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posted 18 Jun 2013, 20:59 by Gerry Kangalee


The National Workers Union (NWU) extends greetings to the working class and trade union movement of Trinidad and Tobago on the celebration of the seventy sixth anniversary of the June 19th anti-colonial, democratic revolution which opened the way for democratic reforms and independence. Both the reforms and our Independence are under grave threat as the international capitalist economy sinks deeper and deeper into crisis and the gang of mega-billionaires seek to get their claws on workers’ income.

T&T is dominated by corrupt and criminal politicians and their financiers who defend naked brutal capitalism under the fancy name of neo-liberalism which the World Bank, the IMF and the US State Department spit into the mouths of our mimic men political hustlers and eat-a-food specialists who tell us that it tasting sweeter than a JU C fruit.

Exploitation is intensifying:
· contract labour is taking over the public service;
· shop floors are more and more dominated by so-called casual and temporary workers;
· young workers are savagely advantaged under the guise of being OJT’s;
· UTT graduate teachers and Early Childhood Educators are treated like indentured servants;
· Construtora OAS is allowed by the government to violate the highway workers’ health and safety requirements, pay way below-par wages and fail to observe the basic tenets of natural justice when dealing with disciplinary issues;
· domestic workers are discriminated against in law;
· the government is intent on implementing a policy of wage suppression;
· in keeping with their ideological commitment to the neo-liberal policy of international capital, privatisation is all the rage. 
According to data from the National Insurance Board, there are 102, 683 workers (18% of those on their books) at the minimum wage level.
There are 277, 994 workers (48%) who are paid less than a government daily paid labourer. 70% of the workers in Trinidad and Tobago (412, 628 workers) are paid less than a WASA labourer.

According to data contained in HRC Associates 2011-2012 Compensation Report, the Chief Executive Officers of the leading banking institutions earn in total cash compensation as much as $3.7 million per year and CEO’s in the energy sector top even that.

According to figures published by the late professor Dennis Pantin and Justin Ram: 21% of the population are below the poverty line (2000-2006); the poorest 10% of the population earn 2.1% of the national income while the richest 10% earn 29.9%. This means that the gap between the poorest 10% and the richest 10% is a multiple of 14.
According to the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index the income equality situation in the country is worsening over time. The rich are getting richer and the working and unwaged poor are eating the bread that the devil knead!
The poor are attacked for having a dependency syndrome, yet in budget after budget, the employers, conglomerates and transnational corporations are given concession after concession: supplementary petroleum taxes have been reduced from 33% to 25% to induce transnational energy companies to bring a halt to their refusal to bring new fields into production, yet Lennox Petroleum and Well Services offshore oil workers have to fight up and struggle to get a decent wage increase 
Tax concessions have been given to real estate speculators (money launderers) and land developers for constructing multi-storey buildings and car parks, yet prospective low and middle income home owners will find it almost impossible to afford decent housing when TTMF and HMB are merged and privatised. Class language: for the poor - subsidies, for the rich - incentives; for the poor - handouts, for the rich - bailouts. 
Political parties’ only reason for getting into office is to loot public funds and accumulate capital for politicians and their financiers through the award of contacts, particularly on mega projects, where cost over-runs and kickbacks are the norm. Going from Bim to Bam is not going to change that situation! UNCOPNM’s policy is to defend the interests of employers and suppress and beat back the interests of workers. 
It is not enough to fight for “good governance” within the confines of the neo-colonial state. This leads to defending the political and constitutional arrangements which ensures that the working class continues to be exploited in the interest of the transnational corporations, the local conglomerates and an assortment of financial conmen, crony capitalists and political hustlers whose only concern is for grease hand, kickbacks and sordid deals with transnational corporations.

While we fight up for “good governance” and switch from Tweedle Dum to Tweedle Dee the power structure remains in place. The irony is that elections don’t actually disturb the power structure. The power of capital cannot be voted out of existence. It must be dismantled root and branch. Only the organised power of the working class has that potential.

The trade union movement has the capacity through the deployment of the power of numbers acting collectively and in solidarity and through its power over production, to ensure whichever group of political termites infests the government cannot afford to ignore the demands of the working people.

The National Workers Union calls on the union rank and file to participate in their own affairs and strengthen the institutions of working class power like the branches, the General Councils, the Conferences and the Cossabos. Who wins the next elections is not as important as how organised the labour movement is, how capable it is of protecting, defending and advancing the interests of the working class.

This capacity can only be built by democratising the trade union movement, developing attitudes and structures where the voice of the rank and file must not only be heard, but their concerns acted upon and by organising the hundreds of thousands of workers who are not unionised.

Organising the unorganised is the most urgent and important task facing the trade union movement. Only 20% of the labour force of T&T is unionised. There are hundreds of thousands of workers who have no experience of union organisation. If we do not organise them, they will remain under the heel of capitalist oppression; the potential power of the working class will not be strengthened and they may even be used against the organised trade union movement.

The task is not to sneak in to the neo-colonial parliament on the backs of one or the other corrupt, capitalist-financed political party but to patiently build a mass movement through working class education, agitation and direct action. When such a movement is built and entrenches itself among the masses, the question of power will become a live issue.

The National Workers Union calls upon the branch and section leaders and shop stewards of the trade union movement to ensure that their leaders back up militant talk with collective mass action when necessary. If we leave the leadership of the trade union movement to their own devices and they walk the road of personal aggrandisement and corruption it means we are not carrying out our responsibility as “loyal trade unionists.”

Our duty is to develop a culture of collective leadership where we strengthen the democracy in our organisations, where we see it as our duty to put checks and balances on our leaders, to encourage a culture of debate, to show respect to the views of the least among us. We must do these things within the framework of seeking at all times the interests of our members and of the working class.

The best tribute we can pay to our leaders, to keep them on the straight and narrow, is to monitor them closely and question them at every turn, encourage them to debate ideas, strategies, tactics; to honestly and openly review and rectify failures; to strive every day to understand how the world works a little better; to build an impregnable working class fortress that can withstand all the assaults of the employers and the state; to build a mass movement capable of sweeping the political hustlers and con men out of office and tackle the question of the dismantling of capitalism.


Gerry Kangalee,
18 Jun 2013, 20:59