Where we stand‎ > ‎Media Releases‎ > ‎


posted 30 Apr 2013, 19:41 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 30 Apr 2013, 19:58 ]
The National Workers Union distributed the following flyer at the May Day demonstration in San Fernando, organised by the Joint Trade Union Movement.


International Workers Day, is recognized worldwide. It is a public holiday in more than eighty countries and in other countries workers movements celebrate it with massive demonstrations.

May 1st symbolises the struggle of workers for the eight hour day and, by extension, the struggle of workers for benefits they deserve as producers of the wealth of society. May Day commemorates the struggles in the 1880’s of workers and their trade unions across the capitalist world for 8 hours work; 8 hours recreation and 8 hours rest.

During those struggles many workers were killed, imprisoned and executed. After a pitched battle between workers and the armed forces of the state in Haymarket Square, Chicago in 1886, workers movements and trade unions all over the world decided that May 1st would be the international day of resistance to capitalist exploitation.

Over the years there have been many incisive battles waged successfully by workers for ALL of the benefits which we enjoy today and those LOST within the recent past.

Sadly, today, many workers are ignorant of the history of the benefits which they enjoy and consequently the balance of power in the employer-employee relationship has swung decisively in favour of the employer class.

Indeed, the very right to join a trade union of your choice is rapidly being lost as most workers fear victimization if they exercise their constitutional right to “Freedom of Association”, which the warrior workers of the nineteen thirties shed their blood to achieve.

Fear provides no sanctuary and spinelessness does not ensure job security. Less than twenty percent (20%) of the workforce in T&T is unionized and many employers treat their workers like dirt, particularly in the non-unionized fast food, contract, security and retail trade industries. Strikes and work stoppages are few and far between while workers are fired left, right and centre.

Thousands of workers dare not think about a 40 hour work week or overtime pay for work in excess of 8 hours per day. Many workers have worked for years and have never enjoyed one day paid vacation leave. Most believe that sick leave pay is provided by NIS and not the employer. Scores of workers are injured on the job every year because of poor health and safety practices but dare not seek compensation.

Workers with tertiary education are not spared the wrath of the employers’ exploitation. Most are not permanently employed and are retained on one of the many forms of contract work. They cannot secure bank loans, travel visas etc. Home ownership and such long term commitments are extremely difficult.

They do not have the security and benefit of a group pension plan. Their job specifications and workloads are changed at the whims and fancies of the boss while every sort of discrimination runs rampant. Thousands of OJT workers provide cheap labour to employers under the disguise that they are trainees. What a sickening Joke!

Workers are exploited in both the public and private sectors and this is “blamed” on the “difficult economic times” we live in today. Well even a glance at history will never reveal a “good” economic time when employers ever voluntarily gave just remuneration to their employees; every benefit paid was won by struggle!

The National Workers’ Union has been agitating for years for the enactment into legislation of what we call a minimum floor of entitlements to apply to all workers. This minimum floor of entitlements, in our estimation, should include:
an annual review of the minimum wage which should be no less than two thirds of the national average wage;
sick leave with pay;
vacation leave;
overtime payments;
payment for public holidays;
the right to have a pay slip;
the right to union representation inclusive of the grievance procedure;
the right to a written contract;
service pay for termination of any kind;
the establishment of a severance fund to be funded by employers, coverage to include loss of employment when a company closes down;
the provision of unemployment relief to be administered by the NIS;
the abolition of legal discrimination against domestic workers.
Today the government is embarking on a programme of privatisation of publicly owned companies, further reducing the small advances workers have made over the years.
The National Workers Union urges the trade union movement to wage a widespread and consistent campaign to have the minimum floor of entitlements enacted into law and to organise unorganised workers as no more than 20% of the workforce in T&T is unionised. Unorganised workers should shake off their fear and actively seek to organise themselves into unions.

The trade union movement must also campaign to change the horrendous procedures contained in the Industrial Relations Act re: application for recognition of trade unions which drags out the process unnecessarily and serves as a disincentive to workers to exercise their constitutional right to freedom of association.

The National Workers Union understands that even if recognition procedures are expedited it is fantasy to believe that all workers in the country can be unionised over the short or medium term, making a legislated minimum floor of entitlements for all workers a necessity.