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posted 1 May 2016, 19:06 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 2 May 2016, 03:22 ]
The National Workers Union (NWU) issued the following statement dated May 2nd 2016:

The National Workers Union salutes May Day as the international working class celebrates the great struggles that have been and are being waged to advance, protect and defend the interests of workers everywhere. We call for solidarity with and support for Comrade Ermine De Bique-Meade, General Secretary of the Contractors and General Workers Trade Union, who was arrested while carrying out her duty to her members.

So where are we as workers? To be blunt, workers in T&T are under the most severe pressure we have endured since the 1980’s. The deepening international capitalist crisis of overproduction has severely contracted our energy-dependent economy and the capitalists, employers and the State are adopting measures to make sure that working people and the poor pay through our noses for a crisis we had no part in creating.

Since the general election, the cost of fuel has increased twice; transportation cost, of course, is following suit; merchants are making a killing by ramping up the prices of food and pharmaceuticals; value added tax has added to the misery and sent up the prices of almost everything.

The government is illegally seeking to vary the terms and conditions of public officers and other employees of the state by attempting to bypass the collective bargaining process and imposing by decree how workers must access their arrears which go back to 2011.

The government is well aware, just as the NAR government’s 10% wage reduction and removal of COLA in the 1980’s was ruled illegal by the court, this will also be ruled illegal; but it knows that the judicial system will drag the matter on for years.

The employers, including the government, have embarked on an orgy of wage freezes and retrenchment. Arcelor Mittal, Tube City, Centrin, OAS, Repsol, Carillon, local government bodies including the San Fernando City Council, energy service companies, American Airlines, among others, have all shed jobs; contract workers throughout the public sector are being sent home in droves and this trend is set to continue.

Privatisation of state enterprises is going to be stepped up. BP, the largest of the energy vampires, is seeking to renegotiate its contract
 with NGC and the Atlantic Train One contract, so that they could get a bigger slice of the revenue at the expense of the treasury. Foreign onshore energy firms are calling for changes to the Petroleum Profits Tax (PPT) and the Supplemental Petroleum Tax (SPT) to reduce their tax liability.

Five employer organisations have produced a document stating that “every employee must have unfettered access to the law and the freedom to associate as they see fit, including the right to represent themselves.”

It also says that individual workers must have “the right to determine their own individual terms and conditions of employment.” and that “Amendments to the Industrial Relations Act must take cognizance of the fact that many non-unionized businesses already provide a fair and equitable work environment for employ-ees...Employees in such businesses should have the ability to access employment rights and remedies without having to join a trade union.”

This strikes at the very heart of collective bar-gaining and is designed to make the trade union movement irrelevant. The irony is that the law makes allowance for workers who are not in a unionised bargaining unit to access legal remedy through unions!

The employers are moving to ensure that a massive transfer of income takes place from the pockets of working people into their pockets while they talk a lot of dotishness about sharing the burden and being patriotic, when it is clear that the whole burden has already been placed on the backs of working people, the poor and the vulnerable.

While employers have launched a massive attack on the rights and benefits of workers, many trade union leaders seem to believe that appealing to the consciences of the employers and the government will bring relief and that tripartism will ensure that that the burden is “shared.” There is no relief from those who profit from our misery. There is no way the capitalists are going to share anything – unless they are forced to do so!

While the merchants and the employers raise prices, retrench workers and seek to have trade unionism become a toothless bulldog, some trade union leaders are still calling for consultation, complaining about non implementation of the toothless Memorandum of Understanding and tripartite approaches as if they do not understand that we are involved in a vicious class struggle, the outcome of which will determine our quality of life for years to come.

While we wallow in illusions of “sharing the burden” they have already put their strategy in place to ensure that they suffer no loss from the economic crisis and that they are in fact utilising the crisis to further the goals they have always had in mind. We cannot hide from the reality of the class struggle!

While we hem and haw and steups and fuss that the government is playing us for fools, the International Monetary Fund has already taken charge of the Ministry of Finance and is crafting a new taxation system for the energy industry, preparing the ground for more divestment and urging the government to inflict a massive devaluation of the currency.

There is need for a massive fight back against this ongoing assault by the employers, the capitalists and the State. If we want the laws relative to severance changed; if we want the laws restricting the right to strike changed; if we want the laws governing recognition of trade unions changed; if we want the Workers Agenda implemented, it is not good enough to simply call for the changing of those laws. We must be prepared to bring all our power to bear on those who can change the laws.

We must engage in a sustained campaign of mass mobilisation not only of our members but also the unorganised working people. Mobilisation cannot be done through the media. The workers must be involved at the branch, workplace, mass membership meeting, COSSABO and community levels.

Leadership must ground with membership, the implications of the assault by the capitalist class must be discussed thoroughly with the members and the community and guidance must be sought from them as to what they are prepared to do to bring a halt to this growing attack.

We must look at the lessons of 1989, when we stopped the then government in its tracks with the General Strike of March 6th (Day of Resistance).

Appealing to the conscience of those who exploit us is not going to cut it. We have the power of numbers and the power over production. Petty childish disunity plaguing the movement must be put aside. We are in a literal life and death struggle.

We cannot afford this nonsense about which union more militant than which union. It is ludicrous that we have NATUC and FITUN and now we have JTUM, which was a trade union forum to discuss matters of mutual interest, becoming another trade union federation made up of unions from the other federations which continue to exist.

We must get rid of illusions and deal with the reality! Let us not expect partisan political parties to act in our interest! It’s just different gangs running the same anti-worker system