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posted 26 Feb 2015, 23:50 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 26 Feb 2015, 23:55 ]
The following statement was issued by the National Workers Union (NWU) on February 27th 2015

Many people were puzzled by Labour Minister Errol McLeod’s claim at the swearing in of the new Registration Recognition and Certification Board (RRCB) that he was bullied into getting the

board going. The National Workers Union was not. There is an old creole saying that “Shoe does know when socks have hole” and McLeod’s socks have had holes for years. 

There has been no RRCB in place for more than a year. By any stretch of the imagination this is astonishing! According to the Industrial Relations Act, a repressive law that the PNM enacted during a state of emergency in 1972, any group of workers who exercise their right to freedom of association and organise themselves into a union of their choice cannot engage in collective bargaining unless they are so certified by the RRCB. 

Yet this former President General of the most important union in the Caribbean; this former leader of the MSJ who went into government proclaiming that he was about getting the Workers Agenda implemented, failed to appoint the Board for over a year, thus denying hundreds of workers their right to collective bargaining which is the bedrock of trade unionism. 

On January 11th 2011 at the function appointing the Board which went out of office in 2014 our bullied Minister said: “I wish to underscore the critical role which the RRCB must play in promoting the integrity and credibility of our industrial relations system and in the protection of our workforce by shaping the collective bargaining structure through its determination of the appropriate and majority trade union to best represent workers.” He was always a lyrics man, knows all the right things to say, but the taste of the pudding is in the eating. 

Our former trade unionist understands the “critical role” of the RRCB and then goes on to derail and sabotage that “critical role” by refusing to appoint the Board for over a year. Minister McLeod, on the same occasion, went on to say: “ It has been resoundingly reiterated that the determinations of the Board take too long and as such there is a backlog of applications, some dating far back as a decade ago. Something is wrong about that! Justice is denied to the worker when the recognition and certification process is delayed – for whatever reason!"

It boggles the mind that the former leader of the MSJ rants and rails against the length of time it takes the Board to determine recognition applications; talks about justice being denied to workers and then adds to the already interminable process by refusing to appoint the Board for more than a year, thus adding to the very backlog he claimed to be concerned about in 2011.

He goes on to quote Section 32(1) of the IRA which states that “The Board shall expeditiously determine all applications for certification brought before it” and goes on to say “the expediency of the work of the Board facilitates workers’ right to freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining by joining a trade union of their choice. This is in keeping with both our Constitutional and our international labour obligations as we are signatory to the International Labour Organization Convention No. 87 – Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize (1948) and No. 98 –Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining (1949).”

McLeod clearly understands that the lack of expedition in the work of the Board does severe damage to the workers’ “right to freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining by joining a trade union of their choice.” He even shows off his erudition by citing ILO Conventions.

But alas the devil may quote scripture. Words are cheap; by their deeds you shall know them! The Minister of Labour is quite aware that his government, through its refusal to appoint the Recognition Board for over a year is in flagrant violation of the very International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions that he cites, but this should not be surprising.

His government promised to support ILO Convention 189 in 2011, which calls for legal discrimination against domestic workers to be removed. This could have been done with a simple amendment to the Industrial Relations Act.

Four years later there is no ratification of Convention 189, there is not even a token attempt to implement the Workers Agenda and the government has not only not supported the aspirations of the labour movement (which is not surprising), but has actively put obstacles in the way of the labour movement moving forward; their delay in appointing the Recognition Board being one of the more flagrant attacks on the labour movement.

McLeod’s role as Labour Minister is quite in line with his role as a labour leader: in the words of the immortal Shakespeare, he has been “a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage…” His record is like “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.

The National Workers Union views McLeod’s claim of being bullied into doing his duty as just verbal distraction in a futile attempt to shift the focus from his contemptible retreat from positions that he espoused but never actually advanced or defended. But then it is much easier to join the feeding frenzy at the hog trough.


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