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Media Releases

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

NWU: BACKPAY MUST BE PAID IN FULL

posted 28 Jun 2016, 23:47 by Gerry Kangalee

2016-06-29


BACKPAY MUST BE PAID IN FULL


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

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

NWU: REJECT THE IMF! RESIST AUSTERITY MEASURES!

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

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

REJECT THE IMF! RESIST AUSTERITY MEASURES!

                                        

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

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

PREPARE TO DEFEND YOURSELVES! THE CAPITALISTS HAVE DECLARED WAR!

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

PREPARE TO DEFEND YOURSELVES!

THE CAPITALISTS HAVE DECLARED WAR!

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

WE HAVE THE POWER OF NUMBERS & POWER OVER PRODUCTION!

PUT ASIDE PETTY CHILDISH TRADE UNION DISUNITY!

GET RID OF ILLUSIONS AND DEAL WITH THE REALITY!

LET THE FIGHTBACK BEGIN!


2016/06/19

NHWU MEMBERS MUST ACT NOW!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

· hours of work;

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

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

· negotiated medical (including dental) and savings plans;

· negotiated and not imposed pension plans;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NWU: GOVERNMENT MUST PAY DEBT TO WORKERS IN CASH BY END OF JUNE

posted 18 May 2016, 11:12 by Gerry Kangalee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

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

NHWU: RHA EMPLOYEES MUST STAND UP AND RESIST ASSAULT ON OUR PROPERTY!

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NWU: LET US START THE FIGHTBACK

posted 1 May 2016, 19:06 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 2 May 2016, 03:22 ]

The National Workers Union (NWU) issued the following statement dated May 2nd 2016:

The National Workers Union salutes May Day as the international working class celebrates the great struggles that have been and are being waged to advance, protect and defend the interests of workers everywhere. We call for solidarity with and support for Comrade Ermine De Bique-Meade, General Secretary of the Contractors and General Workers Trade Union, who was arrested while carrying out her duty to her members.

So where are we as workers? To be blunt, workers in T&T are under the most severe pressure we have endured since the 1980’s. The deepening international capitalist crisis of overproduction has severely contracted our energy-dependent economy and the capitalists, employers and the State are adopting measures to make sure that working people and the poor pay through our noses for a crisis we had no part in creating.

Since the general election, the cost of fuel has increased twice; transportation cost, of course, is following suit; merchants are making a killing by ramping up the prices of food and pharmaceuticals; value added tax has added to the misery and sent up the prices of almost everything.

The government is illegally seeking to vary the terms and conditions of public officers and other employees of the state by attempting to bypass the collective bargaining process and imposing by decree how workers must access their arrears which go back to 2011.

The government is well aware, just as the NAR government’s 10% wage reduction and removal of COLA in the 1980’s was ruled illegal by the court, this will also be ruled illegal; but it knows that the judicial system will drag the matter on for years.

The employers, including the government, have embarked on an orgy of wage freezes and retrenchment. Arcelor Mittal, Tube City, Centrin, OAS, Repsol, Carillon, local government bodies including the San Fernando City Council, energy service companies, American Airlines, among others, have all shed jobs; contract workers throughout the public sector are being sent home in droves and this trend is set to continue.

Privatisation of state enterprises is going to be stepped up. BP, the largest of the energy vampires, is seeking to renegotiate its contract
 with NGC and the Atlantic Train One contract, so that they could get a bigger slice of the revenue at the expense of the treasury. Foreign onshore energy firms are calling for changes to the Petroleum Profits Tax (PPT) and the Supplemental Petroleum Tax (SPT) to reduce their tax liability.

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

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

This strikes at the very heart of collective bar-gaining and is designed to make the trade union movement irrelevant. The irony is that the law makes allowance for workers who are not in a unionised bargaining unit to access legal remedy through unions!

The employers are moving to ensure that a massive transfer of income takes place from the pockets of working people into their pockets while they talk a lot of dotishness about sharing the burden and being patriotic, when it is clear that the whole burden has already been placed on the backs of working people, the poor and the vulnerable.

While employers have launched a massive attack on the rights and benefits of workers, many trade union leaders seem to believe that appealing to the consciences of the employers and the government will bring relief and that tripartism will ensure that that the burden is “shared.” There is no relief from those who profit from our misery. There is no way the capitalists are going to share anything – unless they are forced to do so!

While the merchants and the employers raise prices, retrench workers and seek to have trade unionism become a toothless bulldog, some trade union leaders are still calling for consultation, complaining about non implementation of the toothless Memorandum of Understanding and tripartite approaches as if they do not understand that we are involved in a vicious class struggle, the outcome of which will determine our quality of life for years to come.

While we wallow in illusions of “sharing the burden” they have already put their strategy in place to ensure that they suffer no loss from the economic crisis and that they are in fact utilising the crisis to further the goals they have always had in mind. We cannot hide from the reality of the class struggle!

While we hem and haw and steups and fuss that the government is playing us for fools, the International Monetary Fund has already taken charge of the Ministry of Finance and is crafting a new taxation system for the energy industry, preparing the ground for more divestment and urging the government to inflict a massive devaluation of the currency.

There is need for a massive fight back against this ongoing assault by the employers, the capitalists and the State. If we want the laws relative to severance changed; if we want the laws restricting the right to strike changed; if we want the laws governing recognition of trade unions changed; if we want the Workers Agenda implemented, it is not good enough to simply call for the changing of those laws. We must be prepared to bring all our power to bear on those who can change the laws.

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

Leadership must ground with membership, the implications of the assault by the capitalist class must be discussed thoroughly with the members and the community and guidance must be sought from them as to what they are prepared to do to bring a halt to this growing attack.

We must look at the lessons of 1989, when we stopped the then government in its tracks with the General Strike of March 6th (Day of Resistance).

Appealing to the conscience of those who exploit us is not going to cut it. We have the power of numbers and the power over production. Petty childish disunity plaguing the movement must be put aside. We are in a literal life and death struggle.

We cannot afford this nonsense about which union more militant than which union. It is ludicrous that we have NATUC and FITUN and now we have JTUM, which was a trade union forum to discuss matters of mutual interest, becoming another trade union federation made up of unions from the other federations which continue to exist.

We must get rid of illusions and deal with the reality! Let us not expect partisan political parties to act in our interest! It’s just different gangs running the same anti-worker system

NATUC CONDEMNS ARREST OF EXECUTIVE MEMBER

posted 25 Apr 2016, 15:25 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 25 Apr 2016, 15:27 ]

The National Trade Union Centre (NATUC) issued the following statement on April 24th 2016:


NATUC unreservedly condemns the arrest and the unwarranted manhandling of Sister Ermine De Bique, the General Secretary of the Contractors and General Workers Trade Union (GCWTU) and Executive Member of the National Trade Union Centre. NATUC calls on the Police Complain Authority to investigate the matter without delay. 

NATUC is concerned that Sister De Bique was carrying out her legitimate trade union activities when she was arrested and the arrest therefore raises serious concerns in our minds over the intention of the arrest.

We wish to place on record, that no amount of misuse or abuse by anyone within the protective services can or will scare the labour movement in carrying out our scared responsibilities to the poor, the disadvantage in our society and the working class in Trinidad & Tobago.

Natuc further notes with concern, that the incident involving Sister De Bique has its genesis in the layoff of more than one hundred (100) workers from the South Borough Council. We are concerned that in this time when our economy is contracting, the government will implement the failed strategy of the laying off of workers on the basis that the workers are temporary workers and that the allocation for the Borough has been cut by the government.

NATUC will continue to advocate that sending workers home will only exacerbate the economic crisis. History has taught us that when you take away the purchasing power of workers, when you deny workers the right to earn wages, to provide for their families, you are in fact pouring social unrest, like gasoline, on the already economic flames of poverty and depression.

Government must be forever mindful that their failure to protect the working class will lead to the retrenchment floodgates being opened wider by private enterprise. Clico was too big to fail and the said philosophy must be articulated and practiced not in words but indeed when dealing with workers, the poor and disadvantaged.
Our economy needs job lead growth rooted in real wages and the full utilization of our productive forces.

Our Human Capital is our Economic strength and we must us our human resources fully and wisely if we are to come out of this economic crisis and all the social disharmony that can derive therefrom. If we ignore this Economic truism that retrenchment and layoff is not the answer but job lead growth is the Answer.
Natuc say together we can solve our problems. No IMF and World Bank medicine has ever cured the patient.


NATUC SAYS NO TO THE IMF.

NO TO THE WORLD BANK.

YES TO A HOME GROWN SOLUTION.

No to polarization.

No to silo. Embrace all in the interest of Trinidad and Tobago.

We can do it together.

NWU: SOLIDARITY WITH C&GWTU AND ITS GENERAL SECRETARY

posted 22 Apr 2016, 12:40 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 22 Apr 2016, 12:49 ]

On April 22nd 2016, the National Workers Union issued the following statement


The National Workers Union (NWU) stands in solidarity with the almost 200 casual workers laid off by the San Fernando City Council and their union the Contractors and General Workers Union (C&GWTU).

These workers are the latest victims of the capitalist crisis which has resulted in the workers of this country being forced to pay the price for a crisis which they had no part in triggering.

These workers have been thrown on the rubbish heap, to join workers of Arcelor Mittal, casual workers in other local government areas, contract workers throughout the country, OAS workers, workers at Centrin, Tube City, NGC, Repsol and other areas.


Ermine De Bique-Meade
Further, the National Workers Union (NWU) condemns in the strongest possible terms the arrest of Comrade Ermine DeBique-Meade, General Secretary of the Contractors and General Workers Trade Union (C&GWTU), during the course of her efforts to seek the interest of members of her union, permanent workers, who had been wrongly placed on the casual list to be laid off.

While, the government and the employers make noises about tripartism and collaboration with the unions, they are, in fact, pursuing a policy of naked assault against workers and unions in a bid to take advantage of the capitalist economic crisis to consolidate their position and gain a bigger slice of the income pie at the expense of the workers.

The National Workers Union (NWU) calls on the leadership of the labour movement to take cognisance of the concentrated assault on the workers in general and the trade union movement in particular and to initiate a campaign of mobilisation, not only of their members, but of all working people in the country.

This mobilisation must involve explaining the implications of this renewed assault on the standard of living and quality of life of working people and to get from them their views on how best to fight back against these attacks and to develop a programme aimed at putting a stop to the attempts by the employers and the state to make working people and the poor pay for a crisis that they did not create.


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

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

FITUN: FARRELL MUST APOLOGISE!

posted 21 Apr 2016, 18:50 by Gerry Kangalee

On April 20th 2016, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs (FITUN) issued the following statement.

The Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs (FITUN) calls on the head of the Economic Advisory Board, Dr. Terrence Farrell to immediately apologise to the Trade Union Movement in Trinidad and Tobago, in particular, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and Non Governmental Organisations, FITUN, for his disrespectful statement which was reported in the electronic media, wherein he accused the Trade Unions of being all about ‘Gimme Me Gimme Me" and are mainly responsible for the Economic Morass that the Country finds itself in today.

Dr. Farrell made these statements while addressing a function hosted by the Rotary Club, wherein he also alluded to the economic challenges that the country is currently facing. What was so disingenuous about Dr. Farrell’s statement was that in the same speech, he alluded to the global trend where Saudi Arabia has dictated the price of Oil through their huge stock of reserves and are manipulating the market to ensure that they come out of this world oil price slump in a better position to service their citizens.

What the goodly doctor failed to state was the fact that he along with a slew of local Academia has bastardized the word "Diversification" for decades. They have been the ones who have given economic advice to successive Governments and have not for once admonished them for failing to diversify our economy. They went along and enjoyed the spoils with their healthy and opulent compensation packages while workers had to struggle to keep up with the escalating cost of living.

Dr. Farrell also took a stab at the CEPEP and URP Workers, but he did not state that it was successive Governments who used the same CEPEP and URP workers to buttress their support for electioneering purposes, using the less privileged in society towards their political end. Now that the economy is in crisis, Dr. Farrell looks to heap blame on the CEPEP and URP workers along with the Trade Unions.

FITUN condemns outright, this position adopted by Dr. Farrell, who, as the head of a Body that is supposed to be giving good economic advice to the Government, should seek to posit innovative strategies, commensurate with his renowned academic accolades, to take our country out of this economic morass that was created by successive Governments and their myriad of economic advisors who all claim to be economic experts and advisors.

The Trade Union Movement was not responsible for mismanaging the economy for decades; the Trade Union Movement was not responsible for the failed World Gas to Liquid Plant; the Trade Union Movement was not responsible for the abject neglect of the Agriculture Sector that has now seen us racking Billions of Dollars to support a Food Import Bill; the Trade Union Movement was not responsible for the Foreign Exchange crisis that we are now facing; the Trade Union Movement was not responsible for spending Billions of our Taxpayers Dollars on the now stalled Point Fortin Highway Project; the Trade Union Movement was not responsible for the Beetham Waste Water Project which cost Billions of Taxpayers’ Dollars and was riddled with corruption; the Trade Union Movement was not responsible for the Calder Han Fiasco that cost the country Billions of Taxpayers’ dollars.

We can go on and on with acts of malfeasance committed by successive Governments aided and abetted by those in academia who proffered their illustrious economic models and policies, all which have now resulted in the Country being in this sorry economic state.

In these circumstances, FITUN, as part of the Governments Tripartite Advisory Council, feels disrespected by the statement from the eminent Doctor, and calls on him to apologise to the Trade Union Movement and the CEPEP and URP workers. As a head of a critical body that is supposed to embrace the spirit of tripartism at this critical juncture, Dr. Farrell’s statement would only serve to anger the Trade Union Movement and place roadblocks to the efforts of tripartism. We wonder if his statement and the Government’s lethargic approach toward this process and synonymous of their ultimate intent.

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