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

UNION FEDERATIONS TAKE IMBERT TO TASK; COMPLAINT LODGED TO THE ILO

posted 17 Feb 2021, 18:31 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 17 Feb 2021, 18:41 ]

17 February 2020

TRADE UNON FEDERATIONS RESPONDS TO MINISTER OF FINANCE




The country’s three Trade Union Federations, National Trade Union Centre (NATUC), Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOS (FITUN) are again concerned over continued statements made by the Minister of Finance concerning public sector wage negotiations, in particular, statements concerning the Industrial Court and National Petroleum.


We view the statements which have made by the Minister of Finance about the Industrial Court, in Parliament and in his releases to be very disturbing. The Minister on 26 January 2021 in the Parliament said the following: “Recently, the Industrial Court awarded an increase to workers at National Petroleum. I cannot say what the precise figure is, but I know it is within the range of 10 to 11 percent salary increase. As a result of that award by the Industrial Court, National Petroleum is now running at a loss every month in the vicinity of 15 to $20 million” (26 January 2021, Hansard pg. 112).

The Minister in the above statement is factually inaccurate about the award of the Court as it implies that the Court’s decision has resulted in NP running at a loss. Which factually not true. The Minister’s words also implies that the court is responsible for the financial state of NP. This is a very irresponsible and deliberately misleading statement.

The fact is the Industrial Court never awarded an increase of salary of 10 to 11%. An NP witness, as stated in the Judgment, said that he was comfortable with the award of a single digit increase anywhere from 0 to 9 %, the OWTU requested an increase of 14 % and the Court granted an increase of 7%.

With respect to Cost-of-Living Allowance (COLA). We first wish to remind the Minister of Finance that consolidation of COLA IS IN FACT a negotiable item (contrary to his statement) and it was NP that approached the Union to consolidate three expired periods. It was the Company that froze the payment of COLA in 2011 in violation of the existing collective agreement by refusing to adjust the COLA paid depending on the changes of the Retail Price Index.

On 4th December 2019, the Industrial Court ordered the Company to resume payment of COLA in keeping with the negotiated provisions of Article 11 of the registered Collective Agreement. The case was adjourned to 17 December 2019 at 1pm. However, before the hearing at the Court on 17 December, NP and the Union met and settled the matter and agreed to the payment of the retroactive COLA owed to workers effective 2011. As a result, parties filed a Terms of Settlement which superseded the Court Order of 4 December and which made that Order of the 4th December redundant and of no effect.

The Minister ought to know that the final decision on the issue of COLA was made by the parties in collective bargaining and not by the Court. He ought to know that it was not an Order of the Court which made COLA retroactive but a negotiated settlement between the parties, which the parties signed and registered at the Court. We wish to remind the Minister that it was a decision by NP’s management and/ or Board to illegally stop the payment of COLA to workers since 2011 which placed NP in the position of having to pay retroactive COLA and NOT because of the Court.

Imbert accused of distorting the facts
The Minister of Finance needs to hold to account whoever at NP’s management and/or Board level that took the illegal decision to simply stop the payment of COLA, since 2011 and stop blaming the Court and continuing to mislead the public. The loss at NP has nothing to do with the Court’s decisions. Such an attack by the Executive Arm of the state on a Court of higher record can undermine the judicial system and the entire industrial relations architecture, which has kept industrial peace and stability for the last 50 years.


The Industrial Court must be allowed to maintain its objectivity and independence, which independence must be protected in its determination of fair matters and not attacked by the State. In addition, the fact that NP and other State Enterprises and the public sector on a whole have outstanding negotiations going as far back as 2012 is no fault of the Court or the Unions. The responsibility falls squarely on the State which has refused to keep collective agreements current, which would allow the government to avoid the gross injustice of people living on 2012/2013 salaries in 2021. For today, the Cost of Living continue to spiral upwards creating real and vexing increase in the gap between salaries and rising cost of living.

The Minister is again attempting to usurp the collective bargaining process. Collective Bargaining is a cornerstone of a functioning democracy. Its importance is such that it is protected by international law as enshrined in the ILO Convention C154 - Collective Bargaining Convention, 1981 (No. 154). Collective Bargaining does not include a Minister of Finance discussing terms of employment in the Senate. That information should rightly be presented to the Recognised Majority Union. It is highly irregular and worrisome for the Minister of Finance to usurp the role of the Chief Personnel Officer and attempt to impose a unilateral position in the public domain. The Trade Unions are of the view that the Sunday Guardian article is correct and that it is the Minister of Finance who is attempting to circumvent the free and fair Collective Bargaining process by stretching the truth and distorting the facts. This does not give the Minister of Finance the right to violate the Industrial Relations Act and the international labour standards and conventions that have been ratified by this country. On the 16th February, 2021 the three federations officially lodged a complaint to the International Labour Organization.

National Trade Union Centre (NATUC),

Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM)

Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOS (FITUN)

NWU: THE TRADE UNION MOVEMENT MUST LAUNCH A CAMPAIGN TO ORGANISE MINIMUM WAGE WORKERS

posted 13 Jan 2021, 16:24 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 13 Jan 2021, 16:26 ]


The twenty first century has seen the Trade Union Movement in Trinidad and Tobago consistently under attack, severely criticized and victimized by the ruling economic and political elites.

The thousands of sugar workers were the first group of organised workers this century to suffer mass retrenchment. This, of course, has had the effect of severely weakening a once powerful union.

The Unions in petroleum and petrochemical industries have seen a steady decline in their workforce Thousands of direct and indirect Petrotrin workers have been thrown on the breadline as have hundreds of workers at Arcelor Mittal and hundreds at TSTT.

Jobs are disappearing at an accelerated rate in the light and heavy manufacturing industry. Manufacturing enterprises throughout the East-West corridor have been shedding jobs and capital is being shifted into warehousing and distribution. Unilever is a stark example.

The Ports are being privatized which will result in retrenchment. 2,500 workers are earmarked for retrenchment at WASA. The Public Service and the Regional Health Authorities are now places of low-paid, fixed term contract workers. The State Sector is in decline and dying quickly. They are coming at National Petroleum, Trinidad Lake Asphalt, the regional and City corporations, MTS, PTSC, TTEC and other unionised state sector enterprises.

Capitalism has acquired free rein and the changing composition of the working class has reduced the unionised workforce drastically. Best guesstimates suggest that twelve percent or less of the workforce may be union members. This is borne out by the fact that 90% or more of matters that come before the Industrial Court do not involve members of recognised majority unions.

There are hundreds of thousands of workers in the service sector, retail stores, fast food joints, the hospitality sector and the private security sector who are not unionised and have no tradition of organised struggle.

This has resulted in workers being super-exploited, with atrocious industrial relations practices becoming the norm. Fixed term contracts are the order of the day. The casualization of labour is a growing trend and companies are ducking out of paying NIS and government taxes by deeming workers to be independent contractors.

Extreme exploitation of minimum wage and sub-minimum wage workers is the norm. Sub-minimum workers are denied the legal provisions of the schedule of minimum wages and conditions. Domestic workers are denied the entitlements of other workers. Worst of all are the conditions in the private security industry, particularly so for non-precepted security personnel.

The Estate Police Association is doing a great job of protecting, defending and advancing the interests of precepted officers, but are restricted by law from representing non-precepted officers.

In a majority of cases in the private security industry conditions include:

· non-unionised, non-precepted workers denied conditions as legislated in the Minimum Wages Act. These include issues of wages, overtime, working hours, sick leave, vacation leave, which many workers report is a “thing of the past.”

· Non-receipt of payslips detailing wages and statutory deductions.

· NIS not being deducted

· NIS being deducted and not remitted to the NIB

· Arbitrary and unexplained deductions from wages

· In some companies, security officers have to pay what is called a bond when they are hired, which is really one month’s pay held by the company and which is not repaid when they leave the company

· In some companies, workers must pay for their uniforms but must return it when they leave employment

· There is gross violation of all best practices concerning shift hours with particular emphasis on sentry duty. Workers work extraordinarily long hours (as much as thirty-six and forty-eight hours without relief) without subsistence allowances and are exposed to abnormal health, sanitary and personal and property safety issues.

· Failure to comply with these unsafe, unhealthy and slave-like orders quite often leads to unfair and unjust disciplinary actions by the employer.

· Workers are subjected to ridiculous fines for amazingly trivial offenses. This is really a means of recouping labour costs, by using these fines as a revenue earning/cost saving mechanism.

· Covid has exacerbated the situation: there are problems with Personal Protective Equipment, (including at state enterprises), already long hours have increased as much as 36 and 48 hour shifts; there are serious problems with transportation to and from worksites; workers with children are under strain.


The future of the trade union movement lies in organising these hundreds of thousands of minimum and sub-minimum wage workers. The trade union federations, JTUM, NATUC and FITUN and individual unions must urgently devise a campaign to organise these workers and launch a battle to ensure that they enjoy as decent conditions of work as is possible under a capitalist system.

In the words of Cecil Paul: “We, in the labour Movement, must ensure working people do not end up weak, exploited and in a crime-ridden society where both labour and lives are cheap and in steady regression, sinking more and more into a hell-hole for the dispossessed.”

Failure to do so will result in the relevance of the trade union movement becoming a faint memory in the minds of working people.

NWU SAY LOCK THEM UP

posted 7 Oct 2020, 14:54 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 7 Oct 2020, 14:55 ]

DPP ROGER GASPARD
While many in the country were focussing on the budget, many workers who have been retrenched have been subjected to criminality by employers, who seem to believe that they could get away with illegal acts and further downpress already demoralised workers.


The following letter dated 5th October, 2020 was sent to Mr. Roger Gaspard, Director of Public Prosecutions from the National Workers Union (NWU). It was signed by President Dave Smith and General Secretary, Carla Walcott.


Dear Mr. Gaspard,

Within recent times, several of the retrenched workers from The Myerson Company Limited have approached our Union for advice and representation. In the process, they raised with us some concerns over their contributions to NIS, only to discover that no contributions were remitted to NIB for parts of 2018, none for 2019 nor 2020.

The Union sought a written explanation from the Company but to no avail. The employer did not comply with Section 38A of the NIS Act when they failed to give each such worker a statement of contributions deducted and paid to nib for the year within 30 days of termination of employment. This is a criminal offence and is punishable on summary conviction with a fine of four thousand dollars ($4,000.00) and six (6) months imprisonment.

In addition, under Section 40 of the Act, an employer who fails or neglects to pay or effect payment of contribution is also committing another criminal offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of four thousand dollars ($4,000.00) and six (6) months imprisonment.

Our Union has had similar complaints for quite some time from other groups of workers. The time has come to enforce the law. The situation affects thousands of workers. The Annual Reports of NIB showed that in 2018, employers were in arrears of over $437m. In 2017employer arrears amounted to $565m. In 2016 it was $383m. In fact, every year employers’ arrears are hundreds of millions of dollars. It certainly appears that the law is broken with impunity by employers. These criminal offences must neither be condoned nor allowed to continue.

In the circumstances, we are calling on you to take the necessary steps to launch an investigation into the arrears owed by employers and their failure to give terminated workers certificates of contributions paid to NIB under Section 38 of the NIS Act. The time has come to bring the offending parties to justice.


FOR EASE OF REFERENCE:

National Insurance Act, Chapter 32:01

38 (A) Every employer shall issue his employee within thirty days of termination of employment of such employee a certificate setting out—

(a) the employee’s total insurable wages for the contribution year;

(b) the total amount of contributions deducted from those wages;

(c) the total amount of contributions paid to the Board; and

(d) the number of contribution weeks covered by those contributions.

(2) A copy of the certificate issued to the employee shall be forwarded to the Board on the same day the certificate is issued to the employee.

(3) An employer who fails to issue the certificate referred to in this section to an employee or fails to forward a copy of such certificate to the Board is liable on summary conviction to a fine of four thousand dollars and to imprisonment for six months.


40. An employer who fails or neglects to pay or effect payment of contribution in respect of any person in his employment who is required to be insured under this Act, is liable on summary conviction to a fine of four thousand dollars and six months imprisonment and in the case of a continuing offence shall be liable in respect of each person for whom he neglected or failed to pay or effect payment of contribution, a further fine of one hundred dollars a day for each day that the offence continues after conviction

FITUN ON UNC TO AMERICAN AMBASSADOR

posted 2 May 2020, 18:02 by Gerry Kangalee


Whoever Wins this Election, All of Guyana Loses: By Moses Bhagwan and Eusi Kwayana

posted 9 Mar 2020, 13:16 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 9 Mar 2020, 13:30 ]


From 1957, Moses Bhagwan became active in Guyanese public life and liberation politics through many organizations, including the People’s Progressive Party, the Progressive Youth Organization, The Success Movement, the Indian Political Revolutionary Associates, the Working People’s Alliance and the WPA Overseas Associates.

He served as a Member of Parliament from 1961-1968 and was also actively involved in community renewal, sports and religious affairs. Initially a teacher and civil servant, he became an Attorney at Law, practising in the Courts of Guyana since 1970. Moses Bhagwan now resides in New York He is the author of the book Ancestors of the River
A Call for a Government of National Unity 


We write as two Guyanese who have come out of the leadership of both major parties, who 
have lived through the violence of the 1960


Eusi Kwayana, formerly Sydney King (born 4 April 1925),[1] is a Guyanese politician. A cabinet minister in the People's Progressive Party (PPP) government of 1953, he was detained by the British Army in 1954. Later he left the PPP to form ASCRIA (African Society for Cultural Relations with Independent Africa), a Pan-Africanist grassroots political group that, after a brief flirtation with the People's National Congress (PNC) of Forbes Burnham, fused into the Working People's Alliance (WPA).

During the 1940s he began to be politically active at the village level. Around 1947 (at that time known as Sydney King), he became a member of a small group of politicians, led by Cheddi Jagan, who formed the People’s Progressive Party.

After the PPP won in Guyana’s first election under universal adult suffrage, Kwayana became Minister of Communication and Works. After the British government suspended the constitution and threw the PPP out of office, in October 1953, Kwayana and others were made political detainees for fear that they would cause civil unrest. He was an executive member of both the PPP and subsequently the (PNC).

Kwayana co-founded the African Society for Racial Equality (ASRE), and later, the African Society for Cultural Relations with Independent Africa (ASCRIA) which in 1974 became part of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA). He was a member of the WPA's collective leadership and worked closely with the late Walter Rodney.

He is the author of several books.
s, and who have been following with deep sadness and alarm the news of the outbreak of conflict following a mainly peaceful electoral campaign and voting process in our beloved country. People’s lives have been disrupted in the past week, and a sense of fear and mistrust is rapidly taking over our communities. History teaches us that mistrust canlead to violence, if it is not nipped in the bud. 

As we have already witnessed, it is the most vulnerable among us who will suffer the most. Irresponsible leadership very rarely gets affected by the disputes they consciously sow. A very dangerous situation is fast approaching. We add our voice to statements of concern already made, and ask political leaders to come together and issue a joint statement to all of their supporters and all Guyanese, calling for peace and for an end to violence or the threat of violence and intimidation. Further, we call on the two majorpolitical leaders and parties to put the interest of Guyana on the table, to surrender their narrow goals, and to use the division of spoils as the basis of an immediate agreement of a joint government, based on the verified results of the 2020 elections. 

We underline the need for everyone involved in the elections machinery to fully abide by the spirit and direction of the Representation of The People’s Act. It is fortunate that the international observers are present. This makes it possible for them to evaluate any claims of evidence of illegality in the elections process and to bring these to light. Illegalities in elections must be condemned by umpires. At the same time, we also condemn all attempts by participants who speak about the rule of law, while they engage in disruptive tactics to enforce their will. All these actions, as well as alleged misconduct by authorized officials, contribute to divisions and chaos in the society.

In such a deeply divided nation, it remains possible for the leaders of the major parties to deescalate the situation by finding a mutually agreeable solution. This can be done irrespective of the outcome in the courts, irrespective of the final declaration of results by GECOM, irrespective of local, regional and international observers finally signing off on a credible election result. 

If nothing else, the events of the past week have underlined forcefully that regardless of who wins under this current winner take all system, Guyana as a whole loses. A seat one way or the other, a margin of victory one way or the other, will not solve this dilemma. We simply cannot continue to kick the can down the road for yet another five years. Postponing
the problem will not make it disappear. We cannot continue to accept the reluctance of the two main political parties that have brought us to this point, a reluctance that so far seems totally oblivious to the consequences that have played out in such predictable and devastating ways this past week. The security of the supporters of one major party cannot be premised on the insecurity of the supporters of the other. It is a system that guarantees that most Guyanese, starting with those most vulnerable among us, will always be shut out.

Until the system changes, whoever wins, Guyana loses.

To the leaders of APNU-AFC and the PPP, we ask you to hold your heads high and operate with integrity and humility. We ask that you find the grace to enter without delay into talks to establish a national government based on the principle of parity. Such negotiations would necessarily have to be consistent with the constitution, but it is entirely possible to envision a situation, for example, in which the winner of the 2020 elections takes the presidency but asks their prime ministerial candidate to resign so that someone from the other major party can be appointed; and where a collective cabinet can be appointed. Such a compromise would also give greater latitude to MP’sto vote against the government instead of following the herd, offering greater opportunities for accountability against corruption. 

This breathing space can be an opportunity to take a collective breath, and importantly provide an opportunity for our political leaders to work together on common issues. We do not anticipate that this will be easy. We call for it because it is precisely under such conditions of extreme political polarisation and mistrust that the hard but urgent and necessary work of healing for nation building is called for.

We do not claim originality in our proposal. The national spirit was evident in the political approach by leaders of both the PNC and PPP in the 1960s, in the face of a threat of lasting ethnic divisions. Following the breakdown of constitutional talks in London in the early 1960s, the leader of the PNC responded to the suggestion proposed by the United Nations anti-colonial committee for a PPP-PNC coalition to resolve the conflict, indicating that he would only agree on the condition of parity. It was a position that was not initially favoured by the PPP but members would later agree, with no less than the leader of the PPP becoming one of the foremost advocates of this position. This window of opportunity did not materialise, and over fifty years later we continue to experience the effects of that failure. No less of a visionary approach is demanded in the current situation, so much more dangerous and threatening to our beloved Guyana.

BIGWU STATEMENT ON DEMONETISATION, MONEY LAUNDERING AND OTHER CORRUPT FINANCIAL ACTIVITIES.

posted 18 Dec 2019, 19:15 by Gerry Kangalee

THE ATTACHED STATEMENT WAS ISSUED BY THE BANKING INSURANCE AND GENERAL WORKERS (UNION BIGWU) ON 18TH DECEMBER 2019 (CLICK HERE)

NWU: DUKE DETENTION DISTURBING

posted 28 Aug 2019, 06:02 by Gerry Kangalee

On 2019-08-27 , the National Workers Union issued the following statement


The National Workers Union (NWU) calls on the national community not to take the detention of Watson Duke lightly. It is meant to intimidate and cower, not only leaders of the trade union movement, but all who, in the eyes of the political elite, pose a threat to their continuing to reap the fruits of office.

It is disturbing that the police have not made a comprehensive statement on the issue which clarifies the nature of the so-called investigation. Information in the public sphere seems to suggest that Mr. Duke is being investigated for statements made months ago and which are said to be seditious.

Over the last few months the notion of sedition seems to have crept into the political lexicon. Instead of repealing this oppressive colonial law which tramples upon the freedom of speech of those who speak for the voiceless, the working people, the poor and the oppressed, the political elite seems quite comfortable in attempting to muzzle views at variance with and opposed to theirs.

The Sedition Act of 1920 was passed into law by the colonial government as a reaction to the tremendous workers uprising and general strike of 1919, which ushered in the modern period of the workers movement.

The Sedition Act has been amended four times since its enactment, instead of it being taken off the books. The Act states it is an “An Act to provide for the punishment of seditious acts assed.

A seditious opinion is defined in the Act as: an intention— (a) to bring into hatred or contempt, or to excite disaffection against Government or the Constitution as by law established …

(b) to excite any person to attempt, otherwise than by lawful means, to procure the alteration of any matter in the State by law established;

(c) to raise discontent or disaffection amongst inhabitants of Trinidad and Tobago;

(d) to engender or promote— (i) feelings of ill-will or hostility between one or more sections of the community on the one hand and any other section or sections of the community on the other hand; or (ii) feelings of ill-will towards, hostility to or contempt for any class of inhabitants of Trinidad and Tobago distinguished by race, colour, religion, profession, calling or employment; or

(e) to advocate or promote, with intent to destroy in whole or in part any identifiable group, the commission of any of the following acts, namely: (i) killing members of the group; or (ii) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction. These definitions are so open to interpretation that they are a lawyer’s delight.

Some of the labour leaders of the 1919 general strike were charged with sedition as were Uriah Butler, Jim Barrette, Elma Francois, Bertie Percival and other labour leaders of the 1937 anti-colonial uprising. Duke, whether deserving or not, is in good company.

Instead of utilising its resources to suppress rampant criminality, the police service is being used to persecute those who are not in the good graces of the political directorate. How is it that a statement made months ago has resulted in Duke’s detention? Did it take that long to decide on whether the statement was seditious or not?

According to the Act a “person shall not be prosecuted under this Act without the written consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.”
Is the DPP part of this investigation?

The NWU warns the national community that this development does not bode well for the volatile political and social situation in the country. This may be the opening act in a play which involves the new-found interest by the Prime Minister in the working conditions of public service officers. Following on the savage destruction of jobs in Petrotrin and TSTT, is it that public officers are on the chopping block?

The National Workers Union warns the national community that this assault on the hard-won rights of the people will not be restricted to the labour movement. We wonder what the Chamber of Commerce and the one percent, who are posing as defenders of free speech, have to say about this one.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Gerry Kangalee (National Education and Research Officer – Cell: 785-7637)

CALL FOR PAPERS: Anti-Imperialism in the Twentieth Century Caribbean

posted 20 Jun 2019, 20:02 by Gerry Kangalee

CALL FOR PAPERS Anti-Imperialism in the Twentieth Century Caribbean 

A Special Issue to be published in Journal of Labor and Society Paper Submission Deadline Date: 01-01-2020 Special Issue Co-Editors: Godfrey Vincent, Associate Professor, Department of History, Tuskeegee University, Tuskeegee, Alabama, USA Herbert Brewer, Assistant Professor of History & Coordinator, African American and African Diaspora Studies Program, Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA (CONTINUE HERE)

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