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National Workers Union Calls For Defence of Chinese Migrant Workers

posted 15 Oct 2009, 00:03 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 16 Oct 2009, 17:29 by National Workers Union ]
Many unions and other organisations, have expressed their outrage at the treatment of Chinese migrant workers in T&T and quite rightly so. The issue, which has been festering for years, once again burst into the spotlight with the recent protest by workers employed with the Beijing Liujian Construction Corporation, a Chinese firm operating in T&T.

The chickens have well and truly come home to roost. The policy of the government in contracting Chinese Construction firms, largely through UDECOTT, to build their mega project monuments to disaster was the last word in squandermania and corruption, but even more significantly it was based, on savage exploitation of sweated migrant labour imported from halfway across the globe. All the savagery of the burgeoning Chinese capitalist system is evident in the migrant labour sector in T&T.

These workers could not communicate in English, were forced to live in containers and virtual concentration camps and existed in a netherworld where the writ of the laws of T&T, as inadequate as they may be, do not run.

The government can pretend, now that the mess has hit the fan, that they are investigating the complaints of the workers. But the truth is the competitive advantage of the Chinese firms lay in the super-exploitation of the workers who were made to pay a bond to secure their jobs, were worked mercilessly for unconscionably long hours and were treated like twenty first century indentured labourers.

All citizens of Trinidad and Tobago should shudder at the idea that the savage system of indentureship which we thought we had gotten rid of ninety two years ago has returned to haunt us.

This “modern” indentureship is an integral part of a savage, globalised capitalism which is not averse to employing the most brutal methods of exploitation and repression to squeeze as much surplus value out of labour as it can in a futile effort to stem the trend of declining rates of profit.

As the international capitalist system collapses around us it engenders on the one hand barbarism, ecological devastation and societal implosion and on the other hand resistance and the quickening of the tempo toward transformation.

In this sense the uprising of the migrant workers should be supported and cherished. It is confirmation that as more and more rural people are sucked into the sink hole of wage labour, the impulse to organise collectively and to advance the quality of life can never be snuffed out, but burns ever brighter.

While the National Workers’ Union supports the calls of the trade union movement for the government to take responsibility for the mess it has created and the call for the OSHA agency to get involved, we believe that the trade union movement should engage in deep soul searching about its previous lack of focus on this issue.

While there have been calls by FITUN and other trade unions from time to time pointing out the ills in the migrant labour sector, it has clearly not been enough. We should understand that the government has benefitted from the super-exploitation of our Chinese brethren and they will only take action if political pressure is put on them. The only defence the Chinese migrant workers have is the trade union and progressive movements. We should have taken up our responsibility years ago, but at least we seem to be doing so now and that can only be to the good.
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