of the measures outlined appears to be well intended but based on recent expose and experiences with make work programmes such as Life Sport, one has to be very wary of the fallouts which initiatives like these can attract. To manage this Fund would be an administrative nightmare and it would create the opportunity for abuse and corruption by unscrupulous persons.
As such, more thought should have been given on mechanism to provide Social Services and support to the same people being targeted so that they could be guided on proper family planning, making themselves employable, and financial management, without putting any further burden on the Treasury.
We are quite disappointed with the fact that little or no mention was made about the allocation to the Ministry of Labour, where the Workers’ Agenda is supposed to be driven. Important initiatives such as the National Productivity Council and the Social Dialogue Process are all under the Ministry of Labour and are critical towards economic development.
It is also an embarrassment that in this modern era we still have workers being discriminated against as it relates to compensation because of gender and to make it worse this was being practised by the Government as an employer with former Trade Union Leaders in the Cabinet.
This Government having come into power on a Manifesto promise to make workers the centre of national development, should not have waited until its last year in office to address this situation.We however welcome the increase of the Minimum Wage but we are of the view that it is time we move away from a Minimum Wage and establish a Living Wage so that the less privileged in Society could have a decent standard of living.
As it relates to the proposed Legislation to regulate Credit Unions, it is hoped that good sense would prevail and those in authority would not blindly pursue an agenda that can destroy the philosophy of the Credit Union Movement: “People Serving people, Not for Profit, Not for Charity but for Service”, by putting restrictions/ regulations in place which could have the effect of turning a progressive Working Class Institution into a traditional financial institution the likes of which encourages classism.
We also note that no mention was made of the Government’s plan for TSTT’s shareholding arrangement which was centre stage within recent times and whilst mention was made of the settlement of outstanding negotiations in the public sector the Finance Minister as Corporation Sole with financial responsibility for TSTT is quite aware that TSTT Junior and Senior Staff Employees are still working on 2007 salaries in 2014.
Yet not one single word on the treatment of outstanding compensation packages for these workers in an essential industry which is a key driver in the development of the Telecommunication/Information Technology Infrastructure of our country.
As expected this was an election budget with a lot of Public Relations before and during the presentation, as it is the last budget presentation before the next General Elections and the People’s Partnership has played its hand by providing some goodies in order to persuade the electorate to give them another term in office, without any clear indication of how these initiatives would be financed or how implementation issues would be addressed. If our people would be fooled this time around it is left to be seen but for a Government that performed so miserably during its term of office we doubt that this latest political statement would do anything to erase the memories and missteps of the last four years.
EBOLA WARNING FOR HEALTH
The National Health Workers Union (NHWU) is very concerned about statements made by the by Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Colin Furlonge at a recent media conference dealing with the country’s readiness to meet the challenge of the Ebola disease.
According to media reports, the CMO claimed that the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) at Mount Hope and the Caura Hospital have been “mandated to provide clinical services and quarantine” for anyone who enters the country with Ebola infection.
Dr. Furlonge claimed that: “We’ve identified a 12-bedded area at EWMSC which will be used to triage suspected cases and we have identified two 24- bedded wards at Caura Hospital, which we will utilise if it is necessary at all, if we have to quarantine anyone.” Three rooms in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at EWMSC that would be capable of “providing isolation and care” have also been identified.
The CMO went on to say that the Ministry of Health will be using newspaper advertisements as well as television and radio interviews with health officials to inform the public about the latest developments in the fight to contain Ebola.
This media statement certainly raises a number of troubling questions. Managers and staff of the departments supposedly involved, inclusive of the Caura hospital, were not informed and were totally unaware of this development until it was reported in the media. Instead of those who would have to be on the frontline facing this threat being involved from the get go and being an integral part of strategising and planning the battle against Ebola, they, like workers usually are, are perceived as an afterthought.
No one knew where the quarantine area is at Caura, or where the 12 bed treatment area is at EWMSC.
There has been no sensitising, preparation or training for those staff members who will have to interface with infected persons.
No one even knows what personal protective equipment is needed, far less being trained to use them. This also applies to the protocols that must apply in dealing with infected persons, especially as Ebola infection has such a high mortality rate.
Staff members are particularly concerned that no discussion, far less consensus, has taken place about what would occur if staff members become infected by this disease; what protocols would apply in terms of protecting their families from probable infection; how would it affect infected workers’ working conditions.
The International Rescue Committee's health coordinator in Sierra Leone has said that damage to the health care system is the "biggest threat" that the Ebola outbreak poses to that country. The virus has already killed 10 percent of the medical staff in Kenema District hospital, Sierra Leone. In Liberia, 15% of those who have died from the virus were doctors or nurses who contracted it at work.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) warns it is not always possible to identify Ebola infection early because initial symptoms are non-specific. It is important, therefore, that health-care workers apply standard precautions consistently with all patients – regardless of their diagnosis – in all work practices at all times. The problem is that our health care workers have not been informed and trained. We are poorly equipped and insufficiently prepared. Those at risk are not limited to those who have contact with infected persons. Laboratory workers are also at risk.
The National Health Workers Union (NHWU) views the CMO’s statement as more a public relations gimmick than the announcement of a well-thought out medical strategy designed to tackle what could be a serious situation.
The approach of the Chief Medical officer reeks of disrespect for health workers and betrays a lack of understanding that the very health workers who have not been part of the planning of the approach to deal with Ebola are the very persons who are expected to put their lives on the line to combat this disease should it enter the country.
The announcements have caught everyone with their pants down and as it stands members of staff are not clear as to whether or not they are truly mandated to engage these patients and put their own lives at risk.
The National Health Workers Union (NHWU) urges health workers, who may have to deal with the Ebola virus and who have not been trained to understand the protocols and to use the personal protective equipment, to put their safety and their families’ safety first and further urges them not to interface with suspected Ebola - affected persons until they are properly trained to do so.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Nigel Small, Chair, North Central Branch of the National Health Workers Union @ 790-2983.
DEMOCKRACY BEFORE AND AFTER
use dey riches and dey power;
a mockery of the law
have de law protect dem same time”
oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular
representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress
After a thorough discussion on the Constitutional Amendment Bill on Sunday 10th August the executive of the National Workers Union issued the following statement. (The bill was passed in parliament on the morning of 2014/08/12).
All those who have commented, for and against, on the Constitution Amendment Bill, which the ruling UNC has foisted on the country, have wrapped themselves in the cloak of democracy.
Those opposed to the amendments have shouted from the rooftops that they are defending democracy from governmental assault; those in support that they are promoting and deepening democracy and empowering the people. Democracy, therefore, seems to be all things to all men.
This democracy of which they speak seems to be focussed on elections…full stop. It strengthens the concept that once you have periodic elections you are a democracy. T&T must be the leading democratic country in the world. We have had five general elections in ten years and since May 2010 we have had one general election, two local government elections and two bye-elections.
The focus of the constitution reform exercise has not been on how to involve working people in developing and executing policy and exercising control over politicians, but it has focused on tweaking the electoral system to gain advantage for the governing political party.
The only person amidst the noise and haste who has come close to throwing light on the matter is Merle Hodge when she lamented: “…our failure to propose anything that increases the direct input of ordinary citizens into decision-making. We have proposed no structures or mechanisms to achieve this…
Popular participation in the democratic process has not been expanded one jot beyond periodically staining the tip of one of our fingers. ‘More power to the people’? I don’t think so,”
This is the crux of the matter, whether first past the post, proportional representation, mixed system, run-off elections…none of these methods advance the interests of working people and the poor. They are about electing which gang of political hustlers and confidence tricksters will live off the fat of the land, feed at the trough of public funds and ensure that their financiers are well taken care of.
This democracy, which everybody claims to uphold, is always restricted by the narrow limits set by our neo-colonial, crony capitalist economic and political system and is in reality a democracy for the minority, a democracy for the propertied classes, a democracy for the rich, for those who rely on the state to accumulate capital: for party financiers and political investors.
The debate on democracy never enters the realm of industrial democracy; democracy at the workplace, without which all steps forward in expanding rights and freedoms would be baby steps and vulnerable to reversal.
While citizens are caught up in trying to understand the implications of the Constitution Amendment Bill, let us not forget that the infamous Section 34 of The Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Bill was designed to ensure that party financiers would escape jail for their crimes.
How many citizens are aware that on July 18th 2014, a bill was enacted in the House of Representatives called The Securities (Amendment) Bill, 2013? It provides for prosecutions as summary offences and not indictable offences; it provides for $10 million in fines and a jail term of ten years for insider trading, but the perpetrators may pay an administrative fine of $500,000 to avoid facing prosecution. Further, within seven years of the commission of an offence the matter must be brought to court or it becomes time-barred. Like in the case of Section 34 the bill was passed unanimously.
Gang-related offences may land a gang member in jail for life, are indictable offences and have no time limit for prosecution. Party financiers and political investors certainly stand to benefit from this travesty. Investigations in T&T take years and years before they are completed and insider trading is a complex matter that has to be thorough and detailed lest it becomes meat and drink for millionaire lawyers.
How many insider trading prosecutions have there been? None: yet there is no urgency to tackle the question of campaign finance reform. They will not cut off their nose to spite their face. So much for democracy for all!
Owing to the everyday conditions of existence of capitalist exploitation, working people are under so much pressure to carve out a decent, civilised quality of life for themselves and their children that they cannot be “bothered” with democracy or with “politics”.
This, of course, strengthens the interests of the ruling elites. Outside of periods of heightened class struggles the majority of the population is practically debarred from participation in public and political life.
One argument states that we must defend “our constitution”. How did the republican constitution and before it the Independence constitution become “our” constitution? The Independence constitution was ‘negotiated’ by the British imperialists and middle class politicians who hi-jacked the independence movement and have ever since engaged in using the state to feather their nests through corrupt relationships with transnational corporations, local merchant capitalists, party financiers and political investors.
The independence constitution, in essence, saw the continuation of crown colony government with the Prime Minister taking the place of the governor. The republican constitution just tweaked the Independence constitution and allowed the government to stuff the cabinet with unelected senators, thus increasing the power of the Prime Minister.
The term limits on a prime minister, some argue will prevent the rise of petty dictators, but the very structure of the constitution makes a prime minister a dictator, whether she is in power for one day or a hundred years.
The citizens of the country continue to remain alienated from the process of government and are assigned a role as periodic election fodder. When the elections are over they are expected to go about their business and not meddle in affairs of governance until the next election. So those who defend “our” constitution are in fact defending a neo-colonial imposition, the people had no part in shaping.
The government talks about empowering the people, when in reality it’s all about the ruling UNC trying by both hook and crook to avoid defeat at the next general election. Pious declarations about people’s participation and empowerment are just smoke and mirrors to obscure naked partisan greed.
The right of recall as a principle could hardly be criticised, but the process by which the recall is to be implemented makes it practically impossible to recall any member of parliament. The right of recall has been converted into the impossibility of recall. Ruling elites have no interest in power to the people.
Yet they argue that the power of recall will force MP’s to work and represent their constituents in a more dedicated manner. The reality is that the real job of an MP is not to represent the needs of his constituents, but to act as voting fodder for the ruling party to enact laws and adopt policies in parliament. There is no institutional mechanism for MP’s to “represent” constituents, except to be able to beg and plead with Cabinet Ministers and the Prime Minister. This applies to both government and opposition MP’s.
The more they insist they are “empowering” people, the more they centralise power in their own hands. The power of recall of MP’s is in the hands of leaders of political parties: ask Herbert Volney!
A lot of foolishness has been spoken about the runoff guaranteeing a “majority” MP. How ridiculous! Even if a candidate gets more than fifty percent of the vote, she is hardly likely to get more than fifty percent of the electorate.
In a runoff, if it does not have a direct bearing on who forms the government, there is likely to be a reduction in those voting from the first round. Fifty percent of fifty percent is equal to a “majority” MP! Constitutional mathematics in yuh pweffen!
Political parties in T&T are just vote-collecting machines financed by capitalists with deep pockets. Constitutional rights are violated on a routine basis in this country. Those who cannot pay high-priced lawyers are supposed to just grin and bear it.
Before the Constitution Amendment Bill was passed, Trinidad and Tobago was a neo-colonial society, run by transnational corporations, merchant capitalists, narcotraficantes, party financiers, political investors and eat-a-food politicians.
After the constitution Amendment Bill was passed Trinidad and Tobago is still a neo-colonial society, run by transnational corporations, merchant capitalists, narcotraficantes, party financiers, political investors and eat-a-food politicians.
The National Workers Union is well aware that the Constitution is supposed to guarantee freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of speech, but in practice, there are so many constraints placed on these, that they exist only in so far as they do not threaten the interests of those who control the economy and the state. What good is a right that exists only on paper?
Constitutional rights were never “granted’ to working people. They have always been fought for and forced upon the ruling class, particularly by the labour movement over the years, across the globe. Constitutions guarantee nothing! To ensure that constitutional rights are exercised in practice, the people must be so organised and alert and willing to apply pressure from below that governments will find it impossible to trifle with their hard-won rights and freedoms.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Gerry Kangalee (National Education and
Research Officer – Cell: 785-7637)
JOINT TRADE UNION
August 5, 2014
Calls for Immediate
Independent Enquiry at PETROTRIN
The Joint Trade Union Movement is calling for an immediate
enquiry on the recent oil spill disaster at PETROTRIN.
At a meeting of the Joint Trade Union Leaders this week all
Unions present agreed to advocate against any attempt by the government to side
step what is a major disaster. The JTUM supports the residents of Marabella and
other surrounding areas affected by this latest oil spill.
The JTUM identifies the major players who must be held
responsible among the following:
The Board of Directors (PETROTRIN)
PETROTRIN President, Khalid Hassanali
and the top management with oversight over the process
The Minister of Energy and Energy
Ultimately it must be remembered that PETROTRIN is a State
enterprise in the energy sector and so the government must be collectively held
responsible. This company is a major revenue earner for the country and
therefore government has a responsibility to guarantee and secure the processes
which attend to the production, storage and downstream activity of the sector.
The JTUM further notes with concern the fact that the
government and the company were warned of the very concerns that have now
manifested themselves in a report produced by the Oilfield Workers Trade Union
(OWTU). The Union then attempted to present the report to the Prime Minister
who refused to accept same.
This report contained constructive recommendations which if
implemented and accepted would certainly have forestalled tis latest disaster.
This report was presented to His Excellency, the President of
Trinidad and Tobago, Anthony Carmona.
The JTUM also calls for the quashing of any audit or enquiry
now being hurriedly commissioned by the discredited executive management of
PETROTRIN to engage the services of Price Waterhouse, and audit firm to
investigate this disaster. Price Waterhouse is a service provider to PETROTRIN
and as such does have a conflict of interest in this matter.
The JTUM supports Ancil Roget, President General of OWTU who said
that the company must be held accountable. In the first disaster last December
attempts were made to suggest in some twisted way that the Union was to be
looked at. That realm of folly was soon smashed as it became clear that the
real culprits were gross mismanagement and negligence at the very top. Attempts
to blame a bundwall around the affected oil storage facility is really a
smokescreen to what is the real issue.
We wish to warn the population that there are a reported 42
oil storage tanks which are at risk and can cause even more disasters through
the rupturing of tank walls.
The President of PETROTRIN must go now! The entire Board must
Outstanding Issues Affecting
Fire Service Second Division Officers
The following statement was issued by the Trinidad and Tobago Fire Officers Association Second Division (TTFSA2) in response to a request from the National Workers Union. The statement is published in the wake of the picket staged by Fire officers on Friday 25th July 2014.
The TTFSA2 has represented fire officers since 1967 and has a membership of approximately 1,500. Their relationship to their employer is regulated by the Fire Service Act no. 31 of 1965 as subsequently amended.
The Fire Service Association (Second Division) is saying that Fire Officers are being treated unjustly and in the interest of justice and fairness calls for an immediate investigation into the management of the Fire Service by the Chief Fire officer. We are being treated like the bastard child of the Ministry of National Security and are requesting the intervention of the Prime Minister, Minister of Public Administration, Minister of National Security and the Permanent Security Ministry of National Security to rescue us from the abysmal situation that now plague fire officers.
The administration of the Fire Service has reached an all- time low. Fire officers are totally neglected by the Fire Service administration, the Director of Personnel Administration, The Chief Personnel Officer and by extension the Government.
Everything is going wrong administratively in the Fire Service but fire officers continue to perform their duties without hesitation despite the poor treatment meted out by the administration. This can be evidenced by the following:
1. Health Welfare and Safety of Officers:
Recently officers had to dodge stones & gunshots whilst extinguishing a fire on the roadway in Laventille. We heard Inspector Mystar on TV speaking about this, however to date not one word from the Chief Fire Officer. The silence from the C.F.O is deafening on these high risk areas where personnel have to venture daily during the course of their duties. What is the protective protocol in the face of these major threats to Fire Officers?
Personnel at the Roxborough Fire Station have been subjected to unsafe conditions and placed at undue risk, as it relates to the continued occupation of that structure, contrary to the OSH Act 2004 (as amended 2006). Despite being informed of the dilapidated & unsafe conditions that exist there along with the recommendations from the Structural Engineer of the MOW&T, that the structure be demolished ASAP.
To date personnel attached there are scared and has demanded our intervention. To date these issues remain unresolved and we are in the first year of the Collective Bargaining period 2014 to 2016
2. Failure to Promote Fire Officers:
No promotion has been made by the Public Service Commission to the Rank of Fire Station Officer since 2005.
Fire Sub Station Officers qualified since 2003 for promotion to Fire Station Officer are yet to be promoted. Some of these officers are now appointed to act two (2) ranks above their substantive posts i.e. in the office of Assistant Divisional Fire Officer. Very often you hear of officers being promoted in the Police and Prison Service whereas no promotion in the Fire Service. This situation is negatively affecting the quality of supervision and discipline in the Fire Service. Also affected is our earning ability, standard of living and our ability to continue to provide the basic needs for our families. This results in very low morale and a feeling of discrimination in the Protective Services.
3. Nonpayment of outstanding Salary and Allowances for 2008 to 2010:
Many fire officers are still being paid at the 2007 remuneration level. Thousands of dollars are owed to fire officers due to the failure to fully implement the Collective Agreement for the period 2008 to 2010.
Salary increments outstanding for both serving and retired officers in contravention of regulation 31 (Terms and Conditions Regulations, 1998) resulting in most officers not being paid their correct salaries nor retirement benefits.
Acting allowances for appointed officers have not been paid since 2008 resulting in serving and retired officers being denied their property, thus affecting their standard of living.
Acting Fire Sub Officers and Acting Fire Sub Station Officers who are eligible for Qualifying Examination Allowance are not being paid this allowance in contravention of Cabinet Minute #791 of April 1970 and High Court judgment in action #1680 of 2003.
Qualifying Examination Allowance is not consolidated with the salaries of eligible officers upon retirement in contravention of Cabinet Minute #791 of April 1970 and High Court judgment, in action #1680 of 2003.
Pension and gratuity emoluments are not being paid in a timely manner to most eligible officers contrary to part v Payment of Pension, Regulation 43. of Fire Service Terms & Conditions of Employment Regulations 1998.
Officers injured during the course of duty are not being afforded timely medical treatment or reimbursed for medical expenses in contravention of Regulation 91 of the Protective Services Compensation Act No. 22 of 1996. (Basil Raphael, Navindra Jagdeo, Jason Forde, & Derryck Mitchell). In a job where fire officers are inherently exposed to numerous health risks, the level of medical treatment available is quite inadequate.
The following statement was issued by Joseph Remy, General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) on July 11th 2014.
The Communication Workers' Union would like to bring to the public's attention, the reasons for the action taken by workers who occupy the Caroline Building, Scarborough, Tobago, relative to their refusal to work in circumstances where their health and safety is in danger.
As can be gleaned from the attached pictures, this building is now undergoing some heavy construction activities due to renovation work being undertaken by the owner. The owner has also indicated that the lease for TSTT's occupation expired since March 2013 and they continued to occupy the building on a month to month arrangement.
Despite all of this, TSTT never once consulted with the workers or the CWU as the Recognized Majority Union for Senior and Junior Staff Bargaining Unit Employees. They sanctioned this construction work without the knowledge of the Workers or their Union and introduced unsafe conditions into the work place.
Workers took the decision to exercise their rights to refuse to work under these conditions and as such on Thursday July 10, 2014, they officially submitted Refusal to Work Reports to their Supervisors and the Company in accordance with Section 15 of the OSH Act and thereafter ceased to occupy that Building.
The Union, on behalf of the workers so affected, apologizes to the Public for this inconvenience but we believe that the Workers actions are justified and would also protect the lives of members of the Public who ventured to enter this Building to engage in business transactions.
NWU CONCERNED ABOUT MCLEOD’S ATTACK ON PSA MEMBERS
The National Workers Union (NWU)
notes with great concern the imposition of a stop order on the Public Services
Association (PSA) and the workers of the Immigration Department by the
Industrial Court at the behest of the Minister of Labour, ex-OWTU president
general, Errol K. McLeod.
The action by the Minister of
Labour, utilising section 65(1) of the Industrial Relations Act (IRA)
highlights the imbalance of power between workers and employers in a capitalist
The industrial relationship
between employer and employee is an adversarial one and is recognised as such
by the procedures laid out in the IRA designed to regulate that relationship.
Of course, in the final analysis, the relationship is skewed in favour of the
employer, because the employer can exert economic pressure on the workers and
the capitalist state has developed to protect the interests of the employer.
This is demonstrated graphically
in the IRA with its restrictions on the right to strike and its outright
prohibition of the exercise of that right by what is deemed in law to be
workers in essential services and the restrictions on workers in exercising
their right to freedom of association because they have been deemed essential industries.
The law, in large part, therefore,
serves the interests of the employers and, conversely, acts against the
interests of workers.
Employers may apply immediate
sanctions against workers through dismissal, suspension, retrenchment, denial
of promotions etc. But if workers take action against employers by exercising
their power to control the deployment of their labour power, the law steps in
and forces them to go through protracted legal processes or punishes them for
not doing so.
Workers should have the right to
take industrial action even though it may cause inconvenience to the public.
Even the founder of the PNM, Dr. Eric Williams recognised this when he said in
1960: “Industrial democracy is based on
the right of workers to strike, even though the community is thrown in turmoil.
It is the effective and often the only way of bringing the workers case to the
attention of the public…”
Of course, our first prime
minister made a u-turn on that position and all political parties have since
sought to suppress the exercise of the right to take industrial action,
including the right to strike, by workers.
The International Labor Organisation (ILO) of which
the government of Trinidad and Tobago is a member recognises the right to
strike. According to the ILO: “ The right to strike is recognized by the ILO’s
supervisory bodies as an intrinsic corollary of the right to organize
protected by Convention No. 87, deriving from the right of workers'
organizations to formulate their programmes of activities to further and defend
the economic and social interests of their members.”
It is clear that the law is designed to bolster, protect and defend the
interests of the employers. It is also clear that if workers are restricted in
their capacity to take collective action to advance, protect and defend their
interests they are rendered powerless in their relation to their employers.
While the Occupational Safety and
Health Act recognises workers’ right to withdraw from situations posing a
danger to their health and safety, the Minister of Labour used the IRA to stop
the workers at Immigration department from doing so.
Yet the IRA states in Section “(3) For the purposes of this Act, no person shall be regarded as a
worker, if he is —
(a) a public officer, as defined by section 3 of the
contradictory that the IRA deals with the relationship between workers and
employers; that public sector workers are specifically deemed as not being
workers, yet the IRA has been used to put a stop order on their actions.
This latest struggle of the workers in the public service confirms the
position of the National Workers Union that the labour laws in T&T are
oppressive and need to be overhauled from top to bottom; in particular the
Industrial Relations Act needs to be repealed and replaced by legislation that
will facilitate the interests of working people.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Gerry Kangalee (National Education and
Research Officer – Cell: 785-7637)
The following statement was issued by the National Workers Union to mark the occasion Of Labour Day, June 19th, 2014
Association is the most important issue facing trade unions across the planet.
It is fundamental to workers organising themselves for the purpose of
In T&T it takes a ridiculously long time to
determine an application to the Recognition Board for recognized majority union
status. Recognition claims may take as many as four years to be determined!
The Workers Agenda, which (now Minister of Labour) Errol K. McLeod piloted at an All Union COSSABO on April 18th 2010, called for the removal of this restriction among other issues. About the recognition process the Workers Agenda states:
“A limit of three (3) months needs to be put in place for the determination of recognition claims…”
McLeod and the party he led went into government in 2010. From then to now, when his party was in government and when he abandoned it to continue eating a food when they left, he has done nothing to advance the Workers Agenda.
The members of the Recognition Board are not full time and do not manage the day to day process of determining applications for recognition. The board more or less accepts and ratifies recommendations from the Secretariat, the members of which are public officers attached to the Ministry of Labour and under the control of Minister of Labour McLeod.
Trade unions have called for the repeal of the Industrial Relations Act as oppressive, anti-worker legislation enacted by a frightened PNM Government during a state of emergency in 1972. But the question of expedition in issuing recognition claims can be achieved even within the ambit of the law.
Bitter experience over the years has taught us that employers seize every opportunity to ignore and delay the recognition process. While we expect the employer to do all in his power to deny his employees trade union recognition, the processes employed by the Board have led us to the conclusion that the State shares the employer perspective and in fact acts consciously to protect the interests of the employers.
While the government pays lip service to upholding workers' right to collective bargaining, it in fact actively participates in the attempt to delay, obstruct and ultimately prevent workers from exercising their right to trade union representation.
The Recognition Board has developed Practice Notes that govern the process by which they go about determining applications. These are the cause of most of the problems. These Notes are the product of the Board Secretariat and can be amended without recourse to amending the legislation, if the Minister of Labour and his cabinet wish to do so.
Of course that would meet with opposition from the employers who finance the political hustlers and confidence tricksters who infest the parliament. It is clear that McLeod and his government have aligned themselves with anti-worker, anti-union employers.
The development of the Practice Notes and the implementation of the process of determining applications are not the product of the Recognition Board but that of the Secretariat which is under the control of the Minister of Labour.
The process is twofold: The first step is determining the appropriateness of the bargaining unit(s); the second step is the checking of records. The Secretariat seems to believe that there is some high science that must be invoked to determine a bargaining unit and that within the secretariat they alone have the “expertise” to determine bargaining units. It’s all a load of rubbish!
Step two is the checking of records which should be a relatively easy process, if not for the recalcitrance of the employers and the incredible level of superfluous detail that the Recognition Board requires from parties involved in the application.
The National Workers Union supports the recommendations of the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) Included among these recommendations are that the following time lines should be introduced:
1. A claim for recognition should be acknowledged by the Board within seven (7) days of its receipt;
2. Within fourteen days, the Board should convene a meeting of the union and the employer to discuss what bargaining unit(s) would be appropriate (this is the time-line set out in the IRA for the Ministry of Labour to convene a conciliation meeting for reported trade disputes);
3. The employer should be required to bring to that meeting all the information necessary to enable the discussion to take place on what bargaining unit(s) should be established;
4. Where the parties can agree the appropriate bargaining unit(s), this should be accepted by the Board;
5. The Board should establish interim bargaining unit(s) to enable the check of records to take place while further work is done on clarifying and dealing with outstanding issues.
6. Time-lines can be varied by mutual agreement between the parties but the objective should be to complete the process within three (3) months
7. Where the employer refuses to co-operate, ignores the process or deliberately delays the process, the Board should proceed on the basis of the information it has available from any source, including that provided by the union. This is already provided for in Section 23(1) of the Board Rules.
The National Workers Union contends that McLeod, the Minister of Labour, has the authority to put an end to these never-ending frustrating delays.
The National Workers Union calls on McLeod to use the power he has to bring an end to the delays in the recognition process now! Failure to do so would just confirm what all conscious trade unionists know - that McLeod is working to advance the cause of the employers and is consciously obstructing the advancement of the interests of the trade union movement and working people, all in the interest of eating a food.
RECOGNITION DELAYED IS
Bryan St. Louis, Deputy General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) issued the following statement on June 04 2013:
The Communication Workers' Union would like to publicly express its grave concerns with respect to the recent appointment of Mr. Arnold Ram to the position of Head of Department, Corporate Support Services of the Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago Limited, effective Wednesday 4"' June 2014.
We question the timing of this appointment immediately after the Company approved VSP/EERP Packages for over 200 Managers, Professionals and Executives based on their purported and ill-advised 5 Year Strategic Plan. The question begs, was the VSP/EERP a plot by the Company to make room for Ioyalists and cohorts of the People’s Partnership to gain control of TSTT?
We wish to state publicly that reliable information coming to the Union indicates that Mr. Ram is currently holding the position of Research Officer on the National Executive of the United National Congress, (UNC), and was appointed a temporary Senator on a couple of occasions by the People’s Partnership Government.
Our research has also revealed that Mr. Ram was previously employed at another State Entity, Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission, T&TEC, and had to leave under unusual circumstances. He was also reported to be anti-worker and completely beholden to the UNC.
This apparent act of nepotism cannot be allowed to be perpetuated at TSTT. As a progressive Trade Union, we stand for transparency and equity in all recruitment exercises conducted at TSTT and at other State Entities and as such, we call on the Minister of Finance to immediately intervene in the best interest of the shareholders of the National Enterprise Limited, NEL, and the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, who are the main stakeholders in TSTT.
This act by the TSTT Management has clearly revealed the sinister plot of certain Board Members who are also closely affiliated to the partnership Government to entrench their PARTY HACKS” into key Senior Positions within the Company to further advance their "EAT AH FOOD AGENDA", and transform TSTT into one of their Election Campaign Bases for the upcoming 2015 General Elections.
The CWU would not sit idly by and allow this travesty to occur and would take all necessary steps to prevent this from happening, since we commit to struggle to ensure that TSTT remains a viable, independent State Owned Entity, working for and in the best interest of all citizens of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
MEDICAL MAFIA BENEFITS FROM EXTERNAL PATIENTS PROGRAMME
The External Patients’ Programme, announced by Health Minister Fuad Khan, represents the formalization of the government policy of divestment of the health sector as the National Workers Union has been pointing out since then-Finance Minister Dookeran made it clear in a speech on Public Private Partnership at the Hyatt on Tuesday November 1st, 2011. The Minister spoke of privatising public utilities, ports, airports, health care provision and pensions.
What the External Patients Programme does is to institutionalise the scandalous situation existing in the health sector since the introduction of the Regional Health Authorities in the late 1990’s. For years public funds have been routed into the pockets of a clique of medical doctors masquerading as public officers in the public health system while actually operating a private hospital sector.
Patients are routed through the public hospitals into the private hospital system and the government pays. This rapidly growing health sector cannot exist in its present form without being a parasite on the public health system. These medical crony capitalists, like their brethren in the manufacturing, construction and service sectors are leeching on the state in their mad scramble to accumulate capital at the expense of the public. That is why it is so important for the business elite to maintain control of the political parties.
The External Patients Programme, according to Minister Khan, is designed to ensure that people who have to wait prolonged periods for appointments will be allowed to have the surgery or other procedures at private medical institutions. Khan argued that those who are to access private care must have been waiting in the public health system for more than three months. They would be given vouchers to go to private institutions.
The National Workers Union’s information is that 99% of the external patients are in the system for longer than three months, so one can safely say that all the patients would be able to access this programme. What a great money-spinner that will be for the private medical capitalists!
The backlog began because the Regional Health Authorities (RHA’s) are being purposely starved of equipment and staffing. In the North Central Regional Health Authority alone, there are, at least, six hundred and fifty vacancies to be filled. So the production capability must decrease, hence the reason almost all patients are in the system for longer than three months. The RHA’s suffer serious deficits in terms of equipment staff, medication, utensils and everyday products.
Management of the RHA’s is based on political allegiance and not on providing a first class health service to the citizens. The industrial relations are abysmal and lead to low morale and frustration on the part of employees who are not connected to the party in power. Contract employment is the favoured form of employment and contracts are varied at will making these workers incapable of organising their business going forward in terms of bank loans, mortgages, significant investments etc.
Because there are no recognised majority unions in the RHA’s, except for the Medical Professionals Association in the South West Regional Health Authority, compensation packages are falling behind and terms of work do not evolve to raise the standards of the conditions of work. Because of the political intervention in day to day operations of the RHA’s hiring and promotions are not transparent. Incompetent management and horrible industrial relations also contribute to the backlog.
The minister admitted that there was unused capacity at public hospitals but “those who were supposed to do the normal work were not doing it and making sure that there was a backlog. So we are partnering with the private sector.”
Does Minister Khan take the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, his employers, for a nation of idiots? Who are these people making sure there is a backlog and what do they have to gain? Aren’t they the very people who operate in the public hospitals and run their own private facilities? They create the backlog in the public sector and the Minister’s solution is to reward them by handing over hundreds of millions of dollars to them to ease the backlog? What absolute rubbish!
Minister Khan has not addressed the following key questions. How long will it take to decrease the backlog? After the backlog has decreased will the programme come to an end? Will the RHA's be given the correct amount of staffing and physical resources to prevent another backlog? What is the total estimated cost of this program in comparison with equipping the RHA's? How many of these private institutes are affiliated to friends and family of politicians?
How come in 2012 Khan himself stated it was too costly to outsource medical procedures; stating in the Senate $164 million was spent for outsourcing services for the period 2009-2010, yet today he is institutionalizing outsourcing? On another occasion he said the exorbitant figures were forcing him to stop outsourcing to private hospitals except with the authority of the Minister or the Chief Medical Officer. Talk, they say, is cheap particularly when it comes from a Minister of Health who is himself a leading figure in the private medical sector.
The truth is that the health sector in T&T stinks. It has been a running sore on the body social for decades and it needs to be fixed. Handing over hundreds of millions to the medical mafia is not going to fix it.
The External Patients Programme is a critical element in the further privatisation of health care and the eventual privatisation of public health care institutions by the powerful and influential medical mafia that is responsible for the high cost of health care and which will see further increases.
The public health institutions seem set to become a gathering station for those in need of medical procedures. They will play the role of holding bays and clearing houses for the shunting of patients into the arms of the medical mafia. Of course, when the private hospitals run into problems they rush patients back to the public health institutions to die.
The National Workers Union, unreservedly, condemns the establishment of the External Patients Programme and sees it as another trough for another group of parasites to eat a food as the elections draw near. This move is the final nail in the coffin to legitimise and officially sanction the well-orchestrated fraud long practiced by the greedy cabal of medical capitalists and is designed to advance the stated policy of the government to privatise health care provision.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Gerry Kangalee (National Education and
Research Officer – Cell: 785-7637)