The National Workers Union (NWU) condemns the action of the Commissioner of Police in turning down an application by the joint trade union movement to hold a public meeting in Tobago. The meeting was slated to be held on September 9th 2011.
This turn of events certainly throws the spotlight on the strenuous denials of the government that the State of Emergency had nothing to do with the mobilisation of the joint trade union movement towards a general strike over the issue of the 5% cap for government employees and state enterprise workers.
The procedure for holding a public meeting in non-emergency times was governed by the Summary Offences Act. This Act, which itself is oppressive, (the NWU has called for its repeal) specifies that to hold a public meeting the police must be notified. The Emergency Powers Regulations 2011 states that permission must be sought by the police.
According to the Summary Offences Act:
Other regulations prohibit the dissemination of documents (flyers) and the use of any “instrument for the amplification of sound” (PA system) except with the permission of the Commissioner of Police. There are even prohibitions on the attempt “whether orally or otherwise, to influence public opinion...”
The National Workers Union, like other trade unions, was convinced from the start that the emergency was declared not to deal with crime, but to stem the rising tide of working class discontent. This conviction led to the National Workers’ Union making a call on the government to end the state of emergency. Instead of heeding that call the government extended the period of emergency rule by three months.
The emergency regulations certainly seem aimed at crippling the normal functioning of trade union activity. Criminals do not usually hold public meetings and marches, distribute flyers or attempt to influence public opinion with the use of instruments for the amplification of sound or otherwise. Trade unions certainly do.
The refusal of the Police Commissioner to give permission for the public meeting in Tobago seems to be another bit of evidence that the emergency regulations are aimed at the trade union movement. The National Workers Union calls on all trade unions and other civic organisations to condemn this refusal in the strongest possible terms.