The Communication Workers Union (CWU) issued the following statement on September 30th 2014 in its newsletter called FORWARD:
Comrades, within recent times we have noticed that the foreign management at Hilton has decided to take on the Communication Workers’ Union and its members at the Hilton. These attacks began subsequent to the settlement of the last negotiations when House Slave Leroy Browne reneged on an agreement to make temporary workers permanent and to put the necessary framework in place to implement a Pension Plan for Hilton Workers.
We also had the insensitive termination of some sixty odd part-time workers on carnival Tuesday whilst guests and nationals were participating in our carnival celebrations. What followed on from the Union’s attempts to have this matter discussed and resolved was an open display of arrogance, disrespect and utter contempt for the Recognised Majority Union by the House Slave, Bajan National, Leroy Browne. Recently we had the dismissal of two supervisors who are also members and supporters of the Union for spurious allegations and without giving them the opportunity to defend themselves in accordance with the laws of natural justice.
In addition to this, some of our members were threatened with disciplinary action for allegedly being involved in activities they were not party to. Additionally, one of our General Council members was suspended with pay, pending an investigation into an alleged act of insubordination, when in fact the worker was standing up for his rights after he was disrespected by the now infamous House Slave, Leroy Browne.
Comrades, these attacks against you, our members cannot go unnoticed. Leroy Browne needs to be reminded that “Slavery Days” are over! This is Trinidad and Tobago! This is the land where “Every Creed and Race, find an Equal Place”. As Nationals of Trinidad and Tobago we are owners of the Hilton as the State has 100% shareholder interest in the hotel. As such we must not sit idly by and allow foreign nationals like Leroy Browne, Yanet Torro and Umesh Meera to attack workers who have given years of committed labour to ensure that the Hotel continues to provide an efficient and professional service to its guests.
Leroy Browne is pretending to be a “Good Samaritan” but in truth, he is a “Black Stone Stooge” and like a snake he is set to release his poisonous Anti-Worker venom! Workers do not be fooled by their “Ole Talk”! It is all tricks to distract you from the real issues. Their recent actions have signaled their intent to launch an offensive against the Union in order to put fear in the minds of workers so that they could gradually begin to implement their plans which are not in the best interest of workers and in most cases are in violation of the Collective Agreement.
Comrades, we need to be ever vigilant as we perform our duties, we must report any violations of the Collective Agreement to the Union, we must report any acts of intimidation, victimization, discrimination or unfair distribution of labour.
We must also be prepared to unite as workers and participate and support mobilization activities as we bring to the attention of the national community, the backward Industrial Relations and Management Practices and unsafe working conditions which exists at the Hotel, the disrespect for the Recognised Majority Union, the abuse of and victimization of workers when they stand up for their rights, the refusal to implement a Pension plan for Hilton Workers some of whom have over 30 years’ service with the Hotel and the refusal to make temporary and part time workers permanent after being in the employ of the Hotel in some cases for over 20 years.
Comrades, it cannot be business as usual, Leroy and his blind followers have declared war against us; so, we have the right to defend ourselves and our property, which is our jobs. Leroy Browne and his foreign associates must not be allowed to disrespect us anymore. They must understand that there can be no Industrial Peace without Justice.
CWU QUESTIONS TSTT’S CEO APPOINTMENT
The Communication Workers’ Union would like to publicly express its grave concerns with respect to confirmed reports that at a Special Meeting held today, Friday 19th September 2014, the Board of Directors have taken the decision to appoint neophyte, Ronald Walcott as the new Chief Executive Officer of Telecommunication Services of Trinidad and Tobago Limited with immediate effect.
This appointment and the sudden acceptance of the resignation of the Acting Chief Executive Officer, Mr. George Hill, come at a very critical time for the Company. TSTT is in the midst of a battle waged by Cable and Wireless who from all indications are supported by the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago in their quest for a third Mobile License to compete with themselves as 49% Shareholders in TSTT.
The CWU also finds it quite surprising that the front man, who have been pushing and articulating the concept of Organizational Transformation on a weekly basis throughout the Company, has suddenly found himself in a position where he now would have to undergo his own personal transformation. While we hold no brief for Mr. Hill, we are quite concerned with the manner in which this decision was made.
Reports have it that the instructions to accept Mr. Hill’s resignation and to appoint Mr. Walcott came from the People’s Partnership Government. Our investigation has revealed that Mr. Walcott is a member/supporter of the Congress of the People, (COP) the UNC "B" Team in the People’s Partnership Government and his appointment is part of the Partnership‘s plan to entrench their Party Hacks and Cronies in key Senior positions within TSTT just as they are now doing with other State Enterprises. It appears that this is a move to place their party supporters in key positions in various Institutions to carry out their agenda in the event they are voted out of office in 2015.
The Communication Workers‘Union condemns this political manipulation and interference in the operations at TSTT and we demand some explanation from the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister on this latest development. Mr. Walcott’s track record as the Executive Vice-President of Mobile Operations at TSTT has been nothing but pathetic.
We wish to state publicly that we have nothing personal against Mr. Walcott, but the Union is questioning his competence in the area of modern Telecommunication/Information Communication Technology, Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management, that are necessary for such a critical position in the company at such a crucial period in the organisation’s thrust to regain its competitive advantage over its competitors.
He is just another Puppet installed on the Partnership String that is being pulled by two local members of the Board of Directors who have strong links with the Junior Minister in the Ministry of Works, the Attorney General and the Prime Minister.
The CWU once again calls on those with the responsibility for the operations of TSTT to advise us of the process that was pursued with respect to the appointment of Mr. Walcott to the very important and critical position of Chief Executive Officer of TSTT.
We call on the Line Minister, Mr. Nizam Baksh and the Minister of Finance, Honourable Senator Larry Howai, who has responsibilities for the Financial Operations at TSTT, to immediately launch an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the appointment of Mr. Walcott to the position of Chief Executive Officer of TSTT.
We also take this opportunity to alert the Ministers of the myriad of issues that were left outstanding by Mr. Hill, inclusive of the botched VSP/EERP Program, the 2008-2010 and 2011- 2013 Wage Negotiations, the Medical Plan for the Retirees and the Political appointment of Partnership Party hacks into senior positions at the Company. We also wish to advise them that we are prepared to give them the opportunity to resolve all these outstanding issues amongst others and fix the dysfunctional relationship that exists between the TSTT Management and the CWU.
We wish to remind the Ministers that if they choose to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, then we are prepared to exercise all our legal and legitimate options, inclusive of protest action to restore some semblance of stability in the company and ensure that we regain our competitive advantage in the Telecommunication/Information Communication Technology Sector.
A word to the wise is sufficient!
EBOLA WARNING FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS
The National Health Workers Union (NHWU) is very concerned about statements made by the by Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Colin Furlonge at a recent media conference dealing with the country’s readiness to meet the challenge of the Ebola disease.
According to media reports, the CMO claimed that the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) at Mount Hope and the Caura Hospital have been “mandated to provide clinical services and quarantine” for anyone who enters the country with Ebola infection.
Dr. Furlonge claimed that: “We’ve identified a 12-bedded area at EWMSC which will be used to triage suspected cases and we have identified two 24- bedded wards at Caura Hospital, which we will utilise if it is necessary at all, if we have to quarantine anyone.” Three rooms in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at EWMSC that would be capable of “providing isolation and care” have also been identified.
The CMO went on to say that the Ministry of Health will be using newspaper advertisements as well as television and radio interviews with health officials to inform the public about the latest developments in the fight to contain Ebola.
This media statement certainly raises a number of troubling questions. Managers and staff of the departments supposedly involved, inclusive of the Caura hospital, were not informed and were totally unaware of this development until it was reported in the media. Instead of those who would have to be on the frontline facing this threat being involved from the get go and being an integral part of strategising and planning the battle against Ebola, they, like workers usually are, are perceived as an afterthought.
No one knew where the quarantine area is at Caura, or where the 12 bed treatment area is at EWMSC.
There has been no sensitising, preparation or training for those staff members who will have to interface with infected persons.
No one even knows what personal protective equipment is needed, far less being trained to use them. This also applies to the protocols that must apply in dealing with infected persons, especially as Ebola infection has such a high mortality rate.
Staff members are particularly concerned that no discussion, far less consensus, has taken place about what would occur if staff members become infected by this disease; what protocols would apply in terms of protecting their families from probable infection; how would it affect infected workers’ working conditions.
The International Rescue Committee's health coordinator in Sierra Leone has said that damage to the health care system is the "biggest threat" that the Ebola outbreak poses to that country. The virus has already killed 10 percent of the medical staff in Kenema District hospital, Sierra Leone. In Liberia, 15% of those who have died from the virus were doctors or nurses who contracted it at work.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) warns it is not always possible to identify Ebola infection early because initial symptoms are non-specific. It is important, therefore, that health-care workers apply standard precautions consistently with all patients – regardless of their diagnosis – in all work practices at all times. The problem is that our health care workers have not been informed and trained. We are poorly equipped and insufficiently prepared. Those at risk are not limited to those who have contact with infected persons. Laboratory workers are also at risk.
The National Health Workers Union (NHWU) views the CMO’s statement as more a public relations gimmick than the announcement of a well-thought out medical strategy designed to tackle what could be a serious situation.
The approach of the Chief Medical officer reeks of disrespect for health workers and betrays a lack of understanding that the very health workers who have not been part of the planning of the approach to deal with Ebola are the very persons who are expected to put their lives on the line to combat this disease should it enter the country.
The announcements have caught everyone with their pants down and as it stands members of staff are not clear as to whether or not they are truly mandated to engage these patients and put their own lives at risk.
The National Health Workers Union (NHWU) urges health workers, who may have to deal with the Ebola virus and who have not been trained to understand the protocols and to use the personal protective equipment, to put their safety and their families’ safety first and further urges them not to interface with suspected Ebola - affected persons until they are properly trained to do so.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Nigel Small, Chair, North Central Branch of the National Health Workers Union @ 790-2983.
DEMOCKRACY BEFORE AND AFTER
“Dey use dey riches and dey power;
make a mockery of the law
an’ have de law protect dem same time”
"The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them."
After a thorough discussion on the Constitutional Amendment Bill on Sunday 10th August the executive of the National Workers Union issued the following statement. (The bill was passed in parliament on the morning of 2014/08/12).
All those who have commented, for and against, on the Constitution Amendment Bill, which the ruling UNC has foisted on the country, have wrapped themselves in the cloak of democracy.
Those opposed to the amendments have shouted from the rooftops that they are defending democracy from governmental assault; those in support that they are promoting and deepening democracy and empowering the people. Democracy, therefore, seems to be all things to all men.
This democracy of which they speak seems to be focussed on elections…full stop. It strengthens the concept that once you have periodic elections you are a democracy. T&T must be the leading democratic country in the world. We have had five general elections in ten years and since May 2010 we have had one general election, two local government elections and two bye-elections.
The focus of the constitution reform exercise has not been on how to involve working people in developing and executing policy and exercising control over politicians, but it has focused on tweaking the electoral system to gain advantage for the governing political party.
The only person amidst the noise and haste who has come close to throwing light on the matter is Merle Hodge when she lamented: “…our failure to propose anything that increases the direct input of ordinary citizens into decision-making. We have proposed no structures or mechanisms to achieve this…
Popular participation in the democratic process has not been expanded one jot beyond periodically staining the tip of one of our fingers. ‘More power to the people’? I don’t think so,”
This is the crux of the matter, whether first past the post, proportional representation, mixed system, run-off elections…none of these methods advance the interests of working people and the poor. They are about electing which gang of political hustlers and confidence tricksters will live off the fat of the land, feed at the trough of public funds and ensure that their financiers are well taken care of.
This democracy, which everybody claims to uphold, is always restricted by the narrow limits set by our neo-colonial, crony capitalist economic and political system and is in reality a democracy for the minority, a democracy for the propertied classes, a democracy for the rich, for those who rely on the state to accumulate capital: for party financiers and political investors.
The debate on democracy never enters the realm of industrial democracy; democracy at the workplace, without which all steps forward in expanding rights and freedoms would be baby steps and vulnerable to reversal.
While citizens are caught up in trying to understand the implications of the Constitution Amendment Bill, let us not forget that the infamous Section 34 of The Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Bill was designed to ensure that party financiers would escape jail for their crimes.
How many citizens are aware that on July 18th 2014, a bill was enacted in the House of Representatives called The Securities (Amendment) Bill, 2013? It provides for prosecutions as summary offences and not indictable offences; it provides for $10 million in fines and a jail term of ten years for insider trading, but the perpetrators may pay an administrative fine of $500,000 to avoid facing prosecution. Further, within seven years of the commission of an offence the matter must be brought to court or it becomes time-barred. Like in the case of Section 34 the bill was passed unanimously.
Gang-related offences may land a gang member in jail for life, are indictable offences and have no time limit for prosecution. Party financiers and political investors certainly stand to benefit from this travesty. Investigations in T&T take years and years before they are completed and insider trading is a complex matter that has to be thorough and detailed lest it becomes meat and drink for millionaire lawyers.
How many insider trading prosecutions have there been? None: yet there is no urgency to tackle the question of campaign finance reform. They will not cut off their nose to spite their face. So much for democracy for all!
Owing to the everyday conditions of existence of capitalist exploitation, working people are under so much pressure to carve out a decent, civilised quality of life for themselves and their children that they cannot be “bothered” with democracy or with “politics”.
This, of course, strengthens the interests of the ruling elites. Outside of periods of heightened class struggles the majority of the population is practically debarred from participation in public and political life.
One argument states that we must defend “our constitution”. How did the republican constitution and before it the Independence constitution become “our” constitution? The Independence constitution was ‘negotiated’ by the British imperialists and middle class politicians who hi-jacked the independence movement and have ever since engaged in using the state to feather their nests through corrupt relationships with transnational corporations, local merchant capitalists, party financiers and political investors.
The independence constitution, in essence, saw the continuation of crown colony government with the Prime Minister taking the place of the governor. The republican constitution just tweaked the Independence constitution and allowed the government to stuff the cabinet with unelected senators, thus increasing the power of the Prime Minister.
The term limits on a prime minister, some argue will prevent the rise of petty dictators, but the very structure of the constitution makes a prime minister a dictator, whether she is in power for one day or a hundred years.
The citizens of the country continue to remain alienated from the process of government and are assigned a role as periodic election fodder. When the elections are over they are expected to go about their business and not meddle in affairs of governance until the next election. So those who defend “our” constitution are in fact defending a neo-colonial imposition, the people had no part in shaping.
The government talks about empowering the people, when in reality it’s all about the ruling UNC trying by both hook and crook to avoid defeat at the next general election. Pious declarations about people’s participation and empowerment are just smoke and mirrors to obscure naked partisan greed.
The right of recall as a principle could hardly be criticised, but the process by which the recall is to be implemented makes it practically impossible to recall any member of parliament. The right of recall has been converted into the impossibility of recall. Ruling elites have no interest in power to the people.
Yet they argue that the power of recall will force MP’s to work and represent their constituents in a more dedicated manner. The reality is that the real job of an MP is not to represent the needs of his constituents, but to act as voting fodder for the ruling party to enact laws and adopt policies in parliament. There is no institutional mechanism for MP’s to “represent” constituents, except to be able to beg and plead with Cabinet Ministers and the Prime Minister. This applies to both government and opposition MP’s.
The more they insist they are “empowering” people, the more they centralise power in their own hands. The power of recall of MP’s is in the hands of leaders of political parties: ask Herbert Volney!
A lot of foolishness has been spoken about the runoff guaranteeing a “majority” MP. How ridiculous! Even if a candidate gets more than fifty percent of the vote, she is hardly likely to get more than fifty percent of the electorate.
In a runoff, if it does not have a direct bearing on who forms the government, there is likely to be a reduction in those voting from the first round. Fifty percent of fifty percent is equal to a “majority” MP! Constitutional mathematics in yuh pweffen!
Political parties in T&T are just vote-collecting machines financed by capitalists with deep pockets. Constitutional rights are violated on a routine basis in this country. Those who cannot pay high-priced lawyers are supposed to just grin and bear it.
Before the Constitution Amendment Bill was passed, Trinidad and Tobago was a neo-colonial society, run by transnational corporations, merchant capitalists, narcotraficantes, party financiers, political investors and eat-a-food politicians.
After the constitution Amendment Bill was passed Trinidad and Tobago is still a neo-colonial society, run by transnational corporations, merchant capitalists, narcotraficantes, party financiers, political investors and eat-a-food politicians.
The National Workers Union is well aware that the Constitution is supposed to guarantee freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of speech, but in practice, there are so many constraints placed on these, that they exist only in so far as they do not threaten the interests of those who control the economy and the state. What good is a right that exists only on paper?
Constitutional rights were never “granted’ to working people. They have always been fought for and forced upon the ruling class, particularly by the labour movement over the years, across the globe. Constitutions guarantee nothing! To ensure that constitutional rights are exercised in practice, the people must be so organised and alert and willing to apply pressure from below that governments will find it impossible to trifle with their hard-won rights and freedoms.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Gerry Kangalee (National Education and Research Officer – Cell: 785-7637)
JOINT TRADE UNION MOVEMENT
August 5, 2014
Calls for Immediate Independent Enquiry at PETROTRIN
The Joint Trade Union Movement is calling for an immediate enquiry on the recent oil spill disaster at PETROTRIN.
At a meeting of the Joint Trade Union Leaders this week all Unions present agreed to advocate against any attempt by the government to side step what is a major disaster. The JTUM supports the residents of Marabella and other surrounding areas affected by this latest oil spill.
The JTUM identifies the major players who must be held responsible among the following:
Ultimately it must be remembered that PETROTRIN is a State enterprise in the energy sector and so the government must be collectively held responsible. This company is a major revenue earner for the country and therefore government has a responsibility to guarantee and secure the processes which attend to the production, storage and downstream activity of the sector.
The JTUM further notes with concern the fact that the government and the company were warned of the very concerns that have now manifested themselves in a report produced by the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU). The Union then attempted to present the report to the Prime Minister who refused to accept same.
This report contained constructive recommendations which if implemented and accepted would certainly have forestalled tis latest disaster.
This report was presented to His Excellency, the President of Trinidad and Tobago, Anthony Carmona.
The JTUM also calls for the quashing of any audit or enquiry now being hurriedly commissioned by the discredited executive management of PETROTRIN to engage the services of Price Waterhouse, and audit firm to investigate this disaster. Price Waterhouse is a service provider to PETROTRIN and as such does have a conflict of interest in this matter.
The JTUM supports Ancil Roget, President General of OWTU who said that the company must be held accountable. In the first disaster last December attempts were made to suggest in some twisted way that the Union was to be looked at. That realm of folly was soon smashed as it became clear that the real culprits were gross mismanagement and negligence at the very top. Attempts to blame a bundwall around the affected oil storage facility is really a smokescreen to what is the real issue.
We wish to warn the population that there are a reported 42 oil storage tanks which are at risk and can cause even more disasters through the rupturing of tank walls.
The President of PETROTRIN must go now! The entire Board must go now!
Outstanding Issues Affecting
Fire Service Second Division Officers
The following statement was issued by the Trinidad and Tobago Fire Officers Association Second Division (TTFSA2) in response to a request from the National Workers Union. The statement is published in the wake of the picket staged by Fire officers on Friday 25th July 2014.
The TTFSA2 has represented fire officers since 1967 and has a membership of approximately 1,500. Their relationship to their employer is regulated by the Fire Service Act no. 31 of 1965 as subsequently amended.
The Fire Service Association (Second Division) is saying that Fire Officers are being treated unjustly and in the interest of justice and fairness calls for an immediate investigation into the management of the Fire Service by the Chief Fire officer. We are being treated like the bastard child of the Ministry of National Security and are requesting the intervention of the Prime Minister, Minister of Public Administration, Minister of National Security and the Permanent Security Ministry of National Security to rescue us from the abysmal situation that now plague fire officers.
The administration of the Fire Service has reached an all- time low. Fire officers are totally neglected by the Fire Service administration, the Director of Personnel Administration, The Chief Personnel Officer and by extension the Government.
Everything is going wrong administratively in the Fire Service but fire officers continue to perform their duties without hesitation despite the poor treatment meted out by the administration. This can be evidenced by the following:
1. Health Welfare and Safety of Officers:
Recently officers had to dodge stones & gunshots whilst extinguishing a fire on the roadway in Laventille. We heard Inspector Mystar on TV speaking about this, however to date not one word from the Chief Fire Officer. The silence from the C.F.O is deafening on these high risk areas where personnel have to venture daily during the course of their duties. What is the protective protocol in the face of these major threats to Fire Officers?
Personnel at the Roxborough Fire Station have been subjected to unsafe conditions and placed at undue risk, as it relates to the continued occupation of that structure, contrary to the OSH Act 2004 (as amended 2006). Despite being informed of the dilapidated & unsafe conditions that exist there along with the recommendations from the Structural Engineer of the MOW&T, that the structure be demolished ASAP.
To date personnel attached there are scared and has demanded our intervention. To date these issues remain unresolved and we are in the first year of the Collective Bargaining period 2014 to 2016
2. Failure to Promote Fire Officers:
No promotion has been made by the Public Service Commission to the Rank of Fire Station Officer since 2005.
Fire Sub Station Officers qualified since 2003 for promotion to Fire Station Officer are yet to be promoted. Some of these officers are now appointed to act two (2) ranks above their substantive posts i.e. in the office of Assistant Divisional Fire Officer. Very often you hear of officers being promoted in the Police and Prison Service whereas no promotion in the Fire Service. This situation is negatively affecting the quality of supervision and discipline in the Fire Service. Also affected is our earning ability, standard of living and our ability to continue to provide the basic needs for our families. This results in very low morale and a feeling of discrimination in the Protective Services.
3. Nonpayment of outstanding Salary and Allowances for 2008 to 2010:
Many fire officers are still being paid at the 2007 remuneration level. Thousands of dollars are owed to fire officers due to the failure to fully implement the Collective Agreement for the period 2008 to 2010.
Salary increments outstanding for both serving and retired officers in contravention of regulation 31 (Terms and Conditions Regulations, 1998) resulting in most officers not being paid their correct salaries nor retirement benefits.
Acting allowances for appointed officers have not been paid since 2008 resulting in serving and retired officers being denied their property, thus affecting their standard of living.
Acting Fire Sub Officers and Acting Fire Sub Station Officers who are eligible for Qualifying Examination Allowance are not being paid this allowance in contravention of Cabinet Minute #791 of April 1970 and High Court judgment in action #1680 of 2003.
Qualifying Examination Allowance is not consolidated with the salaries of eligible officers upon retirement in contravention of Cabinet Minute #791 of April 1970 and High Court judgment, in action #1680 of 2003.
Pension and gratuity emoluments are not being paid in a timely manner to most eligible officers contrary to part v Payment of Pension, Regulation 43. of Fire Service Terms & Conditions of Employment Regulations 1998.
Officers injured during the course of duty are not being afforded timely medical treatment or reimbursed for medical expenses in contravention of Regulation 91 of the Protective Services Compensation Act No. 22 of 1996. (Basil Raphael, Navindra Jagdeo, Jason Forde, & Derryck Mitchell). In a job where fire officers are inherently exposed to numerous health risks, the level of medical treatment available is quite inadequate.
The Communication Workers' Union would like to bring to the public's attention, the reasons for the action taken by workers who occupy the Caroline Building, Scarborough, Tobago, relative to their refusal to work in circumstances where their health and safety is in danger.
As can be gleaned from the attached pictures, this building is now undergoing some heavy construction activities due to renovation work being undertaken by the owner. The owner has also indicated
Despite all of this, TSTT never once consulted with the workers or the CWU as the
Workers took the decision to exercise their rights to refuse to work under these
The Union, on behalf of the workers so affected, apologizes to the Public for this inconvenience but we believe that the Workers actions are justified and would also protect the lives of members of the Public who ventured to enter this Building to engage in business transactions.
NWU CONCERNED ABOUT MCLEOD’S ATTACK ON PSA MEMBERS
The National Workers Union (NWU) notes with great concern the imposition of a stop order on the Public Services Association (PSA) and the workers of the Immigration Department by the Industrial Court at the behest of the Minister of Labour, ex-OWTU president general, Errol K. McLeod.
The action by the Minister of Labour, utilising section 65(1) of the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) highlights the imbalance of power between workers and employers in a capitalist society.
The industrial relationship between employer and employee is an adversarial one and is recognised as such by the procedures laid out in the IRA designed to regulate that relationship. Of course, in the final analysis, the relationship is skewed in favour of the employer, because the employer can exert economic pressure on the workers and the capitalist state has developed to protect the interests of the employer.
This is demonstrated graphically in the IRA with its restrictions on the right to strike and its outright prohibition of the exercise of that right by what is deemed in law to be workers in essential services and the restrictions on workers in exercising their right to freedom of association because they have been deemed essential industries.
The law, in large part, therefore, serves the interests of the employers and, conversely, acts against the interests of workers.
Employers may apply immediate sanctions against workers through dismissal, suspension, retrenchment, denial of promotions etc. But if workers take action against employers by exercising their power to control the deployment of their labour power, the law steps in and forces them to go through protracted legal processes or punishes them for not doing so.
Workers should have the right to take industrial action even though it may cause inconvenience to the public. Even the founder of the PNM, Dr. Eric Williams recognised this when he said in 1960: “Industrial democracy is based on the right of workers to strike, even though the community is thrown in turmoil. It is the effective and often the only way of bringing the workers case to the attention of the public…”
Of course, our first prime minister made a u-turn on that position and all political parties have since sought to suppress the exercise of the right to take industrial action, including the right to strike, by workers.
The International Labor Organisation (ILO) of which the government of Trinidad and Tobago is a member recognises the right to strike. According to the ILO: “ The right to strike is recognized by the ILO’s supervisory bodies as an intrinsic corollary of the right to organize protected by Convention No. 87, deriving from the right of workers' organizations to formulate their programmes of activities to further and defend the economic and social interests of their members.”
It is clear that the law is designed to bolster, protect and defend the interests of the employers. It is also clear that if workers are restricted in their capacity to take collective action to advance, protect and defend their interests they are rendered powerless in their relation to their employers.
While the Occupational Safety and Health Act recognises workers’ right to withdraw from situations posing a danger to their health and safety, the Minister of Labour used the IRA to stop the workers at Immigration department from doing so.
Yet the IRA states in Section “(3) For the purposes of this Act, no person shall be regarded as a worker, if he is —
(a) a public officer, as defined by section 3 of the Constitution…”
It seems contradictory that the IRA deals with the relationship between workers and employers; that public sector workers are specifically deemed as not being workers, yet the IRA has been used to put a stop order on their actions.
This latest struggle of the workers in the public service confirms the position of the National Workers Union that the labour laws in T&T are oppressive and need to be overhauled from top to bottom; in particular the Industrial Relations Act needs to be repealed and replaced by legislation that will facilitate the interests of working people.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Gerry Kangalee (National Education and Research Officer – Cell: 785-7637)
The following statement was issued by the National Workers Union to mark the occasion Of Labour Day, June 19th, 2014
Freedom of Association is the most important issue facing trade unions across the planet. It is fundamental to workers organising themselves for the purpose of collective bargaining.
In T&T it takes a ridiculously long time to determine an application to the Recognition Board for recognized majority union status. Recognition claims may take as many as four years to be determined!
The Workers Agenda, which (now Minister of Labour) Errol K. McLeod piloted at an All Union COSSABO on April 18th 2010, called for the removal of this restriction among other issues. About the recognition process the Workers Agenda states:
“A limit of three (3) months needs to be put in place for the determination of recognition claims…”
McLeod and the party he led went into government in 2010. From then to now, when his party was in government and when he abandoned it to continue eating a food when they left, he has done nothing to advance the Workers Agenda.
The members of the Recognition Board are not full time and do not manage the day to day process of determining applications for recognition. The board more or less accepts and ratifies recommendations from the Secretariat, the members of which are public officers attached to the Ministry of Labour and under the control of Minister of Labour McLeod.
Trade unions have called for the repeal of the Industrial Relations Act as oppressive, anti-worker legislation enacted by a frightened PNM Government during a state of emergency in 1972. But the question of expedition in issuing recognition claims can be achieved even within the ambit of the law.
Bitter experience over the years has taught us that employers seize every opportunity to ignore and delay the recognition process. While we expect the employer to do all in his power to deny his employees trade union recognition, the processes employed by the Board have led us to the conclusion that the State shares the employer perspective and in fact acts consciously to protect the interests of the employers.
While the government pays lip service to upholding workers' right to collective bargaining, it in fact actively participates in the attempt to delay, obstruct and ultimately prevent workers from exercising their right to trade union representation.
The Recognition Board has developed Practice Notes that govern the process by which they go about determining applications. These are the cause of most of the problems. These Notes are the product of the Board Secretariat and can be amended without recourse to amending the legislation, if the Minister of Labour and his cabinet wish to do so.
Of course that would meet with opposition from the employers who finance the political hustlers and confidence tricksters who infest the parliament. It is clear that McLeod and his government have aligned themselves with anti-worker, anti-union employers.
The development of the Practice Notes and the implementation of the process of determining applications are not the product of the Recognition Board but that of the Secretariat which is under the control of the Minister of Labour.
The process is twofold: The first step is determining the appropriateness of the bargaining unit(s); the second step is the checking of records. The Secretariat seems to believe that there is some high science that must be invoked to determine a bargaining unit and that within the secretariat they alone have the “expertise” to determine bargaining units. It’s all a load of rubbish!
Step two is the checking of records which should be a relatively easy process, if not for the recalcitrance of the employers and the incredible level of superfluous detail that the Recognition Board requires from parties involved in the application.
The National Workers Union supports the recommendations of the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) Included among these recommendations are that the following time lines should be introduced:
1. A claim for recognition should be acknowledged by the Board within seven (7) days of its receipt;
2. Within fourteen days, the Board should convene a meeting of the union and the employer to discuss what bargaining unit(s) would be appropriate (this is the time-line set out in the IRA for the Ministry of Labour to convene a conciliation meeting for reported trade disputes);
3. The employer should be required to bring to that meeting all the information necessary to enable the discussion to take place on what bargaining unit(s) should be established;
4. Where the parties can agree the appropriate bargaining unit(s), this should be accepted by the Board;
5. The Board should establish interim bargaining unit(s) to enable the check of records to take place while further work is done on clarifying and dealing with outstanding issues.
6. Time-lines can be varied by mutual agreement between the parties but the objective should be to complete the process within three (3) months
7. Where the employer refuses to co-operate, ignores the process or deliberately delays the process, the Board should proceed on the basis of the information it has available from any source, including that provided by the union. This is already provided for in Section 23(1) of the Board Rules.
The National Workers Union contends that McLeod, the Minister of Labour, has the authority to put an end to these never-ending frustrating delays.
The National Workers Union calls on McLeod to use the power he has to bring an end to the delays in the recognition process now! Failure to do so would just confirm what all conscious trade unionists know - that McLeod is working to advance the cause of the employers and is consciously obstructing the advancement of the interests of the trade union movement and working people, all in the interest of eating a food.
RECOGNITION DELAYED IS RECOGNITION DENIED!