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The Union frequently comments on events or receives news of general interest and these are documented on this page.

COMPANY EXPLOITS SEVERELY INJURED WORKER By Cecil Paul

posted 30 Aug 2014 16:57 by Gerry Kangalee

One week ago A NON-UNIONISED worker came to the offices of the National Workers Union (NWU). He was a young man, just twenty-nine years old. He wanted to join the Union so that the Union could help him to get urgent medical attention from his employer as he was scared that very soon he could be paralyzed and unemployed.

What I heard from this young man was shocking and an indictment against employers of non-unionized workers in the country. This was not just about low wages, inferior or non- existing benefits. His issue was about cruelty to an employee and severe physical and emotional damage being inflicted by employers on workers in the course of earning a subsistence living.

This young man works for a successful company involved in the construction industry and is owned by a rich family. He is a skilled and qualified tradesman. He is married with a young wife and child and comes from a country district.

One day, not too long ago, he was charged with supervising a group of workers involved in retrofitting a large government owned multi-complex building. In the absence of safety equipment and practices consistent with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) he was severely injured.

He reported his injury to the company who sent him to their physician. His injury required an MRI scan costing five thousand dollars which he had to pay from his own pocket as the company does not provide specialist health care just basic health services through their doctor and only to determine if a worker is really sick and so curb sick leave.

The medical report indicated severe back injury requiring major surgery. The company again sent him to their physician who is not a specialist in that field but merely a general practitioner. The doctor is prescribing only pain medications and when one type becomes ineffective he is given another.

The company doctor is not authorized to refer the young man to a specialist at company’s cost and the worker on his small salary cannot afford the cost of a specialist visit nor the major surgery that he is told is required to bring relief from the constant excruciating pain he suffers.

 

Despite being seriously injured on the job he is not given extended sick leave and has to report to job sites daily. He supervises his co-workers by lying down on a make shift bed on the job and giving instructions and technical advice. He cannot afford to stay at home despite his health condition, as he will not be paid. There is no paid sick leave for prolonged absences.

 

He says his marriage is being affected for obvious reasons. He is thinking of leaving the job as the torment of pain and exploitation is getting to him. For such injuries unionized workers get specialist medical attention free of charge and are given light duties if they are capable of returning to work after a measure of healing is achieved.

 

He was given some options to pursue urgently by the National Workers Union. The major advice being to seek specialist attention at company’s cost with the Union’s intervention as the major issue is attending to his back injury. The other issues of work injury compensation and the legal options can come later.

 

This young man’s pain and suffering is just one example of the callous disregard, contempt and cruelty being meted out to thousands of unorganized/non-unionized workers by employers subcontracting on government properties and working for large conglomerates as outsourcers of cheap contract labour. These non-union workers comprise the vast majority (more than eighty per cent) of the national workforce.

 

Imagine we have an OSH Act and a Ministry of Labour which fails to monitor and report on the gross exploitation of non-unionised workers on vastly inferior terms and conditions of employment. Unsafe and unhealthy work-site practices abound in this rich country where the elite lives off the labour of the poor and controls the national wealth, which rightly belongs to all citizens.

NWU TO MCLEOD: APPOINT RECOGNITION BOARD NOW!

posted 28 Aug 2014 11:26 by Gerry Kangalee

General Secretary of the National Workers Union, Dave Smith, wrote the following letter to Minister of Labour, Errol McLeod. The letter is dated August 28th 2014.

Dear Minister

NON-APPOINTMENT OF BOARD MEMBERS AT REGISTRATION, RECOGNITION AND CERTIFICATION BOARD

I am writing with reference to the undue delay caused by your failure to appoint a Board at the Registration, Recognition and Certification Board, in accordance with provisions of the Industrial Relations Act (IRA), Chapter 88:01.

The failure of your Ministry to make these appointments detrimentally affects our union and others, and amounts to an infringement of the rights of those workers, on whose behalf we are seeking to become the legally recognised trade union. Our Union is currently awaiting the outcome of applications that are before the Board for more than one (1) year now. As a result, we are forced to speculate, as to the negative effects, which the delay in appointing a Board, can have on its ability when so appointed, to act in accordance with section 26(1) of the IRA.

Section 42 of the IRA is supposed to protect workers against victimisation. However, we know that the best form of defence is union recognition and absence of an effective mechanism for obtaining union recognition remains a major and serious threat to worker's rights.

The Republican Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago enshrines certain rights, one of which is the right to freedom of association. In this regard, we wish to submit that the delay in appointing a Board is a major attack on this fundamental right as it denies workers the right to trade union recognition.

In the circumstances, therefore, we wish to advise that the continued failure on your part, to ensure that a new Board is appointed, can lead us to consider such recourse that is available and to which we may have to resort to ensure that justice is done.

We look forward to an expeditious and favourable response.



THE DEMOCRACY WE HAVE…By Ken Howell

posted 25 Aug 2014 04:12 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 25 Aug 2014 04:13 ]

THE DEMOCRACY WE HAVE…THE DEMOCRACY WE WANT

By Ken Howell


The Constitution Amendment Bill has provoked quite a lot of heated debate in the country for and against. Most of the contributions to the debate coming from callers to the Radio Stations complained about perceived threats to democracy; others complained that the consultation process was not widespread enough.

 

They argue that the government does not have the agreement of the people to proceed to amend the constitution to provide for term limits for the office of Prime Minister; to provide for the recall of a member of Parliament or to amend the Elections and Boundaries Commission Act, to cater for a run-off in a constituency, where a candidate in an election, gets less than 50% of the votes. The Opposition and parties on the fringe of electoral politics argue along similar lines with the addition of more details.

 

One of the interesting things coming out of the alarm created by these bills is that the ordinary people are prepared to talk about democracy. But through no fault of theirs, they are engaging in a debate about amending the Constitution of a democracy which was imposed on us, and not one of the type of democracy that they would like to have. 

 

What is coming across in the conversation is a sense that the political ground is shifting gradually towards a desire on the part of the people, not only to talk about participatory politics but also to actively engage in that type of politics. Unfortunately, the direction in which the debate was channelled and the atmosphere it created in the country was not conducive for the imparting of education on the nature of the constitution we have and that when it was enacted the interests of the ordinary people was not in the forefront of the minds of the framers.

 

There is hardly much difference between the 1962 Independence Constitution and the Republican Constitution. Where the difference exists is that more power was given to the office of the Prime Minister. But the rights and freedoms contained therein have not been amended or repealed.

 

The limited rights workers enjoy are those they fought for and even where the Industrial Relations Act, a piece of legislation, which required a 2/3 majority in order to infringe on the rights of workers for it to be passed in both houses of Parliament, recognized the right to strike; restrictions are placed on the manner in which it is exercised by the workers and their Unions.

 

So the debate about democracy in the context of people’s participation is not provided for under the current constitutional arrangements. There is nothing written in the pages of the Constitution to compel a government to consult with the people. If and when consultation occurs, it is merely for the purpose of taking the temperature of the people with regard to a particular subject matter. The consultative process must not be confused with negotiations, whereby proposals are submitted by the parties seeking agreement through which a particular problem can be resolved.

 

Consultation is not expected to produce any agreement, because parties are not required to sign any document. It could be the question of legislation for the purpose of dealing with what the lawyers sometimes describe as a particular mischief, or to see how the population reacts to a decision to construct a highway, as in the case of the highway from San Fernando to Point Fortin. Such consultations are not required to get the agreement of the people who participated in the exercise.

The PNM which now occupies the Opposition benches managed the affairs of this country for many years and know this to be a fact. But their objective is to get as much as they can out of the ignorance of the people on this question because to educate the people on such matters would impact negatively on the effectiveness of their propaganda campaign.

 

The main features of the Constitution prescribe for the separation of powers i.e., lines of demarcation, have been placed between the Executive, which is the government and the Judiciary which comprise the Courts, headed by the Chief Justice. That is to ensure that there is no interference in each other’s affairs. This does not mean that there would not be an exchange of views or consultation from time to time.

 

Our Constitution is really designed to ensure that the economic and political system entrusted to us at Independence is managed in a manner, which does not deviate too far from the capitalist model, and the democracy we have is reflecting just that. In the day to day management of the affairs of the country, the government, who is charged with that responsibility, is headed by the Prime Minister, who  is assisted by Ministers to whom she has charged with the responsibility to have over-sight of their respective Ministries and provide reports to the Cabinet.

 

Such Ministers can be selected from among elected members of Parliament or from among government appointed Senators. The Prime Minister can be compared with a Chief Executive Officer of a large corporation and the citizens are the share holders who are invited every five years to a general meeting, which is the national elections. The difference however, is that where in a Corporation's AGM, one share holder's vote can decide who is appointed to the Board of Directors, parties contesting the elections have to convince the electorate that one of them is more qualified than the others to manage the affairs of the country.

 

But after the electorate give them their stamp of approval by voting them into office, in our democracy, the electorate is not expected to involve themselves in any post election politics. Why? Because the party which won the elections was given a mandate to manage the affairs of the country without any interference from the population! That is why the protective arms of the state, are given co-ercive powers.

The truth is that the population is not expected to interfere in the management of the affairs of the country. That is why, although citizens can go and listen to the debate in the Parliament the law still regards such persons as strangers who can be escorted out of the parliament chamber if such persons are over heard making comments adverse or otherwise.

 

The way the Constitution treats with the economy is by vaguely speaking about the right to the enjoyment of property without seeking to correct a historical wrong committed against the first peoples of this country and ignoring another historical wrong where lands were given to Catholic slaveholders free of charge which allowed them to make millions through the exploitation of African slaves and East Indian indentured immigrants whose descendants should be entitled to be paid some kind compensation.

 

In addition to the foregoing, there is the question of the laws concerning squatting, which are connected to this question of the right to the enjoyment of property. When one considers that the foundation of the economy and economic activity is constructed on the basis of the ownership of land, the majority of our citizens are at a disadvantage and the descendants of those who came here and got lands free are the ones benefiting from our democracy.

 

Another example, is the fact that there is a vast number of citizens who are in need of a home but because their income does not qualify them to get a loan with which to purchase a home, they remain at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords. But that is the democracy we have!

 

The democracy we want to have is one which is founded on principles which actively recognise that this phrase, “democracy of the people by the people” must be rooted in the day to day participation of the people in the affairs of the country, at the economic and political levels. It must be a democracy in which the search for solutions for all matters affecting the lives of citizens, from the level of the streets, in the villages. towns, cities, rural communities; as farmers, fisher folks, small business, artists and craftsmen, are included and their input a highly regarded, and treated with the respect that is usually reserved for high priced consultants.

 

Such discussions with these stake holders must not be treated as just consultations because the people must be satisfied that they are not just invited to hear what the presenters have to say. They must leave convinced that the solutions they proposed were not just noted, but would form part of any final report on matters which will have an impact on their future.  When that kind of participation takes root, not only in the consciousness of the people what will begin to happen is that a blueprint for the framework of a Constitution which will provide for the reshaping and re-engineering of the political and economic structures of the country will  emerge.

 

It goes without saying, therefore, that the democracy we want is not the one which the PP and PNM want to keep. If we have to fight and when we have to fight, we must do so to clear more democratic space for the poor and oppressed in this jungle known as capitalism. Fighting against the current amendments proposed by the government is not a fight for democracy. If one is to analyse the arguments of the political parties against the amendments, objectively, you will realize, they are proceeding from a position of their respective political interests.

 

We want a democracy in which the interest of the people is not dependent upon their ethnicity; is not dependent on who is sharing the cake. We want a democracy in which, when we talk out against corruption, we are not talking with forked tongues which, when translated, means that we are against corruption based on which ethnic group is in charge of the treasury and is engaged in sharing the cake.

We want a democracy in which the confidence of the people is rooted in the fact that there is equity in the delivery of services, and in the efficiency with which such services are provided. That is the kind of democracy we must invite the people to begin to talk about in all of the organisations representative of their respective interests. Spread the word: increase the call for participatory democracy.

Examine Their Horns by Fay Roe

posted 22 Aug 2014 10:30 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 22 Aug 2014 10:36 ]

I went to a public forum organized, advertised and held by the San Fernando City Corporation on Wednesday 20th August at their palatial city hall auditorium. It was curiously entitled What to do about street dwellers. 

I knew I was not in the best of moods having journeyed from Port of Spain through heavy traffic to reach on time. My aim was to gauge for myself what was driving this rather new approach of connecting the city folk and the Council. 

Having missed a similar forum a couple weeks ago on the use of Skinner Park and forever planning to attend one of their statutory Council meetings which the public can attend (the last Tuesday in every month), I simply bypassed any other task and turned up. To put the experience in a few words I would say it was not encouraging to engender a substantial solution. 

I was part of an audience of some four dozen people, half of whom included the Corporation staff, councillors, police, public health and so forth who had to endure a thirty five minute late start and then allowed three minutes by the moderator for any contribution from the floor.

After an hour and a half of the proceedings I left while one of the ‘street dwellers’ was given another opportunity to ramble on as she saw fit. The key point I made was that street dwellers must be empowered to become productive members of the society and availed of treatment for their personal ailments and that this exercise cannot be done by just providing shelter, food and clothing alone.

To be fair, people were honestly trying to put forward solutions as they viewed and experienced the problem from their perspective but the underlying thread that I picked up, not from ‘John Public’ as such, but from the body language and implicit remarks of the insiders (my term for those who occupy the inside track of the body politic) is that there is an election due next year.

Then it struck me, not immediately of course, that I was caught up in the game of politics – Trinidad style. After six decades of being a born and bred resident of San Fernando and citizen of this Republic, past experience guided me to a conclusion that cannot be substantiated with unadulterated proof but consumes the entire psyche.

The name of the game is to activate as many public centred fora as possible, thus raising a visible profile to win the hearts and minds of the people. Anything that sounds progressive and achievable is massaged into an election manifesto with which our brightest sons and daughters (read those who have worked on their vocabulary, charm and outer image) will tell us what is best for us. I am therefore putting those who have eyes to see to be on the lookout for various public fora or town meetings as we ape the American presidential elections.

Expect a forum on the use of illicit drugs; stray dogs; crime; the education system; the health system; a new traffic plan; street vendors; etc. etc. Nothing is wrong with this approach as far as I am concerned. The masquerade ends immediately after the new set of ‘self proclaimed messiahs’ are in place to govern (how I hate this word in this context) us. The conclusions arrived at are shelved or stutter along for lack of money from central government for another four years while they fatten themselves at the trough.

So dear comrades examine their horns, try to find the key as to why this flurry of public connections, how will it end and be vigilant. I am suggesting a mantra to guide you in your deliberations and dealings with pied pipers in officialdom. From each according to his ability. To all according to their needs.

TRIBUTE TO AINSLEY MARK By Cecil Paul

posted 22 Aug 2014 05:51 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 22 Aug 2014 05:52 ]

The late Ainsley Mark, former University of the West Indies lecturer and Dean has passed on. Ainsley Mark was also a well-respected partner of a major auditing firm and an advisor, tutor and friend to peoples’ organizations such as trade unions, the Steelband Movement and credit unions where he promoted the principles of proper accounting standards and accountability to members. 
 
Ainsley was steeled in the politics of the left progressive movement of the 1970’s and so understood his responsibility to educate workers so that we (workers) understand and change the financial system that was geared to serve the elite classes at the expense of working people. 
 
He always advocated that workers build their credit unions and make them the major institutions of workers financial transactions of savings and borrowings instead of high price loans and astronomical hire purchase charges. 

For many years he organized cultural events at his former school. He not only exposed new national talents but supported the education expenses of under-privileged working people’s children. 
 
Ainsley Mark at Bukka Rennie's book launch, August 2012.
My first close encounter with Ainsley Mark came in 1977. The late great George Weekes, then President General of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union, had a passion and dream to create a cadre of “intellectual workers” to meet the challenges we faced in Trinbago of neo-liberal policies and increasing global exploitation of working people. 
 
Weekes also sought to reduce the dependence of the trade unions and other people’s organizations on opportunist professionals who used and are still using our unions as a springboard to launch their careers and then turn against working people when they gain prominence in their professions, businesses and political careers. 
 
Ainsley Mark, among others from the University, was recruited to achieve Weekes’ noble and forward thinking plan. Weekes wanted a high degree of self-reliance for the working class movement. He wanted working class leaders to have the capacity and knowledge to influence progressive and democratic policies in the interest of those who labour. Ainsley Mark’s work proved that he was in sync with George Weekes’ dream. 

It was in that setting of a workers school of learning in 1977 that others and I got our lectures from the late Ainsley Mark. He tutored us rank and file workers on the Economics of the Financial System, Finance Capital Formations, the Class nature of the Financial System and the politics and laws which promoted the exploitation of workers Savings and Pension Funds being used by the ruling elites as Investment Funds while they sent their monies overseas. 
 
Ainsley Mark was an unassuming and humble progressive of the left. He not only tutored but also practised his responsibility to raise the knowledge and consciousness of working people in our country by assisting working peoples’ organizations. His was a commitment also made by departed champions of the left progressive movement like C.L.R James and George Weekes. 
 
Rest In Peace Comrade. You have made your contribution towards Peace, Bread, and Justice and to the educational advancement of working people in Trinbago.

REGIONAL UNITY VERSUS NEO-LIBERALISM by Jesus Rojas

posted 21 Aug 2014 06:29 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 21 Aug 2014 06:31 ]


 REGIONAL UNITY VERSUS NEO-LIBERALISM 
by  Jesus  Rojas

Rio Tocuyo, Venezuela

 

 

The unity of the Latin-American and Caribbean peoples is the only guarantee of shared development that prioritizes human needs over the profits of foreign corporations. Today  the doors are  open to our development, but our  development can solely
  come  through  seeking unity 
and articulating  strategies  for perfecting our unity  and  shared  development.

 

No single developing country can succeed in the 21st century alone and even less if we are divided. It is  necessary to create a strong  alliance  for  the  well-being  of  our  peoples  and  to contribute  to the construction  of a multi-polar world in which the needs of the majority are addressed.

 

 It  is  crucial  to build  a  common  space  for  the purpose  of deepening the  political, economic,  social and  cultural integration  of  our  region and  to  establish  meaningful commitments  for  joint action  to promote  sustainable  development  in Latin America and  the Caribbean through  a  framework  of unity,  solidarity, and  cooperation.

 

At  the same  time it is   important to  promote  communication, harmonization, synergy, and  convergence of actions  and  exchange of  experiences  among  us.  This optimism stems from indications of recovery in the global economy.  Nevertheless, there is a consistent recognizable  impact of the crisis of capitalism on some countries in the region. In particular,  I  note  the  special  challenges  faced by  middle-income  countries, including  those  that are small, vulnerable, highly  indebted  and  require  greater attention  from  the international  community  to  assist  their  economic  recovery.

 

The crisis our countries suffer nowadays results from the consequence of the imbalances and intrinsic contradictions to the capitalist system. The new patterns of wealth accumulation and the set of neoliberal policies that governments   implemented to facilitate integration into global capitalism were unable to bring about any sustained development for a majority of the population, or even to prevent continued backward movement.

 

The world recession of 2007-8 hit not only Latin America, but also the Caribbean hard, undermining growth and reversing gains of previous years.  Politically,   the fragile democratic systems installed through the so-called transition to democracy of the 1980s were increasingly unable to contain the social conflicts and political tensions generated by the polarizing and pauperizing effects of neoliberalism.

 

The voraciousness for accumulating major wealth is not only causing the irreversible destruction of the environment, but the multiplication of countless sufferings and hardships on millions of human beings. Humanity has never endured such atrocious inequality. Meanwhile, a very small number of individuals and companies monopolize gigantic fortunes created through financial manipulations and excessive speculation, all at the cost of misery of the majority of humanity.

 

Albert Einstein wrote in 1949:

 

 “I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals”

 

The left-oriented or “pink tide” governments have followed Einstein`s wisdom by challenging and even reversing major components of the neoliberal programme. Many of them  halted privatization, nationalized natural resources, and  other  economic sectors,  restored  public health and  education, expanded social welfare spending,  renegotiated foreign  debts on  fairer  terms, have cut  ties  with the IMF, and staked out foreign policies independent of Washington`s  dictates.

 

Those countries that stuck to the neoliberal path have been hardest hit by the crisis unleashed by the 2008 collapse of the global financial system. I must highlight that  those countries that  have pursued post-neoliberal and  redistributive and  regulatory policies and limited re-nationalizations  have fared much better, both  with  faster  rates of economic  growth and reductions in poverty and inequality.

 

This process has been more advanced  in South America than elsewhere in the  region, where  countries are also leading the push  to develop alternative forms of  cooperation and integration that break with political subordination  to Washington`s dictates.

 

It is necessary to construct instruments at the service of the people, with a system of democratic and transparent governance that promotes inclusive public policies, integration between peoples and a new model of development.

 

We  must generate a  new global alternative an  alternative  economy based on mutuality  would mean a life model based on the interests of communities, peasant organizations, workers, the  peasants themselves,  women and  indigenous  peoples  and at the same time an equitable  redistribution   of wealth, establishing modes of production to meet the real needs  of women and men.

 

 This is  why  we  must   reaffirm  the  need to undertake  efforts  with our people that  will  enable  us to move  forward collectively;  namely political, economic, social and  cultural integration  to foster  social  welfare and improved  quality of life, and  promote   our  independence,  our  sustainable  development on the basis  of democracy  and  social justice.

 

We  must  also reaffirm our  commitment to  the  defence of  sovereignty  and  the  right  of  any  State to  establish  its  own political rule free from threats, aggression and  unilateral coercive measures. This must all take place in an environment of peace, stability, justice, democracy, and respect for human rights. 

HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT by Ken Howell

posted 19 Aug 2014 20:56 by Gerry Kangalee

In recent Comedy shows a local comedian was joking, about how a bartender resolved the problem some customers had about who should pay the bill for drinks already consumed. He said that it was resolved with a basin of water. The agreement was, that they all would place their heads in the basin of water, and who came up first would have to pay the bill. Needless to say the person who intended to pay for a soft drink only drowned in the basin of water.

 

If it was that easy to get rid of corrupt politicians and opportunist trade unionists, all our problems would be resolved with one basin of water. Unfortunately, no such option is recommended. We have to rely on a process whereby the masses are educated about the true nature of the political and economic system and the true nature of the class struggle which is being fought on a day to day basis in our cultural industrial and social life.

 

Sometimes it would appear to the individual who is directly affected by an issue which she was forced to bring to the attention of the authorities and the public that she is alone in the wilderness, but if we examine the issue, whatever that is, we would realise that it forms part of the class struggle; which is also the struggle for democracy.

 

The problem usually resides in the responses and the delays which result from the individual’s quest for answers. If you are doubtful, let me point you to a few examples. There are laws on the books of this country, which deal with matters such as littering, health and safety, freedom of information, children's authority, the environment authority and so on, but the respective entities charged with the responsibility to manage and police these agencies are not functioning to capacity, because they are starved for resources both human and material.

 

These agencies were established, because of public pressure demanding solutions to problems of one kind or another. But what we must pay attention to is the fact that while these agencies now exist, elements hiding in plain sight are deliberately working to ensure that they do not serve the interest of the people. We see this happening with the Regional Health Authorities (RHAs) and Regional Corporations. 

When the RHAs were established, it was claimed that it was to ensure that health care was delivered in a more efficient and expeditious manner, but the resources necessary to do so is usually slow in coming and in most instances are reduced or are being spirited away from these institutions. The same was true when the County Councils became known as Regional Corporations.

 

At the corporations there was a reduction of personnel through the process of voluntary separation and retrenchment and a constant reduction in expenditure annually. As a result, a lot of the problems which the population now face relative to flooding in a number of areas in the country can be traced back to these backward decisions.

 

In addition, the fact that the Town and Country Planning Division is an entity which can be likened to a no-teeth pit-bull, speaks to the fact that these state agencies exist but are not allowed to serve the people's interest in the way that they should and so planning, as is required in accordance with the act under which it was established ceases to occur. The situation is the same with the Ministry of Works and Transport. A lot of the work which it once used to do has been contracted out to Coosals, Junior Sammy, SIS, and Seereram Brothers. And that is not a recent happening under this government; that has been the case under successive governments.

 

Some of you may recall the race track scandal, when a company set up with $1.00, and owned by Ish Galbaransingh got a million dollar contract to build a Race Track in Caroni. It took a mass protest by the people, to stop that piece of corruption. That was under a PNM government. The protest slogan was “Houses before Horses”

 

There has to be some sinister reason for the actions of persons unknown who continue to hide in plain sight while perpetrating this kind of corruption against citizens. These are the individuals who manage the politics in the interest of the local ruling class and the transnational corporations. They are the ones who call the shots.

 

Since in the days of Gordon Draper we have been hearing about Public Sector Reform, but the public is yet to grasp the real underlying reason for such reforms. These reforms will affect the terms and conditions of employees in the public service. In fact in the Public Service at this time there are more employees on contract than ever before. The role of the Service Commission is being systematically encroached upon by a Human Resources Department which has assumed the function of employing personnel on a fixed term contract basis. From as early as 1985, this practice of employing persons on fixed term contracts, in permanent jobs has been occurring.

 

This is the case in the energy sector as well as in the service sector in certain industries such as the fast foods industry. The decision so to do originated in trade agreements entered into with the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These employment policies, such as multi-tasking, outsourcing, and so on that have been introduced into the labour market the world over appear to have succeeded, largely because of the ideological division which existed and still exists to a large extent in the trade union movement both locally and internationally and because trade unions under pressure from the recession were either not strong enough or chose to ignore these developments..

 

What these divisions have exposed, however, is a type of behaviour on the part of trade union leaders in some jurisdictions in the capitalist world that smells of capitulation to the enemy. It would appear that as long as their financial membership is not severely affected the employer is free to employ persons on contract in the establishment where they have bargaining rights. These leaders who enter into such deals commit atrocities against their members and remain hiding in plain sight.

 

Of more recent vintage, is the Section 34 amendment bill which was proclaimed and then repealed. What is very interesting about this is the fact that the Opposition voted for it in both houses of Parliament. It was reported that the vote was unanimous. Even the Independent Senators voted in support of the bill. What is yet to be revealed are the reasons for it being so. All that we heard coming from the Opposition was the condemnation which the public was encouraged to heap upon the heads of the government and rightly so, but up to now, the leader of the opposition is yet to give reasons as to why he supported the bill in the first place.

 

When it was discovered that matters concerning Ish and Steve were before the Court and that they fell inside the time frame set by the legislation, panic set in and everything was done to distract attention from their role in the apparent conspiracy to deceive the people, while these two individuals go free. Then to confuse the matter further, the allegations made in parliament by the Leader of the Opposition about emails linking senior members of the government in a plot to spy on the DPP and to intimidate a journalist surfaced. In my view, that was a clever piece of work by which to divert attention away from the role of the PNM in the whole kankalang. Remember Ish Galbaransingh and Brian Kuei Tung were supporters of the PNM in the past.                                                                                                   

 

The leader of the Opposition did not explain to the satisfaction of the public the reasons why he did not pass these emails over to the police immediately, as they were said to contain evidence of a plot to commit murder and also to force the DPP to act in ways prejudicial to his position as DPP. 

 

We saw the behaviour of the Opposition once again when it came to the Bills to amend the Pensions Act to provide increases for Judges and members of Parliament. They voted for the bills both in the lower and upper houses of Parliament and when that behaviour was criticized, one opposition Senator was heard to describe persons who objected as rats coming out of their holes. Again, while the government received a severe tongue lashing from the public, the opposition escaped with a slap on the hand.

 

No one has questioned the reasons for such behaviour on the part of the opposition. We must remember this PNM party, want to form the next government of Trinidad and Tobago, and therefore, their credentials must be thoroughly scrutinized. We must remember that along with being adept at the art of propaganda they are very skilled at hiding in plain sight. Don't forget that they were in government for more than thirty years and they represent the flip side of the PP.

 

So, what we must begin to do immediately is to mobilize our forces at community, and constituency level, and in the work place, for the struggle ahead regardless as to which party wins the next election,. The enemies who are currently hiding, whom we know but cannot recognize, will reveal themselves on the side of the exploiters and will come to us bearing gifts. 

 

We must be prepared to meet them head on with a clear and unambiguous response, that we want to see an end to privatization, amendments to the IRA to provide for speedy  recognition for unions at the Registration Recognition and Certification Board, security of tenure for Judges of the Industrial Court and also call on them to make public the names of those companies who have been consistently delinquent in paying their taxes and the number of years and the total amount owing to the Treasury, among other demands.

 

We must also begin our own campaign as well, to smoke out those who are hidden in the shadows of the political parties who are doing their bidding with the intention to have us vote one way or the other.

TALKING DEMOCRACY? TALKING IN TONGUES! by Ken Howell

posted 14 Aug 2014 22:03 by Gerry Kangalee

It is 52 years since we were “granted our independence” and 44 years since the 1970 revolution occurred. What is significant about these two events is that they were both about the quest for democracy. 

In the case of the former, it was about political independence which was granted to us on the terms which the colonial masters set out, but in the latter case, it was the people who set out the terms. In 1962, the colonial masters dictated the nature of the democratic system and its political and economic structure; the very thing which has brought us to this very sad state in which we have found ourselves today. 
 
It was in 1970, that the people began the first leg of the struggle to break the stranglehold of the colonial masters on the political and economic affairs of the country, when they demanded the nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy and called for an end to the practice of discrimination in the employment practices of the employer class who discriminated against people of African and Indian origin at that time. 
 
The struggle for working class democracy is an essential feature of the class struggle. Here in this country it has assumed different forms and continues to do so even today. It is taking place before our very eyes in the communities: in the struggle for water, efficient health services, for better roads in communities, to save agricultural lands from being destroyed so that housing estates can replace food crops, to protect the livelihood of the fisherfolk, by protesting against the destruction of the fishing grounds and against the oil spills and so on. 
 
We have been waging this struggle with forces at our disposal that have little or no schooling in the business of political warfare, neither at the leadership nor the secondary level and on a terrain of the enemy's choosing. As a consequence, the enemy was always able to determine the outcome of the battle. 

In the past they have always been successful in causing us to divide our forces at the political level along ethnic lines and also along lines of trade union rivalry between leaders of the movement who place their personal interest above those of the movement when the political snake oil salesmen are jostling each other to be first in line to be chosen to manage this corrupt capitalist system. Another major obstacle which is placed in the path of the workers’ struggle is the destruction of the youths via the drug trade. 

What we are witnessing today in the debate which is currently raging - whether it is about email gate, prison gate, the constitution amendment bills, or the bill to amend the pension act in favour of Judges and Parliamentarians - is the usual strategy to draw the working class into a debate which has absolutely nothing to do with its class interest. 


The view is widely held by leaders in some sections of the working class that the two main political parties, as well as those on the fringe of the political landscape, may be persuaded to represent the workers’ interest if it is possible to influence them to do so. But that is a fallacy.

You hear the leaders of both the PNM and the PP proclaim that their actions for or against the enactment of this or that piece of legislation is in defence of our democracy: a democracy for which the working class, from 1937 to the present time, had to fight tooth and nail for every benefit they have gained in this country.

It must be remembered at all times, that the society in which we live, is fashioned to meet the needs of the capitalist ruling class, and therefore the laws are not amended or repealed to advance or protect the interest of the workers, unless the workers by brute force demand that such changes are made.                                           
 
The capitalist class only makes concessions when it believes that the balance of forces is weighted heavily in favour of the working class. But in our case, with the quality of the leadership of the trade union movement and that of the entity which presents itself as the executor of the political estate of the working class, the prospects are very dim. 

It takes a lot of hard work to build forces that are well schooled in working class ideas and the ability to fight and win struggles at the economic level; in the branches of the Unions firstly, and then in the political arena. This can only be achieved, when all the Unions can successfully build the democracy within the ranks of their respective memberships. 

It is the strength of the democracy within the ranks of the unions and the political movement of the class which will determine the strength of the democracy we are seeking to build in the communities. At the same time we are waging the struggle against capitalist democracy, it is extremely important to ensure that the democracy we are striving to build is the brand of democracy which the working people want.                                   

It is dangerous to assume that we can build democracy, without the active participation of the workers, farmers, the self-employed etc. We have to begin to learn that leaders cannot by themselves fight for the workers. Leaders of the working class must begin to understand that their role is to teach the workers how to fight, by ensuring that they are provided with the tools, with which to fight. The major tool is working class education: about the rich history of the class and about their rights as workers. 
  
Some trade union leaders don't seem to understand that their failure to mount an aggressive campaign to organize that 81% of the labour force which is not organized amounts to collaboration with the capitalists to deny these workers their right to join a trade union. It amounts to aiding and abetting the capitalist class in the under-pricing of the workers’ labour power through the imposition of contract labour and all the ills of the liberalized policies which are designed to give the capitalists a strangle hold on the labour market. 
 
In order to correct this grave injustice to that section of the labour force, the leadership of the trade union movement must set aside their differences and give priority to joint discussions to devise a strategy for the urgent task of recruiting and organizing that section of the labour force. It is the legal right of these workers to join trade unions and participate in trade union activities. 

One of the rights which is enshrined in the Constitution of this country is the right to freedom of association. This, along with the right to form trade unions are to be found in Conventions of the I.LO, and are well known to Trade Unionists. So that when trade union leaders embark on excursions of opportunism for the purpose of ingratiating themselves with the capitalists they are damaging the confidence of working people in the integrity of the movement.  

I am not commenting on these aspects of the behaviour of some leaders out of a desire to deny individuals the right to belong to political parties of their choice. On the contrary, it because I have a sense that the working class is of the unspoken view that their leaders must hold themselves to a higher standard while in the active leadership of the movement. 

It is not sufficient to talk working class democracy without matching talk with action. What these leaders must understand, is that the struggle to increase the gains that we have made within the parameters of the capitalist democracy, is not the be all and end all of the class struggle. These gains that we have made, represent stages in a long struggle from the days of slavery 
 
Since it would appear that the people seem to have perfected the art of voting governments out of office, my confidence in their wisdom in treating with such matters have grown. All we have to ensure is that we are ready when they are. 

What is very dangerous is the participation of persons in the debate who purport to be representative of the interest of workers and who, in so doing, are sending a false signal to the members of the trade union movement and the working class as a whole that what capitalism needs is straightening and painting, along with the replacement of a few pistons and rings and everything will be all right. That is what the campaign for transparency, good governance and proper procurement is all about that is what the so-called campaign for democracy is all about. 

 That is not to say that these are not requirements necessary for the proper management of any political and economic system. What we have to understand, when we hear these utterances from certain quarters, is that these noises are made not in the class interest of the working people, but to give assurances to the international financial institutions and the World Trade Organization that the required safeguards are in place in accordance with the many trade agreements signed by the government; to ensure that our citizens meet obligations accrued on their behalf without their knowledge, by institutions of the state.

CWU STALWART DIES

posted 5 Aug 2014 18:20 by Gerry Kangalee

The following tribute was published in FORWARD, the bulletin of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), dated 4th August 2014.

Anthony Alexander was born on June 23, 1960. He joined the Trinidad External Telecommunication Limited (TEXTEL), in 1981. He was a Driver in the former TEXTEL Operations and was reclassified and reassigned to the Outside Plant Operations upon the advent of TSTT in 1991, which came about after TEXTEL assets were transferred into TELCO and the new entity was now called Telecommunication Services of Trinidad and Tobago, TSTT.

He was first reclassified as a Lines and Instrument Technician and then a Cable Maintenance Technician. Comrade Alexander, affectionately called “Speedy” was introduced to active service to the Communication Workers’ Union in the 1990’s by the former Secretary General, Comrade Lyle Townsend and became active in the Eastern Branch of the Union, subsequent to his reassignment and reclassification. 

As the son of another former CWU stalwart, Comrade Stafford Alexander, Comrade Speedy became actively involved in the Progressive Workers Committee, the Progressive Arm of the CWU that utilized the process of propaganda, agitation, exposure and education to unite the many to defeat the few. After being intimately involved in the activities of the Branch, Comrade Speedy became Chairman of the Militant and Progressive Eastern Branch in 2011.

In a sense this Leadership was thrust upon him. Not being one to run away from a challenge, Comrade Speedy accepted his new role and served the Branch and the Union with distinction, commitment, humility, dedication and a sense of militant gentleman-ness. 

At age fifty-four (54) Comrade Speedy earthly struggles came to an end. On August 04, 2014 Comrade Speedy departed this life to join with the likes of Comrade Lyle Townsend, his former trusted Friend and Comrade in the great Beyond. His work in reigniting the Eastern Branch is something that this Executive would always remember and cherish.

We hope that his struggles and his sacrifices for the cause of members of the Eastern Branch, members of the CWU and all working people would be used as a catalyst to spur on his Comrades of the Eastern Branch in fulfilling his dreams of a Militant, Progressive CWU, fearlessly defending and advancing the rights of Workers and the good of mankind. 
 
Comrade Speedy dared to struggle. He was the epitome of the Union’s motto, ‘The price of freedom is eternal struggle”. His legacy as a Branch Chairman and Activist of the CWU will live on forever as he has blazed his own trail which we all will remember and admire. For this reason he will always be remembered as a great Eastern Branch Chairman.

LEAKING FROM THE ROOF by Rae Samuel

posted 4 Aug 2014 22:10 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 4 Aug 2014 22:11 ]

On the week end the Commonwealth Games ended, one of our most respected sports commentators said to me during a social function. "So we pick up some silvers and bronze again." On the same weekend, NWU's Facebook page got a comment from Jamaica on a photo of Bhouwagjie Nkrumie running at the just concluded, miserably staged CUT Games in Trinidad.

Bhouwagjie Nkrumie
Bhouwagjie is their Under eleven Boys 100m champion on whom they have their eyes already. We in Trinbago are still relying on the 2008 brigade to a large extent. Check out the 4x100m men’s' line up and compare it to what happened in the 200m men’s, final where a whole new team gave Jamaica "fus, secon’ and t'ird' as Sparrow says in "King of the Beasts." It should be noted that Jamaica participated successfully in field events such as the discus, winning gold, pole vault, in diving, in triple jump.

No, no, no! We were underachieving long before "Life sport'. While full credit is due to the individual performers who battle tremendous odds, we must recognise we have become what New Zealand represents in cricket. Holding our own with a good performance on a given day, but do not look for consistency.

Do we have the same ingredients for success? Ask Keshorn or Jehue or Michelle Ahye or Cleopatra Borrel or Machel Cedenio! Do we have young people interested in sports? This writer has received four requests from Sangre Grande, Fanny Village, Mayaro and Tacarigua, for assistance in introducing or developing programmes in basketball and track and field. These requests have come through the writer’s association with an outreach programme run by a state enterprise.

Do we have the financial resources? Ask Mr Daniel, the educator. Do we have the technical resources? There are dozens of trained young people of both genders whom I have encountered who want to share their training in sports management, sports psychology, administration, resource development and international relations in sport. There are many coaches and physical education teachers operating on shoe string budgets in schools and communities. Centres for higher learning? The UWI administration has resources which are on offer as well as UTT.

So where do we falter? My observation of many federations locally is that that they do not seem to understand the role of a sporting federation in a country's development. I am not speaking of that arrant nonsense about sports fighting crime. That premise is patently absurd. What are a modern sporting federation's mandate and its vision? What are the goals? This writer knows that since 2000 the IAAF set out to make track and field the #1 participatory sport in schools throughout the world'.

This was the era when basketball, football, swimming, lawn tennis were re-inventing themselves through their superstars and winning the athletes’ audiences and the sponsorship dollars. We see the results today in the 19 year old elite athletes from Kenya, the Caribbean and USA

What structures are in place to support these programmes? What kind of training do these administrators receive? Why are so many of them, to our eternal detriment, former athletes turned administrators who, as in Trinidad and Tobago, imagine running a federation is the same as carrying out a training programme? We have the classic example of football under Jack Warner's leadership. Good individual players but when it came to the national team we always floundered and under achieved on the bigger stage. Look at his legacy which haunts football today

For me this is the starting point. The Vietnamese say the house leaks from the roof and in the region we say fish rots from the head. A good parent brings the family together. Should not a good "parent body'' do the same?

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