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Media Releases

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

CWU: TATT SELLOUT

posted 30 Mar 2015, 22:28 by Gerry Kangalee

In a statement published on March 27th 2015, the Communication Workers Union accused the Telecommunication Authority of selling out the national interest with relation to their position on the proposed merger of the Cable and Wireless and Columbus Communication.


The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) wishes to express its anger and consternation with a recent Media Release from the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) which states that TATT has given approval for the Billion dollar merger between Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) and Columbus Communications, the parent Company of local Cable T.V. provider FLOW.

The Communication Workers’ Union is of the view that those entrusted with the authority to manage our resources and ensure that the interest of the Nationals of our Country are secured and protected have failed us miserably.

Firstly, how could this initial transaction have materialized without the knowledge of TATT, National Enterprises Limited (NEL) and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago? It appears that they all fell asleep on the job.

Secondly, how could TATT approve such a transaction without a proper examination of all the issues surrounding this transaction based on the existing shareholding relationship between Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) and CWC and the negative implications for this transaction as it relates to the future operations of TSTT?

Thirdly, how could TATT give approval for the third mobile license to FLOW whilst it was involved in a deal to be acquired by Cable and Wireless Communications? Is this an attempt to facilitate the decimation of TSTT?

In the circumstances, TATT by this recent decision to approve the Columbus Communications (Flow)/Cable and Wireless Communications application for change of control and the resultant merger has literally created the environment to allow unfair competition in our Telecom Sector by allowing two (2) foreign providers to merge whilst one of them (CWC) was an active partner with another provider (TSTT).

Additionally, we are yet to be informed of the Government’s position on this development which became public on or around October 2014. Further, we are yet to be advised of what is the position of NEL and its shareholders on this said matter in light of a purported agreement made between NEL and CWC/ Cable & Wireless West Indies (CWWI), which is contained in a letter dated March 18, 2005.

The CWU questions whether this agreement was sanctioned by the Shareholders of NEL and did it have the support of the Government?

This development, which now has the full support of TATT should be of major concern for all Nationals of Trinidad and Tobago, as it is a move to Re-colonialize our entire Telecom Sector which would facilitate a repatriation of our financial resources by the Colonial Plunderers, Cable and Wireless and its foreign partner Columbus Communications. Additionally, decisions on the future of our National Assets are being made without any communication to us as shareholders and nationals, who are in fact the real owners of these National Assets.

As such, the Communication Workers’ Union is calling on all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago to rally around our call for the full local ownership of TSTT and a cancellation of the contaminated bidding process for the third mobile license which has been undermined by the existing relationship between CWC and Columbus Communications.

Further, the CWU calls on the shareholders of NEL to demand a Special General Meeting of its shareholders to get clarity on who made the decision relative to the sale of CWC 49% stake in TSTT and to discuss the implications of the merged operations between CWC and Columbus Communications as it relates to the investment opportunities for NEL and the shareholding structure of TSTT. Additionally the Government must clearly state what its position on this instant matter is and what its vision is for the Telecommunications Sector and what role would be played by TSTT, a Company in which it now has majority ownership.

The CWU as a responsible progressive working-class institution stands in readiness to do all that is necessary to protect our national interest and ensure the economic survival and progressive development of TSTT.

NWU: PRIME MINISTER’S BANKRUPTCY TALK IS RECKLESS AND UNTRUE

posted 26 Mar 2015, 15:40 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 26 Mar 2015, 15:41 ]

2015-03-26

Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar said at the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting on March 25th 2015 that her Government will negotiate with the unions in good faith. She said (unions) “must understand that with the decline in revenues, they cannot demand unrealistic salary increases.” She added: “I have no intention of giving into demands that could lead to or take us into bankruptcy”.

Let us look at the facts! The PM talks about “unrealistic salary increases” Since 2010, when last public sector workers got a pay rise, the purchasing power of the dollar has dropped by more than 30%. If workers salaries are increased by that amount they would be right where they were fifty one months ago. The Prime Minister seems to think that maintaining the purchasing power of one’s salary is “unrealistic.”

It is rather strange that the 14% which was settled with teachers and public servants suddenly becomes “unrealistic” when it comes to settling with other groups of public sector workers. When the Chief Personnel Officer settled with TTUTA and PSA weren’t “revenues in decline”? Why the discrimination in approach when dealing with negotiations in the public sector?

The principles governing the approach by the government should be consistent even though there are peculiarities to take into consideration with the actual nut and bolts of the various settlements. This approach to negotiations certainly does not suggest good faith.

The Prime Minister talks about salary demands leading us into bankruptcy. It seems the PM is not aware of what her ministers say or do. On Wednesday 18th March, 2015, Finance Minister Larry Howai, in addressing the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry & Commerce said: “the $1.0 billion fiscal deficit projected for the first quarter of this year as a result of the fall in energy prices, has turned out to be a $328.4 million surplus thus far over the first quarter of fiscal 2015.” Where is this decline the Prime Minister projects as a reason why salary demands should not be “unrealistic”?

He went on to say: “With respect to the recent civil service agreement, the entire increase is just about half of one percent of the budget and we have identified funding coming from unbudgeted repayments of loans coming in to Government and unbudgeted dividend payments which will allow Government to pay the outstanding commitment of backpay without negatively affecting our cash balances.” He also said personnel expenditure was down by 6.75 %.

So less than one half of one percent of the budget has been allocated to public servants which is the largest group of public sector workers and the bankruptcy scenario is no where close to being realised. It seems the Minister of Finance and his Prime Minister do not sit in the same cabinet!

The Finance Minister also added: “We have stabilized the domestic financial sector from the destabilizing head winds that was the CLICO crisis by pumping over $20.0 billion to bailout and stabilize this insurance behemoth.”

So $20 billion dollars, which is one third of the national budget, has been spent to bail out CLICO and the country has not gone bankrupt, but less than one percent spent on workers’ salary increase will bankrupt us. The logic escapes all reasonable persons, but the class bias of the government is as clear as daylight.

The National Workers Union is under no illusion as to what interests the government serves. The Prime Minister agreed to a Chamber of Commerce demand that CEPEP and URP labour be put under the control of the private sector. The same private sector that continually moans and groans about ending government subsidies are now salivating over the prospect of increasing their millions through the exploitation of government-subsidised labour.

At the very Chamber of Commerce meeting where the Prime Minister made her reckless and unsubstantiated statements, the spokespersons for the Chamber kept up their never-ending whining about their difficulty in accessing foreign exchange and the Prime Minister expressed her surprise that the situation persisted, as if this charade could fool anyone.

Capital flight, money laundering and the financing of illegal trading is in full flight and those who finance the politicians are demanding that the people’s foreign exchange be made available to them carte blanche; so that when the inevitable crash of the economy occurs they will be able to live high on the hog in metropolitan cities while we scramble for survival in the ashes.

The National Workers Union urges all workers in the country, whether in the public or private sector to step up their struggle for a living wage that would enable them to keep their heads above water as the income gap between the business elite and the working people grows and as the venal political elite utilises public funds for their private purposes.

Only the working people can advance their interests: the employers, the politicians and the business elite are busy advancing theirs.


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

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

NWU: EMPLOYERS EXPOSE HYPOCRISY OVER POLICE ACTION

posted 24 Mar 2015, 18:32 by Gerry Kangalee

In a shameless display of self righteous indignation employer groups in this country came out with guns of hypocrisy blazing and attacked the police officers who have been attempting to secure a decent collective agreement from the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO).

The Chamber of Commerce, the American Chamber, the Manufacturers Association, the Bankers Association, the heads of the parasitic conglomerates whined about the loss of productivity, about inconvenience and about holding the country to ransom: the usual cries whenever workers seek to advance their interests by deciding how to deploy their labour in their constant struggle to secure a decent quality of lives for themselves and their families.

Do these paragons of capitalist virtue condemn the rapacious price gouging that takes place in the food import and distribution sector? How can they? They would have to condemn themselves!

Do they condemn those who corner the foreign exchange that emanates from the energy industry which belongs to all citizens and through fraudulent practices conspire to stash away capital that should be used to benefit the citizens of T&T. They claim that is not robbing the people of the country blind, but is just, good, commonsense business practice.

Do they condemn government officials for the widespread corruption and nepotism that has cost this country billions of dollars as government after government take their turns feeding at the trough? How can they when they finance the political parties and receive favoured crony status from the politicians as they laugh all the way to the bank with funds that belong to the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

Did they condemn the practices by the banksters who launder money, finance the cocaine trade and who wrecked the regional and local economies by utilising illegal, immoral and unethical practices like the CLICO scandal which cost the people of this country more than twenty billion dollars and yet nobody has been jailed.

Do they condemn employers when they dismiss workers’ leaders and utilise stalling tactics to block their workers from joining unions? Do these jacket and tie hypocrites condemn non-unionised employers when they fire workers at will without just cause or utilise their economic power over employees to sexually harass low paid workers.

Do they condemn employers who put their employees’ lives in danger on an everyday basis by operating unsafe equipment and processes all in a bid to maximise profits.

Did they condemn Larry Howai for accepting a ten million dollar parting gift from FCB yet calling upon state sector workers to exercise restraint? Entry level constables in the police service earn just over $60,000 per year. Howai’s gift represents approximately one hundred and sixty six years salary for them. Yet this former head of FCB, former head of scandal-ridden NGC who is now in charge of public funds, our funds, dares mumble platitudes about restraint!

This same Howai had the brass face, after settling with the public servants, to deliberately chook a jep nest in the face of policemen, firemen, prison officers, state enterprise and statutory authority workers by trumpeting that no other group will get 14%

Did our money changers in the temple condemn the CPO for reneging on the agreed to comparator scale with the police officers? This is called negotiating in bad faith and is universally held in industrial relations as being a mortal sin.

The National Workers Union (NWU) is of the view that workers have a right to decide how their labour is deployed. This is integral to International Labour Organisation’s Conventions 87 and 98: the right to organise and collective bargaining and freedom of association.

In T&T the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) places restrictions on workers’ right to deploy their labour. Workers, therefore, have to find other ways to protect their interests.

Workers in essential services like police officers, health care workers, electricity workers, sanitation workers etc. are legally denied that right outright. According to the IRA, these workers, unlike other workers, cannot legally strike. They are considered essential because of the functions they carry out, but are not considered essential when their legitimate entitlements to proper wages and working conditions are concerned.

While the public was inconvenienced, the police, like all other workers, have the right to defend their economic rights like police in other parts of the world. When any group of workers deploys its labour in a manner it sees fit in pursuing its interests, inconvenience must be the outcome; otherwise it will not be able to affect the position of the other party in their negotiations. That is how industrial relations in modern capitalist societies operate, except under authoritarian regimes.

Police officers have not had a raise in pay since 2010. Their negotiations are dragging on and on and going nowhere. What other option do they have?

In 2010, their earning power was reduced by an inflation rate of 10.6%; in 2011 by 5.1%; in 2012 by 9%; in 2013 by 8.1% and in 2014 by 8.4%. Just to maintain the purchasing power they had at the end of 2010, police officers need to have a salary increase of more than 30 %.

These wage negotiations should be settled in a calm, responsible way by the CPO and this can only happen if the CPO negotiates in good faith. And this should be the approach with all the other outstanding negotiations. In the meantime the National Workers Union advises all the mealy mouthed spokespersons of the employers to keep bumping their gums so that their hypocrisy, selective condemnation and class bias could become clear to all working people.

NHWU URGES SWRHA CEO TO ADDRESS SALARY, PENSION ISSUES

posted 18 Mar 2015, 18:11 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 18 Mar 2015, 18:17 ]

On 15th March, 2015, the National Health Workers Union wrote the following letter to Mr. Anil Gosine, Chief Executive Officer, South West Regional Health Authority. The letter was signed by comrade Sylvan Wilson for the General Secretary, Comrade Dave Smith.

A media release issued by the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) has indicated that a settlement has been arrived at on the salary negotiations with the Public Services Association for the period 2011-2013.

The National Health Workers’ Union (NHWU) is aware that the Regional Health Authority Act mandates that South West Regional Authority (SWRHA) must implement those terms for the few remaining persons who were seconded or transferred from the Ministry of Health.

We are also aware that SWRHA has traditionally extended some of these benefits to the salary-rated employees employed directly by the Authority, which represents well over ninety-nine per cent of your workforce. The NHWU calls on you, the Board of Directors and management to do the following.

 Salaries and Allowances

1)      You urgently implement increases to all monthly rated employees who were employed directly by SWRHA of not less than the amounts publicly stated by the CPO. This we expect should be done no later than April, 2015 month’s end. This must be done expeditiously as these workers have been subsisting on 2010 salaries and this should be corrected immediately.

 2)      These increases be extended to all categories of “non-permanent” workers, inclusive of those described as temporary, contract (of whatever duration) etc. You are fully aware that most of them have been holding down permanent positions in the establishment for many years.

 3)       Full retroactive pay for the entire period be made to all employees described in (1) and (2), this should be effected not later than May, 2015 month’s end.

 4)      Detailed statements to ALL employees indicating (a) the amount of each and every increase in benefits that is to be applied and for each respective year. (b) a breakdown of sums calculated for each benefit for each year for each employee. (c) these statements must be distributed before payments are made so that employees will be able to more accurately calculate their entitlements and be aware of the basis for your calculations.

 Pensions

 NHWU expects that all former employees of SWRHA, who retired post 1st January, 2011 would have their pensions adjusted by virtue of the increases to their pensionable salary. We are appalled at the paltry levels of Pensions in Payment endured by ALL retirees of the RHAs. We call on the Boards of Directors of all the RHAs to mandate that the Pensions Oversight Committee meet and immediately increase all Pensions in Payment; we suggest by fifty (50%) per cent.

We also call for an immediate review, based on actuarial advice, to be done aimed at improving the benefits payable from the Employees’ Pension Plan. Too many former dedicated workers are languishing in poverty in their retirement.

 General Observations

The National Health Workers Union feels certain that you and more so your management must be painfully aware of the constant hemorrhage of your highly trained, hard working and experienced staff. This is largely due to the poor terms and conditions of employment meted out to them. Some of this loss goes to the local private health sector. The fact that SWRHA cannot successfully compete, particularly with some of the smaller outfits, is a grave indictment on the organization. We fear that the previously referenced CPO’s announcement of salary increases will not cure this ailment.

Our investigation suggests that your organization is guilty of throwing good money after bad. SWRHA seems quite comfortable expending large sums of money to source personnel from all over the globe. This “solution” gives rise to all kinds of challenges e.g. language barriers, cultural shocks etc., rather than meaningfully upgrading the compensation package for its healthcare professionals.

We suggest that a comparative analysis be done on SWRHA’s package over the last fifteen years with other service occupations, e.g. teaching, and see if it does not explain to large measure the exodus and low worker morale endemic in the region. It is to the immense credit of those exploited workers who remain that SWRHA still delivers the excellent service they provide to their patients.

The National Health Workers Union is of the firm belief that if your organization were to make serious attempts to address this myopic policy that a major reversal of flow of well-trained and experienced staff would materialize. This would be achieved at a fraction of the cost of producing them yourself and in a far quicker timeframe.  It is for this reason we urge that your considerations be not limited only to the recent announcements but that you see the broader picture and that the increases arising from the CPO be viewed as an interim measure. 

The NHWU remains ready, willing and able to assist SWRHA in developing the region to be the flagship of health care delivery to the nation.

NHWU: CHAOS AND CONFUSION MUST STOP OVER SHIFT ISSUE

posted 16 Mar 2015, 18:34 by Gerry Kangalee

On 2015/03/16, the National Health Workers Union published the following statement:

Recently, there has been a disruptive and unnecessary conflict over the issue of shift arrangements for nursing personnel in SWRHA.

On Wednesday 25th February the National Health Workers Union (NHWU) met the SWRHA CEO, Mr. Anil Gosine and his team, to discuss the problem. The NHWU had a ten member delegation which was made up of four nursing personnel and other staff reps at this long delayed meeting. At the meeting, management was asked: What were the reasons that brought about the push to change the established working arrangements?   What were the objectives trying to be achieved?   What were the proposals on the table at that time?

The CEO explained that the management was requested to “implement” the terms of the Individual Contracts of nursing personnel. When pressed for details he indicated that the specifics were: an 8 hour work day; two clear days off after night shift.

Management was questioned on who made the request to “implement” the contract and also if the contract states an 8 hour work day then where did the 12 hour roster come from? Ms. Franka Ollivere-Andrews stated that “a group of nurses and their representative association” had meetings with the management to press for these changes. She further stated that the 12 hour shift arrangement was no longer being explored.

The Nursing personnel on the union’s team questioned who was this “group” of nursing personnel that made the request? When did these consultations take place? Who did they consult? They all explained that none of their colleagues ever mentioned being part of or being informed of those discussions. On being questioned Ms. Ollivere-Andrews stated nursing personnel are required to work 160 hours per month.

The union’s team questioned why wasn’t there a detailed document coming from the HR department explaining the proposal and rationale for the changes, as “hours of work” is one of the most fundamental principles of Industrial Relations. The team further stated further that it was totally unfair to have Nursing Administration personnel explaining contract issues as many may not be versed in that area.

It seems that HR is quite content to shift their responsibilities to nursing administrators who, instead of being facilitated in carrying out their task of ensuring proper health care, are being forced to carry out the tasks of other departments. This is totally unfair and a waste of precious time, particularly in a situation where, according to the CEO, there are vacancies for 700 nursing personnel.

The HR spokespersons at the meeting offered the weak excuse that the nursing body is too large for the HR department to communicate with.

When asked what the present situation was seeing that the SWRHA administration had indicated that changes would be effected from 1st March, 2015, Ms. Franka Ollivere-Andrews stated that the roster being developed will have 4 features:

(a) 2 clear days off after night shift whenever the staffing levels permit

(b) 8 hour shifts

(c) 40 hours work week

(d) 160 hours per month.

NHWU representatives vigorously objected stating that off-days must be given when due. The NHWU team argued that the arithmetic did not add up. If there are 5 work days, 1 rest day  and 2 days off, that alone amounts to 8 days while the calendar week only consists of 7 days. If the rest day is Sunday and Monday and Tuesday are off-days, this will leave only 4 days in the week to get the 40 hours.

The team further explained that Continuous Shift workers throughout industry have shift rotations called cycles. These cycles dictate how they work. A cycle begins on the first day of work after your last “Off-Day” and ends on the last “Off-Day”. A cycle is not limited to the 7 day weekly cycle.

The “Work-Week” however, remains 7 days. Since Nursing Personnel are salary rated i.e. their pay is determined by a fixed sum per month then it is futile to have the work week fixed at 40 hours per week. Indeed if shift personnel were to work 40 hours every week they would in fact be working over 13 hrs extra per month. The 160 hours per month can be achieved by having alternating cycles of 32 hours and 40 hours of work.

Ms. Franka Ollivere-Andrews agreed with the union’s submissions and further stated that the nursing administration is working on a similar structure. The NHWU team sought to have the management confirm the critical elements that could resolve the scheduling issue i.e.

(1) all shifts will be of 8 hour duration

(2)160 hours are to be worked per month

(3) hours per week will not exceed 40hrs.

(4) overtime rates to be applied on extra hours.

 

The NHWU made it abundantly clear that while the principles outlined above should represent the norm we know that there are special circumstances e.g. safety, personal issues, study, organizational needs etc. that may dictate variations, once agreed, being made. Management claimed they accepted those points but refused to put it in writing as they claimed that there are two other unions to deal with on site.

 The NHWU suggested that this proposal must be given to all nursing personnel to vote upon since their contracts could not be changed unilaterally and their individual consent must be sought to do so. After two hours of discussions and general consensus that the projections made by the Union were logical and sensible, management resisted signing off a bilateral agreement.

The National Health Workers Union sees it as its duty to inform, educate and get a consensus for the benefit of the nursing professionals at SWRHA. To this end we are actively seeking a meeting with the nursing administration. Pamphlets will be produced on a regular basis as discussions develop until we finally arrive at a point wherein stress levels can subside, nurses can plan their social life and the business of caring for patients can be professionally done. Chaos and confusion must stop!


NWU: HANDS OFF VENEZUELA!

posted 14 Mar 2015, 11:23 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 14 Mar 2015, 11:46 ]

2015-03-14

In a fit of apparent absurdity, US President Barack Obama has declared a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela,”

This is just the latest step in a fifteen year campaign by the United States to derail the course of the Bolivarian revolution by instigating, financing and collaborating with right wing elements in Venezuela to overthrow the democratically elected government of our closest neighbour.

On March 6th 2013, in the aftermath of the death of President Hugo Chávez Frías, the National Workers Union stated:

“With the death of Chávez, we can expect stepped up intervention and destabilisation from the United States…The US will step up its attempts to derail the Bolivarian revolution and the Bolivarian regime is going to be subjected to renewed bouts of subversion, political interference and economic sabotage...The US was deeply involved in the 2002 coup against the Chávez regime and will fancy its chances in this time of Venezuelan vulnerability.”

Since Chávez’s death, the subversion and destabilisation efforts have intensified. The guarimba street violence of 2014 is fresh in our memories and the ongoing economic sabotage, which follows the pattern crafted to oust the Allende government in 1973, is taking its toll on the Venezuelan economy.

The U.S. Senate passed the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014 in December; a “bill to impose targeted sanctions on persons responsible for violations of human rights of antigovernment protesters in Venezuela, to strengthen civil society in Venezuela, and for other purposes.” It imposed a visa ban, freezing U.S. assets, and increased funding for anti-government media.

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a known CIA front organisation, has been heavily involved in funding and training Venezuelan counter-revolutionary forces as has been the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

According to Venezuelan journalist Eva Golinger: “These Washington agencies… filtered more than $14 million to opposition groups in Venezuela between 2013 and 2014, including funding for their political campaigns in 2013 and for the current anti-government protests in 20i4.”

In January 2015 at the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative in Washington, US Vice President Joseph Biden, with typical Yankee arrogance, lectured Caribbean Prime Ministers about what positions they should adopt with reference to energy security matters. Of course the sub-text was that they should abandon the Petrocaribe initiative which held most of their economies together during the economic hurricane that has buffeted the world capitalist economy since 2008.

Biden disingenuously claimed in his address that low oil prices: “gives governments a little space to breathe…The best time to fix a roof is when the sun is shining. The time is now.” He went on to tout US renewable energy initiatives, the costs of which he claimed were falling and exhorted Caribbean countries to strike deals with US oil and gas producers.

He claimed that North America was now the “new epicenter of energy in the 21st century” and stated: “the single-biggest burden that could be lifted from you right now, economically, is the cost of energy and the dependence that you still have on single suppliers.” This is a not so thinly-disguised exhortation to abandon the Petrocaribe initiative. What he failed to reference was that when the post-2008 economic storms were raging and the roofs of the Caribbean countries were leaking torrents of water, it was the Venezuelan government which provided them with a tarpaulin while his government showed no interest in whether they could weather the storm.

The inevitable conclusion to be drawn is that this sudden interest in Caribbean affairs has nothing to do with concern about the survival of Caribbean economies, but has everything to do with attempting to isolate Venezuela as the US intensifies its effort to undermine and subvert the Bolivarian revolution, including the use of low intensity warfare and /or outright military aggression.

The National Workers Union reminds the people of Trinidad and Tobago that T&T and the US have signed several trade and security deals and we must keep our eyes open for increased US intelligence activity in T&T. T&T is in the mouth of the Orinoco River and has a long and intimate shared history with Venezuela especially at the people to people level. Our country is in the perfect position to be utilised by the US as a forward base for aggression against our closest neighbour

The National Workers Union calls upon the people of Trinidad and Tobago to be alert and vigilant in the face of an increasingly dangerous military situation in the Caribbean.

The National Workers Union calls upon the people of Trinidad and Tobago to insist that the government does not allow our country to be used by the US to engage in imperialist destabilisation of Venezuela. Failure to do so may drag our country into a war of aggression which may well see our people become collateral damage as the US pursues its goal of derailing the Bolivarian Revolution

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

CWU EXPOSES TATT; BLASTS MINISTER BAKSH

posted 14 Mar 2015, 09:10 by Gerry Kangalee

On March 13th 2015, the Secretary General of the Communication Workers Union, Joseph Remy, issued two public statements, which we reproduce.

The Communication Workers’ Union, (CWU), has taken note of the announcement by the Telecommunication Authority of Trinidad and Tobago, (TATT), relative to their decision pertaining to the acquisition of Columbus Communications by Cable and Wireless Communications.

While on the surface and through the messages portrayed in the headlines it would appear that TATT has rejected the acquisition, a careful perusal of the position advanced by the TATT has left some serious concerns and unanswered questions in the minds of the Communication Workers’ Union.

We wish to firstly applaud TATT for heeding the frequent public calls of the CWU to deal with the blatant and flagrant Conflict of Interest issue with respect to Cable and Wireless Shareholding in TSTT. The Union repeatedly stated that it was wrong for Cable and Wireless to continue to hold on to their stake in TSTT while at the same time seek to have approval granted for their acquisition of Columbus Communications, which effectively would give them control over FLOW, a direct competitor of TSTT.

This however was not a difficult decision to make since the ordinary citizen and any elementary school child would have been able to identify the irrefutable Conflict of Interest that arises with Cable and Wireless' stake in TSTT and their interest in FLOW.

What has the CWU concerned is the softening of TATT's position and their emulation of the Jamaican Government’s approach by stipulating conditionalities for the approval of the acquisition. TATT has left the back door wide open for Cable and Wireless Communications to acquire Columbus Communications, (owners of FLOW), by stating that "it shall not unreasonably withhold its approval of the transaction if CWC were to suspend its shareholder rights with regard to its 49% stake in TSTT among other conditions".

TATT also went on to state that one of the other conditions of their approval is that "the applicants submit an agreement for the complete divestment of CWC’s shareholding of 49% in TSTT, in consultation with the majority shareholder National Enterprise Ltd. (NEL) in accordance with the shareholders’ agreement and to be approved in writing by the Authority, such approval to not be unreasonably withheld."

Quite alarmingly, TATT has not dealt with the fact that Cable and Wireless Communications would have operated at the Board Level of TSTT since 1991. They had the right to appoint four (4) members to the Board of Directors and had exhaustive Veto rights over major Capital Expenditure at TSTT.

In recent instances, they would have withheld approval of the Company's Budget and forced TSTT to operate on a Month to Month Budgetary allocation. They would have been part of the recent Strategic Planning Exercise conducted by the Company whereby they rolled out a Five (5) Year Strategic Plan for Business expansion and development.

They have been privy to all of the Company's business strategies and competitive initiatives. Against that background, how can they now be allowed a chance to enter the same market through another Business Entity that is competing with TSTT in the same Product Offerings? They would certainly have a major competitive advantage by their intimate knowledge of all the Company's Business Operations and Financial position.

It is against this background that the Communication Workers' Union is stating that we find the TATT position to be very weak. They are dancing to the music of Cable and Wireless Communications and have endorsed Cable and Wireless Communications' blatant acts of corporate prostitution. They have given sanction to the deliberate efforts by Cable and Wireless Communications over the years to stymie the advancement and positive development of TSTT.

They have effectively signaled their intent to see Cable and Wireless Communications continue on their path of destruction of TSTT, all because TSTT has a Recognized Majority Union, (the CWU), that they cannot manipulate and control. That is the main reason that Cable and Wireless Communications wants to acquire Columbus Communications, (owners of FLOW), so that they can enter the market with the same Product Offerings as TSTT but with a non-unionised work force that they can manipulate and exploit all in their quest for obscene profits.

As we stated before, this would have severe and serious fallout for employment levels in the Telecommunications Sector and eventually lead to social and economic despair in Trinidad and Tobago.

The CWU has begun a campaign against this acquisition and this shallow position adopted by the TATT would not deter us from our forward march to see the backs of Cable and Wireless Communications from the Telecommunications Landscape of Trinidad and Tobago. We would continue to campaign for local ownership at TSTT and would struggle to ensure that our local Spectrum would not be exploited by a multitude of Foreign Multi National Corporations who do not have the Nation’s interest at heart.

We have also noted the contradiction in TATT’s position whereby they have stated that "an in-depth economic and legal analysis of the implications of the transaction on the local telecom market found that substantial lessening of competition or adverse effects may reasonably be expected to result from the proposed acquisition of Columbus by CWC."

How does TATT reconcile that position with their intent to give approval to the acquisition once Cable and Wireless gets rid of their 49% shareholding in TSTT?

The CWU is once again calling on the Trinidad and Tobago Government to take the lead in this situation and reject any approval for the transfer of control of Columbus local operations to Cable and Wireless Communications.

We are also demanding that the entire application process for the third (3rd) Mobile Provider be annulled since Cable and Wireless Communications would have applied to be a provider with the clear knowledge of their 49% shareholding in TSTT and with the clear knowledge that they were making a bid for the acquisition of Columbus Communications which also had an application for the 3rd License before TATT through their local operator, FLOW.

Oh what a tangled web they have spun around the TATT. It is now left up to the CWU to take the fight to Cable and Wireless, Columbus Communications, TATT and the obstinate and visionless Peoples Partnership Government of Trinidad and Tobago.

Consistent with the spirit and intent of the Preamble of the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, which speaks to "respect for the principles of social justice and therefore believe that the operation of the economic system should result in the material resources of the community being so distributed as to subserve the common good, that there should not be exploited or forced by economic necessity to operate in inhumane conditions but that there should be opportunity for advancement on the basis of recognition of merit, ability and integrity."

We Dare to Struggle for the Telecommunications Sector of Trinidad and Tobago to be developed in the interest of all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago; We Dare to Struggle to ensure that CWC, CWWI and DIGICEL do not rape and plunder our National Patrimony; We Dare to Struggle for a better Trinidad and Tobago.


                      MINISTER OR GAME SHOW HOST?


The Communication Workers’ Union would like to warn the Minister of Public Utilities about his most recent statement relative to the ownership of the Telecommunication Services of Trinidad and Tobago. In an interview on CNC3, the Line Minister stated that if the ‘Price is Right’, then TSTT can be placed into Private Hands.

The Communication Workers' Union would like to advise Minister Nizam Baksh that TSTT is not owned by the People’s Partnership. TSTT is an invaluable State Asset that belongs to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. As such, any decision relative to the future direction of the Company cannot and must not be determined by any "Game Show Host."

It was quite disrespectful for this Minister, who by the way has not made one statement on the raging public debate about the Cable and Wireless acquisition of Columbus Communications, to treat TSTT like some commodity that you guess a price for, akin to what takes place on the Game Show Channel.

The CWU would also like to advise the People’s Partnership Government that we will not sit or stand idly by and allow them to use this current situation with Cable and Wireless to give away the lucrative shareholding in TSTT to one of their Party Financiers. We are well aware of all the moves being made behind the scenes relative to the 49% Shareholding that Cable and Wireless must relinquish.

We are well aware that there are strong moves by Local Big Business Interests who have very strong and sharp links to the Government to direct one major move towards getting control of TSIT. We are also well aware that the Peoples Partnership Government wants to ensure that they pay back their financiers before they demit office

The CWU promises to inform the national community about this disingenuous plan by the Government

and is prepared to mount a nationwide campaign to ensure that TSTT remains the flagship Local Telecommunications Provider in a Market that is now totally dominated by foreign multi-nationals.

Our National Patrimony must not be sold out, worse again at pepper corn rates. We are prepared to stand up and defend our interests to ensure that we leave some sort of legacy and patrimony for the future generation. For this, we "Dare to Struggle"!

A word to wise is sufficient.

NATUC: GET RID OF THE CPO

posted 11 Mar 2015, 12:20 by Gerry Kangalee

The National Trade Union Centre (NATUC) issued the following statement on March 8th 2015:

The National Trade Union Centre supports the struggle of the police, fire and prison officers in their fight for just and fair wages given the nature of the work of the protective services.

In most instances, the jobs performed by our protective services are both physically and mentally demanding and are usually carried out in a highly volatile, hazardous and life threatening environment.

A well paid protective service employee is essential to ensuring the peace, security and well-being of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago and therefore their terms and conditions of employment must equate the import of their jobs. 

The outstanding negotiations for the protective services must be treated with the respect and urgency that it deserves and it is in this context that NATUC holds itself available to lend whatever support that we can give to ensure the speedy resolution of this matter. 

NATUC also call on the government to make a firm decision regarding the status of these negotiations to ensure that there is no further delay in settling the outstanding negotiations for the protective services in an honest and reasonable manner.

Additionally, NATUC has a concern with regards to the process and mechanism in which negotiations are done through the office of the CPO and therefore we are calling on government to review and or remove the office of the CPO to allow for meaningful negotiations, given this modern and enlightened industrial relations age. 

NATUC once again call on the Public Sector Negotiation Committee (PSNC) to settle all outstanding wage negotiations within a reasonable timeframe and as such the appropriate funds must be allocated to this end to ensure the speedy resolution of the outstanding negotiations.

Finally the government must make a firm decision regarding the role and operations of the Public Sector Negotiation Committee and the role of the CPO. Further, if the PNSC and the CPO are to be maintained, there must be a firm commitment and a process to settle all wage negotiations within a specific timeframe.

NATUC calls on the government to conclude all other outstanding negotiations now.

 

CWU CONDEMNS STATE ENTERPRISE GREED

posted 3 Mar 2015, 05:18 by Gerry Kangalee

On February 28, 2015, the Communication Workers union issued the following statement:

The Communication Workers' Union would like to publicly express its outrage at the disclosure made in Parliament recently by the Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Rudrinath Indarsingh, relative to the Compensation Packages received by Chief· Executive Officers/Presidents/Managing Directors of certain State Enterprises.What has us even more outraged, is the disclosure of the Compensation Package for the Chief Executive Officer of TSTT, which ranges from $210,000.00 to $300,000.00 per month for a local person, and, $287,000.00 to $400,000.00 per month for a foreigner, for the period 2009-2010. 

This can only be described as scandalous and borders on serious White Collar Criminal Activity'. How can anyone justify this exorbitant Package for the CEO of TSTT and in the same breath continually deny the hardworking, frustrated and demotivated Bargaining Unit Workers their just due. Imagine that the CEO is paid this obscene Package for the 2009-2010 period and the Company comes to the Industrial Court and is preaching economic and financial inability to afford a decent wage increase for its Bargaining Unit Staff for the period 2008-2010.

We wish to remind the nation that TSTT Bargaining Unit Workers are still operating on 2007 Salaries in 2015. Where is the internal equity in this scenario?

The CWU calls on the Board of Directors to immediately take steps to rectify this grave injustice meted out to the Bargaining Unit Employees of TSTT and conduct a comprehensive review of Executive Compensation Levels of TSTT Executives. We demand that the Board also immediately direct the Executive of the Company to initiate discussions aimed at resolving all outstanding Wage Negotiations for TSTT Bargaining Unit Employees to ensure that we at least gain some semblance of internal Equity relative to Compensation Levels within the Company.

With regards to the Compensation Packages for Executives of the other State Entities, once again this revelation is a demonstration of the Greed and Abuse. perpetuated by those persons charged with the responsibility to protect and advance the interest of the citizens of our Country. It is no wonder that the Country is bordering on a journey of unbridled lawlessness and immorality. This is definitely fuelled by the unfettered quest for opulence by a chosen few through the exploitation of the masses.

The CWU condemns this wanton abuse of State Resources and we call for an immediate Investigation to determine who is responsible for committing this alleged "White Collar Crime" on the unsuspecting citizens of our Country and bring to justice, those persons so accountable.

We commit to pursue this matter for and on behalf of
all Bargaining Unit Workers of TSTT and the ordinary citizens of Trinidad and Tobago until there is justice and equity for all.

NWU: SHOE DOES KNOW WHEN SOCKS HAVE HOLE

posted 26 Feb 2015, 23:50 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 26 Feb 2015, 23:55 ]

The following statement was issued by the National Workers Union (NWU) on February 27th 2015

Many people were puzzled by Labour Minister Errol McLeod’s claim at the swearing in of the new Registration Recognition and Certification Board (RRCB) that he was bullied into getting the

board going. The National Workers Union was not. There is an old creole saying that “Shoe does know when socks have hole” and McLeod’s socks have had holes for years. 

There has been no RRCB in place for more than a year. By any stretch of the imagination this is astonishing! According to the Industrial Relations Act, a repressive law that the PNM enacted during a state of emergency in 1972, any group of workers who exercise their right to freedom of association and organise themselves into a union of their choice cannot engage in collective bargaining unless they are so certified by the RRCB. 

Yet this former President General of the most important union in the Caribbean; this former leader of the MSJ who went into government proclaiming that he was about getting the Workers Agenda implemented, failed to appoint the Board for over a year, thus denying hundreds of workers their right to collective bargaining which is the bedrock of trade unionism. 

On January 11th 2011 at the function appointing the Board which went out of office in 2014 our bullied Minister said: “I wish to underscore the critical role which the RRCB must play in promoting the integrity and credibility of our industrial relations system and in the protection of our workforce by shaping the collective bargaining structure through its determination of the appropriate and majority trade union to best represent workers.” He was always a lyrics man, knows all the right things to say, but the taste of the pudding is in the eating. 

Our former trade unionist understands the “critical role” of the RRCB and then goes on to derail and sabotage that “critical role” by refusing to appoint the Board for over a year. Minister McLeod, on the same occasion, went on to say: “ It has been resoundingly reiterated that the determinations of the Board take too long and as such there is a backlog of applications, some dating far back as a decade ago. Something is wrong about that! Justice is denied to the worker when the recognition and certification process is delayed – for whatever reason!"

It boggles the mind that the former leader of the MSJ rants and rails against the length of time it takes the Board to determine recognition applications; talks about justice being denied to workers and then adds to the already interminable process by refusing to appoint the Board for more than a year, thus adding to the very backlog he claimed to be concerned about in 2011.

He goes on to quote Section 32(1) of the IRA which states that “The Board shall expeditiously determine all applications for certification brought before it” and goes on to say “the expediency of the work of the Board facilitates workers’ right to freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining by joining a trade union of their choice. This is in keeping with both our Constitutional and our international labour obligations as we are signatory to the International Labour Organization Convention No. 87 – Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize (1948) and No. 98 –Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining (1949).”

McLeod clearly understands that the lack of expedition in the work of the Board does severe damage to the workers’ “right to freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining by joining a trade union of their choice.” He even shows off his erudition by citing ILO Conventions.

But alas the devil may quote scripture. Words are cheap; by their deeds you shall know them! The Minister of Labour is quite aware that his government, through its refusal to appoint the Recognition Board for over a year is in flagrant violation of the very International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions that he cites, but this should not be surprising.

His government promised to support ILO Convention 189 in 2011, which calls for legal discrimination against domestic workers to be removed. This could have been done with a simple amendment to the Industrial Relations Act.

Four years later there is no ratification of Convention 189, there is not even a token attempt to implement the Workers Agenda and the government has not only not supported the aspirations of the labour movement (which is not surprising), but has actively put obstacles in the way of the labour movement moving forward; their delay in appointing the Recognition Board being one of the more flagrant attacks on the labour movement.

McLeod’s role as Labour Minister is quite in line with his role as a labour leader: in the words of the immortal Shakespeare, he has been “a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage…” His record is like “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.

The National Workers Union views McLeod’s claim of being bullied into doing his duty as just verbal distraction in a futile attempt to shift the focus from his contemptible retreat from positions that he espoused but never actually advanced or defended. But then it is much easier to join the feeding frenzy at the hog trough.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

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

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