Where we stand‎ > ‎Media Releases‎ > ‎


posted 28 Jan 2015, 19:27 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 29 Jan 2015, 02:07 ]
On January 28th 2015, the National Health Workers Union issued the following statement:

In some of the publications by the National Health Workers Union (NHWU), it is mentioned that the NHWU is affiliated to the National Workers Union (NWU). The National Workers Union (NWU) was formed in 2004 by a number of experienced well known and competent trade unionists who recognised that there were hundreds of thousands of workers in the country who were not unionised and were, therefore subjected to rank exploitation by their employers. They adopted the motto ORGANISE THE UNORGANISED!

The National Workers Union was approached by several NCRHA workers to join the NWU. Some of them were members of another union and were frustrated by the fact that although that union could handle rights disputes (individual grievances like warning notices, suspensions or dismissals, or any grievance concerning rights or entitlements), it was debarred by Section 38(4) of the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) from gaining RECOGNISED MAJORITY UNION status. This means that it could not negotiate collective agreements, medical plans, savings plans or pension plans. (See NHWU bulletin: GET ORGANISED).

Section 38 (4) of the IRA states: "…no application for certification of recognition under this Part shall be considered where the application relates to workers comprised in a bargaining unit in one category of essential industries and the claimant union is already certified as the recognised majority union for workers comprised in a bargaining unit in another category of essential industries." The problem was that the NWU was also debarred from becoming the recognised majority union because it had applied for recognised majority union status for a group of workers which the law deemed “essential industry” workers.

It was agreed that health workers should build their own union to cater for their specific needs and that the NWU, true to its motto of ORGANISE THE UNORGANISED, would assist health workers in creating a union from the ground up by having the NHWU affiliate to the National Workers Union.

On 25th June 2014, the National Health Workers Union was registered as a trade union. The major object of the NHWU is to secure the complete organisation of all health care workers in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. It must be borne in mind that the National Health Workers Union is not a previously existing organisation that health workers are joining, but a union that has to be built by the health workers themselves in their own image and likeness.

To build a union from scratch is a humongous task. A new union would have little in the way of resources, especially until it gains recognised majority union status. It would have no office, no full time staff, no ability to employ lawyers or other advisers or to undertake research While it is extremely difficult to start a union from scratch, the experiences of health workers’ attempts to organise themselves over the years make it absolutely necessary that they undertake this task of organising the thousands of health care workers, both at the RHAs and in the private medical industry for job security, decent pensions and an acceptable collective agreement.

This is where the National Workers Union comes in. The National Workers Union provides human, financial and material resources, technical expertise in terms of organising, industrial relations (grievance handling; collective bargaining), training, education, research and publications to its affiliates, including the NHWU. Several experienced, well known and competent Trade Unionists in the National Workers Union (NWU) to which the NHWU is affiliated, are assisting in training, in negotiations and grievance handling for Health workers in the country. Some of the people, associated with the National Workers Union, whom the NHWU can utilise in their union building campaign are:

Cecil Pau
l: Deputy President National Workers Union. Formerly Shop Steward, branch officer and president of the OWTU National Petroleum branch; chairman of the north co-ordinating council of the OWTU; Chief Labour Relations Officer and First Vice President of the OWTU; General Secretary of the Council of Progressive Trade Unions; Deputy General Secretary of the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC). He was central to the development of the Social Wage policy, negotiated numerous collective agreements, particularly in the Energy and manufacturing sectors.

Dave Smith: General Secretary, National Workers Union; Secretary, Labour Advisory Bureau and Formerly Area Officer, National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) England; Regional Officer with UNISON (largest union in Britain); Director of Communications, National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW); has extensive experience in grievance handling and the Industrial Court and in leading negotiations. 

Willock Pierre: Executive Officer National Workers Union; Member Labour Advisory Bureau; has negotiated collective agreements for the Transport and Industrial Workers Union (TIWU) including PTSC, Tracmac, CGA, Century Eslon and others; Formerly: Shop Steward and Branch President OWTU Contractors’ Branch; OWTU Labour Relations Officer; has vast experience handling workers’ grievances; has negotiated numerous collective agreements; one of the more experienced and respected industrial court practitioners.
Sylvan Wilson: Executive Officer National Workers Union; member Board of Directors of Home Mortgage Bank. Formerly Branch President OWTU Fedchem/Yara Branch; Executive Vice President OWTU; Acting Chief Labour Relations Officer OWTU; negotiated numerous collective agreements, pension plans, medical plans, savings plans; employee assistance programmes; led the Fedchem workers in their successful five months strike in 1980-1981; led the Fedchem workers to victory in their six months lockout in 1986-1987; represented OWTU at numerous conferences, seminars and committees at home and abroad; worked closely with others in developing and negotiating the union's social wage programme particularly in employee home ownership programmes (utilizing pension funds).

Frank Sears
: President National Workers Union and Labour Advisory Bureau. Formerly: shop steward and branch officer, OWTU Pointe-A-Pierre Branch; OWTU Health Safety & Environment Officer (first health, safety and environment officer in the labour movement); created the concept of a union-wide safety Council made up of safety stewards from OWTU branches; journalist attached to the OWTU Vanguard newspaper; OWTU Organiser. 

Gerry Kangalee: Education And Research Officer National Workers Union; Member Labour Advisory Bureau;Administrator NWU web site and Facebook page. Formerly: Education and Research Officer OWTU; Editor “Vanguard” (OWTU Newspaper); leading researcher in the trade union movement; has organised and led many seminars, workshops and training programmes; responsible for publishing numerous documents, branch bulletins, booklets, memoranda etc.; delivered many lectures at trade union training programmes. 

Sylvestre McLaren
: Executive Officer National Workers Union; member Labour Advisory Bureau; Formerly Executive Officer and Chief Organiser Transport and Industrial Workers Union (TIWU), member of the Registration, Recognition and Certification Board; Senior Labour Relations Officers NUGFW; one of the most experienced trade unionists in the country re: grievance handling and negotiating collective agreements; has served on numerous committees in his fifty years a
s an active trade unionist; benefitted from training programmes abroad and has represented the trade union movement at numerous conferences abroad; well known for his commitment to working class struggle. 

Carla Roxanne Walcott: National Organiser National Workers Union; Executive Officer National Union of DomesticEmployees (NUDE); has over ten years experience in the field of Trade Unionism and has been trained locally and internationally; represents workers at the bilateral stage with the Employer, at the Ministry of Labour and the Industrial Court; worked with Non-Governmental Organisations and prior to that worked in the Public Sector.
Gerry Kangalee,
28 Jan 2015, 19:27