In a paid advetisment published in all the daily newspapers headlined Communicating the Truth : Editorial Mischief Secretary General of the Communication Workers Union, Joseph Remy, stated:
Self-proclaimed Agent of the Capitalist Agenda in the person of Business Guardian Editor, Anthony Wilson,
has once again used his position in the media to promote his unpatriotic, anti worker-agenda. In the BG of January 14, 2016, he asks the Question “Should Government privatize T&T’s Crown-Jewel Companies?”
However, in a veiled attempt to promote the article and portray a negative image of three leading progressive Labour Leaders, he has obscenely aligned their photos with that of one of the foremost proponent of privatization, Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, whose full scale capitalist reform programs proved to be an abysmal failure, as they led to mass unemployment and reduced the power of Trade Unions in England.
Additionally, he has listed the Crown Jewels as TSTT, Petrotrin, FCB, NP, NGC, and Phoenix Park Gas Processors and has also indicated that privatization is a policy choice that the Government should not ignore. Ironically all these entities are affiliated in some manner with the labour leaders highlighted in the pictures.
Poor Anthony, in his quest to please his masters at the ANSA Mc Al Group, completely missed the boat by premising his argument on the opening paragraph which stated:”One of the common prescriptions for countries that find themselves in balance of payments and/or fiscal difficulties is for those countries to sell or divest state assets in order to raise revenue to close the gap between what governments spend and what they earn”. Anthony went on to use the example of the Iron Lady, Mrs. Thatcher’s sale of all Britain’s Crown Jewels to her colonial plunderers whose sole intent was maximization of profits for a few at the expense of many. To put it in context, she emboldened the “GREED IS GOOD” mantra that has seen the world perennially spin out of control and veer away from any sort of moral compass.
Anthony got it all wrong as TSTT, since its inception in 1991 when TELCO and TEXTEL merged operations, has never gone to the State for funding. By the structure of the Shareholders Agreement with the then NAR Government and Cable and Wireless, TSTT’s operations were severed from Government funding with 51% of the Company belonging to the state and 49% belonging to Cable and Wireless.
The company has been on its own raising its own capital for developmental projects and funding its operations from its revenues gained from the sale of its services. In addition, the Governments 51% shareholding was vested in the National Enterprise Limited, NEL which was placed on the Stock Market with ordinary citizens and local business owning a stake in NEL, thereby, indirectly owning a stake in TSTT. So there is no way the sale of the Government’s51% stake in TSTT would reduce the gap between what government spend and what they earn. In contrast, it would widen the gap since the Government would no longer earn dividends from NEL via profits from TSTT and the other profit making, dividend earning state entities such as Petrotrin and NGC for example.
The question that was not asked however is what would motivate a Government to sell off their stake in these entities, and, could the same motivation be achieved if the entities remained owned by the public sector. Wilson suggests that the Government should privatize in an effort to acquire much needed cash; but won’t properly managed critical Government owned entities be capable of yielding healthy profits? Is there evidence to suggest that privatization translates into improved efficiency? Additionally, who would look after the public interest if our Crown Jewels are privatized? Remember that TSTT has a critical role to play in the National Security architecture of the country; do we really want to place such a critical state service into private hands?
What privatization does is remove the citizens as shareholders and replace them with another set of shareholders who would be seeking their own business interests as against the public interest. Remember that “Greed is Good” is their mantra. In this debate it must be stated that managerial accountability to the public interest is what counts most, and not the form of ownership. The simple transfer of ownership from public to private hands will not guarantee reduced costs or the enhancement of quality of services. Any decision to privatize must take into account the state of the economy and the purpose to be served by privatization. Additionally, the replacement of public ownership with privatization will not by itself serve the public good. Wilson’s position in this instance however suggests that in an effort to address our economical challenges which are happening globally, our Government should embrace the idea of privatization.
What he has failed to do however is to outline the status of the Crown Jewels identified and determine what the best possible options are for the progressive development and economic survival of the said entities. If however, his views resonate with those in authority, the progressive Trade Union movement would have no other option but to mobilize the mass movement to do whatever is necessary to protect our Crown Jewels in the National interest. The capitalist agenda is once again on the table so it is time for Working Class Institutions to unite and begin the conversation to promote the implementation of the Workers Agenda.
It is ironic that Wilson has targeted three Progressive Trade Unions for the launch of his bosses Capitalist Agenda, the OWTU, the BIGWU and the CWU. This is a clear frontal attack on the Progressive Trade Union Movement as there is the view in those circles that these Unions are strong and Independent and would stand as vanguards against exploitation and social and financial injustice. Wilson went on to state that these Trade Unions would launch the most vigorous defense possible to protect the highly paid, unionized jobs at Petrotrin, NP, TSTT and First Citizens. While he is patently wrong in the assertion that these workers are highly paid, he was very right to state that we will launch a vigorous defense of these jobs, since we are clear in our position that workers who turn the wheels of the production process must be adequately compensated for their efforts. I hope that Anthony would take a look at Executive Pay in the Private Sector that he belongs to and make the necessary comparisons in his next article.
What was most reprehensible however, was the statement that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet may have to make a decision between the lesser of two evils, “(1) enrage the entire working population- which comprises all the country’s voters – by cutting back on spending enough to achieve the 2016 budget commitment of generating a fiscal deficit of $2.8B or 1.7 per cent of GDP; or (2) enrage the small segment of the working population, who may be directly affec
ted by the management changes that may be inevitable IF – and it is a big if – the Government decides to hand over control of the state sector entirely to private ownership”. This is a classic example of pitting one sector of the working population against another. What Anthony is attempting to do here is create a sub- class within the working class by the old divide and rule tactic.
We unconditionally reject and condemn Anthony’s argument and we declare him a “Persona Non Grata” for the Progressive Trade Union Movement, in particular, the Communication Workers’ Union. He has shown his Capitalist Fangs and has prostituted himself on the altar of his bosses at ANSA MC AL.
As a Progressive Working Class Institution, the Communication Workers’ Union(CWU), has always stated that it is time for those who labour to hold the reins of power, as those whose hands we chose over and over, to entrust our political destiny are facilitators of their own class interest. In that regard the CWU stands in readiness to do the political work to facilitate the type of vehicle which would represent the interest of those who do not count in society. For this the C.W.U. Dares to Struggle!
DARE TO STRUGGLE; DARE TO WIN
On 2015-12-09 the National Workers Union issued the following statement headlined SOLIDARITY WITH STEEL WORKERS:
The National Workers Union (NWU) stands in solidarity with the hundreds of workers who have been thrown on the breadline by transnational corporation ArcelorMittal and with their union the Steel Workers Union of Trinidad and Tobago (SWUTT) in these trying times when workers are being made to pay for the crisis of capitalism they had no part in causing.
ArcelorMittal is the top steel producing company in the world, producing 98 million tonnes of steel in 2014, more than double that of its closest rival Nippon Steel. Yet this transnational giant has demonstrated tremendous bad faith in its dealing with SWUTT and its treatment of its employees.
On Monday 7th December, less than three weeks before Christmas, it laid off six hundred permanent workers, one month after terminating 800 contract workers and after terminating 200 unionised Tube City workers in March and replacing them with non-unionised workers. The latest actions by ArcelorMittal should come as no surprise because their history of dealing with the workers and their union has been nothing short of repressive and barbarous.
The union had negotiated a memorandum with the company which made allowance for alternative employment during the downturn in the international steel market based on an article in the legally binding collective agreement negotiated between the company and the union.
The company refused to renew the memorandum and instead gave the union a take it or leave it position. Despite the union asking for time to discuss the proposal with its members within minutes of the ending of the meeting where the non-proposal was made workers began receiving lay off letters.
The company violated all procedure by not communicating with the union in writing, outlining their intention to lay off; providing a list of workers to be laid off and spelling out the criteria used to determine who were to be laid off.
But this is not surprising; this transnational corporation has made billions of dollars in profit from its Point Lisas operation, it has enjoyed subsidised electricity, natural gas and water. When the billions were rolling in, there was no question of sharing with the workers, who had to fight for every benefit achieved.
But when the commodity cycle goes into reverse, they are making sure the workers pay the price. This is how international capital operates. It is a salutary lesson for workers that capitalism has nothing to do with loyalty. It has to do with the maximisation of profit regardless of the human destruction it may engender.
The National Workers Union supports SWUTT in its call to the government to intervene in the situation with a view to defending the interests of hard working citizens of this country from the predatory behaviour of this transnational corporation. But the nature and history of the relationship between governments of T&T and transnational corporations does not give us cause for comfort.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Gerry Kangalee (National Education and Research Officer. Cell: 785-7637)
In a statement dated December 5, 2015, headlined CWU LAMENTS THE CURRENT STATE OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO'S ECONOMY, the Secretary General of the Communication Workers Union, Joseph Remy, stated:
The Communication Worker's Union, CWU, would like to publicly express its deep concern about the current parlous state of the Trinidad and Tobago Economy. The recent revelation by the embattled Central Bank Governor that our economy is officially in a Recession must be examined carefully to determine the real cause of the Financial Mess that we are in at this time.
The Central Bank Governor also revealed the main culprits in the abuse of Foreign Exchange, which while it is no surprise to the CWU, is quite disturbing since heading the list is PriceSmart, a distributor of Foreign Goods but an exploiter of local workers. Included in that list were DIGICEL and Columbus Communications, foreign players in the Telecommunication Sector who contrary to what happens at TSTT, employs very few local workers in their operations.
The CWU would also like to identify with what was said by the Minister of Finance about the use and abuse of over $60 Billion Dollars by the last Peoples Partnership Government during what can only be described as a five (5) year rollercoaster ride - through Fraud, Corruption, Nepotism and Cronyism, which has left the country's economy badly battered and abused and on the brink of social shock and distress.
We are once again calling for a sober and objective analysis of our current situation and as such, we will vehemently resist any attempt to place the burden of resuscitating our abused economy solely on the shoulders of the working class and the less possessed in our society. We call on the Government and the Central Bank to immediately identify appropriate monetary and fiscal policies that would stimulate economic activity and bring back our economy to producing at full employment output levels.
Consistent with our perennial calls, we demand there must be a serious look at price control mechanism, genuine diversification of the economy, a reduction in our consumption of foreign goods, a halting of the haemorrhaging of our state resources and the setting and maintenance of real wages in the economy so that workers can be motivated to supply extra labour, increase their productive output, realise the true purchasing power of their dollar, thereby stimulating economic activity necessary to take us out of this economic crisis that was imposed upon the unsuspecting citizens by those who parade in high places, strutting around with all the flowers behind their names, but who have failed us miserably over the years.
It would be remiss of the CWU if we don't comment on the revelation of the abusers of Foreign
Exchange by the Governor. It is quite amazing that the head of DOMA and the Chambers of Commerce would chastise the Governor for revealing the names of the Companies who abuse the Foreign Exchange system.
It is those same leaders who gloatingly reveal the wages and salaries of workers and attempt to chastise the Trade Unions for demanding that workers earn real wages. They have no problem when the ordinary worker’s meagre earnings are revealed, but when their Business Cohorts are exposed for abusing the Foreign Exchange System, they cry wolf. We commend the Governor for this move and we demand that he also urge those at the Board of Inland Revenue to identify those Businesses who owe Billons in Taxes while creaming away much needed Foreign Exchange. So let the chips fall where they are supposed to fall, DOMA and Chamber of Commerce.
It is only when they all accept the fact that they and successive Governments are responsible for this sordid economic state that we are in, it is then that we can truly engage in the much needed and long outstanding Tripartite Discussions that are absolutely necessary to ensure that there is an equitable framework for the adjustments that are needed to bring us out of this morass that they have placed the Country in at this time.
The CWU would continue to ensure that the Working-class and less possessed in Society are not trampled upon in this crazy free-market, capitalist driven economic system that continues to make fewer people richer and billons poorer.
FITUN TAKES STRONG OFFENCE TO DR. ROGER HOSEIN'S
CALL FOR ACROSS THE BOARD WAGE FREEZE
In a statement issued by its President Joseph Remy on November 25th 2015, FITUN made the following statement.
The Federation of Independent Trade Unions and Non-Governmental Organizations, FITUN, would like to publicly condemn the broad scale attack on the livelihood of workers in Trinidad and Tobago by controversial Economist, Dr. Roger Hosein.
In another of his attacks on the working class, Dr. Hosein has advised the Government that they should take a cue from the National Gas Company and institute a Wage Freeze across the Public and Private Sector. This advice having being publicly done by a leading Economist at the UWI, can only prejudice any discussion that may take place between the Government, Business and Labour as the Country is now reeling from the mis-management of the Economy by successive Governments.
What is quite disingenuous about this call by Dr. Hosein is the fact that this Economist was not publicly condemning the previous Government when they were engaging in mass squander mania and the rape of the Treasury over the past five (5) years. There was no call for the then Government to stop wasting and corruptly siphoning away state resources into the pockets of their friends, supporters and cronies.
As usual, Dr. Hosein and some other professionals in academia, only make noise about adjustment when the economy is in serious challenges and when they want the much beleaguered working class and the less possessed in society to bear the full brunt of adjustment policies. This they want to happen to ensure that they maintain their life of opulence and class differentiation.
FITUN expresses its support for the CWU and the other members of the Joint Trade Union Movement in their condemnation of the unilateral approach to the implementation of wage and benefits restraint at the NGC. We condemn the call by Dr. Hosein for such a broad scale restraint since over the years we have been publicly calling for a policy on price control and Executive Wage control.
We are convinced based on our research that the Wage differential between Executive Pay and ordinary workers pay has mushroomed over the years and has reached obscene proportions. In addition, the purchasing power of the ordinary worker dollar has shrunk to poverty level proportions, as such, while the Executives live of the fat of the Land, poor workers are bearing the brunt of economic activity with a shrinking dollar.
We demand that Dr. Hosein apologize to all workers of the Country and refrain from making such aggravated and vexatious pronouncements as we all seek to steady a sinking Trinidad and Tobago Ship.
At this critical time when our country is facing serious economic and social challenges, albeit not brought on by the working class and the less possessed, good sense must prevail and there must not be any attempt to place all the burdens of adjustments on the shoulders of the already burdened working class and the less possessed in society. While we seek mature discourse on a way forward, we would not abandon our commitment to the fearless defence of the rights of workers and the upliftment of the standard of living for those less possessed in society. We commit to stand in their defence without fear or favour as we continue our quest for equity and social justice.
General of the Communication Workers' Union (CWU), Joseph Remy issued the following statement on 2015.11.23.
The Communication Workers’ Union is deeply concerned about the recent announcement by the National Gas Company (NGC) about the implementation of a Wage and Benefits Freeze at the parent company and its subsidiaries, National Energy (NE), Phoenix Park Gas Processors Ltd. (PPGPL) and NGC CNG for the years 2015 and 2016. This decision was revealed to workers by the parent company in a Memo sent to them on November 16, 2015.
In addition to the Wage Freeze, the Company has also stated that it will cut Bonuses to its staff. In the current market driven economic environment, this is in effect a Wage Cut since there has not been any concomitant policy position on Prices and as such, these workers would now have to pay higher prices for goods and services on the same salary, which would effectively reduce the purchasing power of their dollar.
This announcement ironically comes just after the Prime Minister met with the Joint Trade Union Movement and on the eve of a meeting between the Joint Trade Union Movement and the Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development. From all reports coming out of the meeting between the Prime Minister and the Joint Trade Union Movement, the issue of a Wage and Benefits Freeze was not discussed nor brought up by the PM.
The CWU questions the process for this decision since from all reports; the Government indicated that it would engage in Consultation with Key stakeholders before any major socio- economic impacting decisions are going to be made. We need to remind that NGC is a fully owned State Enterprise which saw a new Board being recently appointed by the Government upon its assumption to office. This action therefore sends the message that there is some untold policy position of the Government as it relates to the Wages and Benefits in the State Sector, such a policy, we posit, was not discussed with the Labour Movement.
The CWU is not oblivious of the current economic circumstances and environment, nor are we oblivious of the current situation in the Energy Sector. We however wish to state that when such major decisions are to be taken that impact fundamentally on the general welfare of workers, then the obvious approach should be one of consultation before implementation.
This approach by the NGC has found favour with the Prime Minister who has publicly stated that it is a responsible act. But how can this approach be responsible when there was neither indication nor consultation with the Labour Movement, who is supposed to be one of the major stakeholders in the much touted Tripartite Process that the Prime Minister has committed to engage in very soon. From where we sit as a Union, we are concerned about the signals that this action sends and the trend that it can initiate. As we saw with the previous Peop|es’ Partnership Administration, the attempt to introduce a 5% Wage Cap was trumped and follow suited by both the State and Private Sector. This was only reversed through unified mass action by the Trade Union Movement.
As such, based on past experiences, we anticipate that the State and Private Sector would also seek to emulate the NGC and attempt to use the current self-inflicted economic crisis as a means to roll back on hard won terms and conditions of employment and benefits that workers rightly deserve. The CWU is strongly opposed to such an unjust reversal and would continue to agitate for the interest of the working class and less possessed in society, who perennially have been saddled with the burdens of whatever austerity measures and adjustment policies that Governments wish to implement when there seems to be some economic challenges.
When the Economy was buoyant, the working class did not reap any tangible benefits, all went to a chosen few who resides within a certain class structure. Now that we are having some economic challenges, once again the working class and the less privileged are called upon to socialize the losses and share the burden of adjustments.
with the recent endorsement by our Annual National Convention to recommit to the Butlerite Tradition of Trade Unionism, we stand in defence of the working class and less privileged in our society and as such, we call on the Government to reconsider this approach and immediately engage the Labour Movement in genuine consultation on the current state of the Economy and the determination of a mutually acceptable way forward to arrest the current economic challenges that we are faced with to ensure equity and social and economic justice.
A word to the wise is sufficient
The new board of NGC, led by former Ansa McAl CEO Gerry Brooks, justifies its oppressive action by referring to the fall in energy prices and the need for “controlling the major areas of expenditure.”
The workers are being made to pay for the wanton looting of the most profitable state enterprise by the last government which drained the cash reserves of the company to bridge its budget deficit and to finance off the books projects of a blatantly partisan nature, designed to enrich a favoured few.
It is clear that the government intends to make the working people of this country, who had no part in bringing it about pay for the economic crisis. It is also clear that what has happened at NGC is the template for how the other state enterprises are going to be dealt with.
The attack on NGC workers is actually picking low hanging fruit, because the workers of NGC are not represented by a recognised majority union. In such a scenario, there is a master-servant relationship between management and workers and workers are at the mercy of management. If those workers were members of a recognised majority union, then NGC could not unilaterally impose a wage freeze on them. They would have had to meet and treat with the union.
This brings sharply into focus the need for workers in T&T to organise themselves into unions so that they can have a fighting chance in dealing with the attacks of the employers and the state as working people are being forced to bear the brunt of the crisis that they had no part in creating.
Even when workers attempt to organise themselves into unions, the recognition procedures, designed to delay and frustrate them, take years and make a mockery of workers constitutional right to freedom of assembly and to the need for expeditious resolution of recognition claims.
The National Workers Union advises working people to take heed of the situation at NGC and warns all workers, whether unionised or not, especially those in the public service, state enterprises and statutory authorities, that they are on the chopping block as the government inevitably moves to impose austerity on the working people.
Workers have to organise to defend their standard of living and union leaders must not allow themselves to be used by the government to disarm the workers and to have them co-operate in their own oppression by encouraging workers to “share” in the burden of adjustment, when it is quite clear that the entire burden is being placed on their shoulders.
The Honourable Dr. Keith Rowley.
13-15 St Clair Avenue
Port of Spain,
The National Health Workers’ Union (NHWU) is one of the three (3) trade unions that represent monthly paid health workers employed by the five (5) Regional Health Authorities (RHA’s). Only two of the three can obtain Recognised Majority Union status which would allow for wage and all other negotiations and the NHWU is the only one organizing across all categories of monthly-paid staff. We now have hundreds of RHA employees in our membership.
We feel constrained to correspond directly to you on a matter that gravely affects thousands of monthly paid health workers. The issue at hand involves an outstanding debt owed to these workers for the period 2011 to 2013. We have written to your Minister of Finance by letters dated 2015.10.18 and 2015.10.25 but to date we have not had even the courtesy of an acknowledgment.
We have noted with great interest your Government’s appointment of a committee to investigate all aspects of the delivery of health care to the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. While we have major reservations about your approach we wholeheartedly accept that urgent changes need to be implemented to reform the sector.
We believe that one of the more critical areas to be addressed is that of the human and industrial relations environment existing at all the RHA’s. The climate which exists in these areas is so debilitating that the investigation being undertaken by your Government may not yield the desired results given broken systems that masquerade for human and industrial relations.
The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that there is no trade union with recognized majority status representing monthly paid employees save the doctors employed at SWRHA. This situation seems to have given license to the managements of the RHAs to perpetrate the most atrocious HR/IR practices.
Employees’ rights and benefits are trampled upon with impunity; efforts by the union to hold meetings with them are ignored; letters are not responded to and the litany of woes goes on and on. We believe that immediate and urgent attention needs to be paid to this situation.
Mr. Larry Howai, former Minister of Finance, had given a public undertaking that retroactive payments owed to these employees arising from the pay period January 1st 2011 to December 2013 would be paid by the end of November 2015. The NHWU has tried without success to have your Minister of Finance confirm this commitment.
These workers have been very patient and their devotion to duty has not waned. We urge that your Government honour the commitment made by Mr. Howai as it was made in his official capacity and the continuance of Government, regardless of regime change, is well established.
The union is of the view that this gesture will go a long way toward building morale among these dedicated employees who work under the most trying physical, mental and emotional circumstances. A simple review of their pay package will explain their urgent desire to have this matter settled.
The National Health Workers Union (NHWU) is forced to, once again, correspond with you about a matter which is causing great anxiety to health workers throughout the public health system. On 2015.09.18, we wrote to you and among other things said: “The NHWU had demanded of the former Minister of Finance that health workers be paid their new rates by August month end and that their retroactive payments be made by September month end.
He complied with the first demand but has now demitted office. The NHWU now calls upon you to have the back pay effected to these long suffering workers at the end of September...however we are certain that you and the entire country are aware of the pivotal role health care workers play in the society. These monies represent payment due since 2011; these workers have been very patient.”
We are now close to the end of October. While we understand that the government has been caught up in the budget debate, we were quite disappointed that at no time during the debate was any indication given about when health care workers would receive their retroactive payments.
Health workers were disheartened at your statement in the 2016 budget speech: “the previous administration has encumbered the new Government with $5.0 billion in arrears of salaries based on the conclusion of collective agreements with a number of trade unions in the frenzied run-up to the 2015 Election.” Your statement suggests that you believe the last government should not have settled workers’ just demands for a decent wage increase, which in the case of the health workers they had not received since 2010.
We are calling upon you as Minister of Finance to initiate, as soon as possible, the procedure to have health workers receive their retroactive payments. We demand that you give the instruction so that the monies can be released and the anxiety of health workers can be made to dissipate.
Failure to do so will increase the frustrations of health workers and may well result in action similar to that taken by them when the last administration attempted to pussy foot with the payment of their wage increase.