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posted 3 Jan 2017, 12:31 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 3 Jan 2017, 12:37 ]

Suzetta Ali, Chairman of the Employers Consultative Association
On  2017-01-03 the National Workers Union (NWU) issued the following statement: The Employers Consultative Association (ECA) has called on citizens to resist the anticipated strike by the OWTU against Petrotrin. The National Workers Union (NWU) sees this call by the ECA as encouraging extra legal action against Petrotrin workers who, if they go on strike, would be in conformity with due process and the law.

The ECA spews its usual nonsense about this being a time “when collaboration and cooperation is of importance if the country is to rebuild its fractured and damaged economy.”

What the ECA suggests is that if workers forego wage increases and give up their hard won rights, this would rebuild the economy. What they really mean is that working people who are already reeling from retrenchment, higher taxes and price increases must pay for the capitalist crisis in order that ECA members maintain their income levels and their standard of living.

Far from the proposed strike being a declaration of war against the population as the ECA would have us believe, it may very well be a defensive move by working people to maintain their quality of life as they reel under the blows of the economic and political crisis, while the wannabe bourgeoisie continue to purchase their super luxury vehicles and dance Old Years Night away at their five star hotels.

The ECA talks about “building our common future together”. Since when have employers and workers built anything together? All that workers have has been acquired through struggle and strife, resisted all the way by the employers and their political enforcers in the government. The ECA claims that Petrotrin workers are asking for parity with other groups of workers and that this claim is not “fair and reasonable”. The Petrotrin workers do not want parity; they want to be treated in an equitable manner. They do not want to subsist on 2011 salaries in 2017.

The ECA cites Petrotrin president who claims a ten percent wage increase will cost the State an additional $444 million. They do not say that Petrotrin has historically been the third largest contributor to government revenue behind NGC and BP and that in the period 2011 to 2014 Petrotrin contributed more than $12 billion to government revenue!

The ECA then makes a plug for the oil sector to be classified as an essential service and thus the workers be legally debarred from striking. This, suggestion comes at the very time when the trade union movement is agitating for the expunging of the essential service provisions in the Industrial Relations Act, thus entrenching workers right to withhold their labour.

They then go on to talk about this not being the time for demanding wage increases, thus making it clear that workers should take what they get and shut their mouths and allow those who have been exploiting their labour to intensify that exploitation under the guise of serving the national interest.

The boldfaceness of these make-believe capitalists prattling about reviewing workers “total compensation” as opposed to just “pay increases”! The ECA is quite aware that a collective agreement contains scores of provisions governing the relationship between employer and employee; and does not just deal with wage increases.

The National Workers Union condemns the ECA for its statement that “the focus of Petrotrin needs to be on increasing efficiency and productivity, and reducing its cost of operations, with lower effective staffing numbers.” This is the crux of the situation. The call is for Petrotrin to retrench workers – a move that will devastate the economy of the South which depends heavily on the thousands of permanent and contractor workers. But, in the inimitable words of Colm Imbert they haven’t rioted…yet!

Bizarrely, the ECA states: “This ultimately allows further negotiations for improved compensation to be linked to performance considerations, resulting in a win-win for all parties involved.” So: retrench workers; devastate the economy and those workers who remain at Petrotrin can enjoy “improved compensation.”

While there may be different views about the wisdom and efficacy of strike action held by different sections of the society, the position of the ECA is craven, self serving and reeks of class bias and contempt for working people.


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