The Union frequently comments on events or receives news of general interest and these are documented on this page.
I was in deep shock when Gerry Kangalee informed me that Michael Als had died. It came hours after the death of Nelson Mandela. Michael Als made a contribution to Trinidad and Tobago in several ways.
As a young man, in 1969, Michael formed the Young Power Movement and organized an unemployment march from Point Fortin to Port of Spain. Moreover, he documented an important history of the Trade Union Movement in the midst of the struggle against the Industrial Stabilization Act of 1965.
The small, yet important book is entitled: IS Slavery Again: Some Factors Leading up to the introduction of the Industrial Stabilization Act (I.S.A.) 1965, in Trinidad and Tobago. Moreover, he was a founding member of the Council of Progressive Trade Unions and served as General-Secretary and President.
Furthermore, Als was very much active in politics during the Black Power Revolution. Additionally, he was a founding member of the ULF, and the People’s Progressive Movement. More importantly, Michael was a founder of the Bank Workers’ Union (now BIGWU).
Michael was also a literary figure and a poet in his own right. As a Community organizer, Michael played a very important role in the Toco community where he worked with the young people. In writing the history of the modern working class of Trinidad and Tobago, historians must include Michael’s contribution to the development of the working-class in Trinidad and Tobago and by extension the Caribbean.
Included in NWU's media department's roster this week is coverage of the celebration of the life of Michael Als and his final rites of passage. This will take place in Toco, his adopted community at 2.00 p.m.
Initially I thought: 'ouch', a bona fide country bookie from Central sojourning all the way up to Toco? But, as a seasoned 'road warrior' and 'highway child' I knew it was a fleeting thought...
I knew Michael as one of the Alses from Green Acres. The Als sisters were some of the prettiest teens in San Fernando, along with the Jennings girls. A re-planted student, one who went to school in the North and was now back home in the South, I used to lime on High Street which is where all young people met then.
This would have included Mario, his younger brother. But I did not ever meet Michael then. That occurred much, much later when he wanted to include NWU in a planned revamped radio format, but he needed an upgraded license and that did not happen.
Michael shot to fame of course with the radical political move of creating the "Young Power" movement. Of course, those of us not conscious enough at the time were led to believe he was a heretic. Eschewing 'rum punch parties' limin' on High St. and in "blockos'' in Pleasantville to espouse radical political alternatives? Whew! He must be crazy.A good lookin', red skin boy from a nice San Fernando family? Nah, he had to be mad; sinning against the PNM light?
Michael was of the that section that provided leadership for the youthful militant protesters in the South, along with Winston Suite, Wayne Davis and the likes of Jude Alibey. The umbrella body was UMROBI, (United Movement For The Reconstruction Of Black Identity).
The events of 1970 would of course have given that generation its baptism by fire and Michael would have moved on, among others, to write significant pages in Trinidad and Tobago's history.
I remember him talking about being detained by the sick-minded Randolph Burroughs of the murderous "Flying Squad''. Let us not forget that was how PNM dealt with serious political opposition, forming a police squad to terrorise those who did not see Eric Williams as the light and the way. Eric Williams has died but has anything else changed in the PNM? Ask the "Round table?" …as soon as Faris gets back from Jo'burg.
Michael said in detention they asked him to sign some document, confessing to all kinds of 'crimes against the State''. He held out and he held out. Eventually he said. "Okay gimme the pen. Where to sign?" When they showed him, he signed, "Eric Williams". More police terrorism.
What is it about Toco? Toco gave us George Weekes, attracted Joe Young in his retirement years and ushered Michael out “to meet Karl Marx and Chairman Mao."
I hope they do not ask him to sign the wrong thing.
Vincent Cabrera, the President of the Banking Insurance and General Workers Union issued the following statement on December 6th 2013:
is with great sadness that we have learnt of the passing of Comrade Michael
Als, who was ailing over a long period. Michael Als founded the then Bank
Workers Trade Union in April of 1974 and served as the Union’s
first President General for a period of twelve (12) years. He resigned as
President in 1986 and became involved in the building of the Toco Foundation a
major community based organization.
made the distinctive contribution of the creation of a Trade Union organization
to protect the employment rights of workers in the finance sector. Under his
leadership the Union expanded and also became the Union
representing the interests of the nation’s media workers. Under his leadership
too, service sector employees established terms and conditions which never
Als, also was a major figure in the creation of the National Trade Union Centre
(NATUC), when the two existing trade union federations, the Trinidad
and Tobago Labour Congress (TTLC) and the Council of Progressive Trade Unions
(CPTU) were merged.
BIGWU extends its heartfelt condolences to the family of comrade Michael Als at
this time of mourning. The Union will shortly announce the various actions
which will take place to pay our respects to the fallen comrade and to mark his
great contribution to the trade union movement, to the working people and to
the nation of Trinidad and
Michael Als, the founder and first President of Bank Workers Union (BGWU), has died. The Union after a merger with the then Union representing Republic Bank Workers is now named Banking Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU).
Michael Als’s political baptism was in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s in the heat of the revolutionary struggles of that period. At the time he was the leader of a South Trinidad based progressive group known as the Young Power Movement.
This group together with other left radical political and social organizations staged protest actions and demonstrations leading to the 1970 Revolution in Trinidad and Tobago. This movement led by progressive trade unionists, students and cultural nationalists changed the political, economic and social conditions to the benefit of the people of our country.
After the revolution in the mid 1970’s Michael almost single-handedly formed the Bank and General Workers Union from a single desk and small office space on Frederick Street, Port of Spain, provided by the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) and the Council of Progressive Trade Unions (CPTU).
Michael’s mentors at the time were Eugene Joseph, then a Senior Labour Relations Officer of the OWTU and General Secretary of the CPTU; James Lynch, a former Butlerite and NUGFW Executive and George Weekes the then President General of the OWTU.
It was in that office on Frederick Street, Port of Spain that I first met Michael (although I knew about him) while visiting to file grievances with the OWTU as a shop steward at National Petroleum‘s (NP) Port of Spain operations.
However trade unionism, progressive politics and the workers’ struggles would bring us closer together in a few years time. With the advent of the United Labour Front and the party becoming the political opposition many of its leaders (George Weekes, Raffique Shah, Basdeo Panday Joe Young and others), who were also leaders of the CPTU, went into Parliament. This created space for several young trade unionists just into their 30’s in age to lead the progressive trade union movement.
During this period Michael Als was elected General Secretary of CPTU. I became a Labour Relations Officer of the OWTU and a representative to the CPTU executive. Then tragedy struck the movement: John Abraham then First Vice President of the OWTU and President of the CPTU died in an auto accident and the OWTU nominated me and I was elected the President of the CPTU.
Michael was always pre-occupied with building his Union (BGWU) and uniting the Labour Congress and the CPTU in a unified labour federation. He worked tirelessly towards these two goals. I accompanied him to many meetings with the Labour Congress at their office at the former Workers Bank in East Port of Spain. The CPTU’s office was then located on the Eastern Main Road in Laventille and also housed the Bank and General Workers Union of which Michael was President.
It was at this point in his career he authored the booklet “Is Slavery Again” condemning the repressive Industrial Stabilisation Act (ISA), the forerunner to the Industrial Relations Act (IRA). He was also the author of other booklets on various and diverse themes.
Michael was also a politician and was the leader of the Peoples Progressive Movement (PPM). The party contested several seats in general elections during the 80’s. Additionally he was involved with the United Labour Front (ULF) and the United National Congress (UNC). He also contested general elections and served as a Senator.
In 1983 the progressive political and labour movement in the country became divided during and after the collapse of the Grenada Revolution. As a result Michael Als left the trade union movement. So important was his role that his departure caused a reorganization of the CPTU. Despite his departure, the Union he founded, now in a merger, expanded its membership to the extent of now being one of the major unions in the country. This is a testimony to his leadership qualities and succession planning.
Michael Als was awarded the “Hero of Labour” medal by the Council of Progressive Trade Unions just before the merger of CPTU with the Labour Congress and the resultant formation of the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC). This was a fitting tribute to a leader who had worked tirelessly for labour unity in Trinbago.
Michael the consummate activist was to surface again, this time in the North East village of Toco: now as a community activist. He founded the Toco Foundation and Radio Toco. These two institutions have made significant contributions towards the improvement and empowerment of the rural community. I last saw him at the funeral of farmers’ activist Norris Deonarine.
Michael Als has left his footprint and his legacy on the labour movement, the politics and community activism in the country. But most of all he has left the legacy of giving birth and nurturing one of the major trade unions in the country.
December 6, 2013
Even as the world media dutifully mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela, remixed into a "freedom fighter, great humanitarian, anti-apartheid opponent, icon of the century'' we in Trinbago mourn the passing on the same day, with much less fanfare, of Mc Donald Bailey.
Bailey was the pioneer 100 yards sprinter to emerge from the Caribbean in an era when track and field was just developing in our region. Bailey shared the world record for five years as a British athlete.
One has heard so many stories of why he did not wear the Trinidad/Tobago colours. The most common story was that there was some contradiction between him and the then local governing body. He was always seen however as a Trinidadian who ran in British colours. In its early editions Bailey was probably the only individual Trinidadian mentioned in the Guinness book of records for the number of national sprint titles, British, held by one athlete in a country. His lone Olympic success was a bronze medal in Helsinki 1952.
I remember seeing him around track and field in the late '70s and early '80s. He was clearly an arrogant man in the way that all champions must be, overtly or covertly. One cannot be a winner without such an attitude. Some hide it, others display but all must have it. He seemed not to think much of the local administration..He was contracted by a local state company to promote track and field as a consultant but it did not seem to work out.
He was knowledgeable about the sport though. For example, he would insist that the then administration develop an "off-season" cross country programme, something he probably had seen assist in the strength and conditioning of British athletes. While his vision is accepted and respected now, we still do not have one.
A chain smoking 'sharp dresser'', Bailey faded from the scene in the '80s. My information is that he went back to England for a while and returned in the mid 90s and settled quietly. By that time the younger generation hardly knew or had heard of his achievements, in much the same way they have not been told of the courage of a Rodney Wilkes or Lennox Kilgour, Trinbago's first two Olympic silver medallists.
Mc Donald Bailey had been ailing for a long time before he died. Tragically, he had gone blind: not in the same way as our local sporting authorities. One evening I ended up on a street in Tarouba named after him: one of the men after whom a stadium should have been named.
I had occasion to visit the Ato Boldon stadium where athletes were training in darkness. The late Ian Goddard, founder of Neon Trackers, a dedicated coach who sacrificed so much for young athletes, must be weeping out there that this is still happening. It has been going on for years. What an irony on the day a sprint icon passes. Yet many a night when I am coming down the highway the very stadium is ablaze with light..
I have always argued it is cheaper to put on the lights, whatever the cost. Is it not a lot cheaper to encourage more young athletes by providing proper conditions, than to end up paying the police, the lawyer, the magistrate and the jailer? The greater irony is that all the corrective institutions have various ongoing sports programmes. Prevention is cheaper than detention! But then there is capitalism. Somebody has to fill the courts, prisons, remand yards, asylums and of course our cemeteries and crematoriums
So follow this weather advisory. Wear tallboots and carry an umbrella. The Met office advises that there will be a flood of crocodile tears this weekend. The stadia that should help the next generation of Mc Donald Baileys await or are under repairs...in time for Soca monarch! \
Meanwhile, peace and 'nuff respect to you. Mr. Bailey, sir!
For some people
Nelson Mandela was just the President of “The Rainbow country.” For Margaret
Thatcher and the right-wing conservative forces, Mandela was a terrorist. Still
for others, he is seen as a Black Nationalist, yet others see him as the saviour of capitalism in South Africa.
establishes that Nelson Mandela was a “freedom fighter.” The Merriam-Webster
defines a freedom fighter as, “a person who takes part in a resistance movement
against an oppressive political or social establishment.” From the time he
became a member of the African
National Congress, Nelson Mandela dedicated his life to the struggle: first
for the oppressed and marginalized people in South Africa and second to all
oppressed and marginalized and downtrodden people of the World.
was born on July 18, 1918. at Mvezo in South
Africa. Early in life, he learned that all Xhosas and all South African black people
were conquered people as well as slaves in the land of their birth and had no
power and control of their destinies.
level of consciousness took a while to develop because Mandela was very naïve
about class relations in South Africa. He was of the view that the African chief
was the oppressor, and the white man was the benefactor. He noted that he was
quite prepared to rebel against the social system maintained by his ethnic
group rather than fight against the political system that the racist regime
imposed on black South Africans.
understanding of oppression and class relations grew leaps and bounds when he
met Gaur Radebe, a
member of the ANC. Unlike the young Mandela who thought that education would
change South Africa, Gaur believed that education by itself was not the only
solution for black South Africans. He argued that black South Africans should
join the ANC and participate in the struggle.
Gaur played an important role in Mandela’s
political evolution. Mandela noted that Gaur was totally committed to the
freedom struggle and saw revolution as the only solution to the liberation of
South Africa. This new perspective of
“turning South Africa upside down” became clearer to Mandela from 1946 onwards.
The first event
occurred in 1946 when 70,000 African miners took strike action for a week in
their demands for increased wages, housing, and vacation leave. The state
responded very swiftly by suppressing the strike, crushing the union, jailing,
and prosecuting fifty-two workers for sedition.
Mandela’s consciousness of the need to become a freedom fighter heightened when
the Smuts government passed the Asiatic Land Tenure Act in 1946. This draconian
law restricted the movement of South Africans of Indian descent and also
restricted their right to own property.
piece of legislation galvanized the Indian community and inspired the ANC
youth. Mandela noted that, the Indian struggle against the Apartheid regime
“…instilled a spirit of defiance and radicalism among the people, broke the
fear of prison, and boosted the popularity of the NIC (Natal Indian Congress) and TIC (Transvaal Indian Congress)."
when the Nationalist Party took power, it introduced a number of laws that
outlawed the Communist Party of South Africa, passed the Population
Registration Act and the Group Areas Act of 1950, the Public Safety Act of
1953. The passage of these pieces of notorious legislation made it difficult
for the ANC to operate and as a result, Mandela was arrested on July 30, 1952
and was charged for violation of the Suppression
of Communism Act.
In 1953, at the
age of thirty-five, Mandela had matured politically and he made a commitment to
the ANC, and the liberation struggle. He realized that as the Apartheid regime
introduced more and more repressive measures the ANC needed to change its
In 1956 one hundred and fifty six people, including Mandela, were arrested and charged with High Treason. The case dragged on until 1961 when the charges were dropped.
In 1961, after
long debates within the ANC, the leadership formed Umkhonto we Sizwe as the
armed wing of the ANC; It was also known as MK and translated as “Spear of the
Mandela, who was
one of the co-founders, noted that, “At the beginning of June 1961, after a
long and anxious assessment of the South African situation, I, and some
colleagues, came to the conclusion that as violence in this country was
inevitable, it would be unrealistic and wrong for African leaders to continue
preaching peace and non-violence at a time when the government met our peaceful
demands with force.”
MK launched its
first guerrilla attacks against government installations on 16 December 1961.
It was subsequently classified as a terrorist organization by the South African
government and the United States, and banned.
participation in the bombing operations, Mandela was arrested in 1962 convicted
of sabotage, and conspiracy to overthrow the government, and sentenced to life
imprisonment in the Rivonia Trial. Mandela served twenty-seven years in prison
first at Robben Island, then at Pollsmoor and Victor Vester Prisons. Released on
February 11, 1990, Mandela subsequently became the first black President of
South Africa from 1994-1999.
has been denounced as a terrorist and as a communist sympathizer. Later on he
was accused of negotiating a post-Apartheid settlement that favoured
international capital rather than the majority of black South Africans. However
Mandela is viewed, history will record that he was a freedom fighter, who
committed his life to the struggle for freedom, human dignity, human rights,
bread, and justice.
It took almost nine months and a picket of the Recognition Board office in Port of Spain for the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) to eventually have its long awaited meeting with representatives of the Board on Monday 2nd December.
It was an opportunity, not only to complain about how long it takes for recognition claims to be processed, but to put forward some positive proposals for change.
The Board representatives were reminded that before the Industrial Stabilisation Act in 1965, unions directly negotiated bargaining units with employers. In fact, once a union gets recognition, unions negotiate legally binding collective agreements which are far more complex and detailed than any negotiation over the shape of a bargaining unit.
Given this, the unions argued, the Recognition Board needed to move away from having Examiners (that is, public officers) making recommendations on bargaining units, but that this should primarily be the product of negotiations between the union making the application and the employer.
Additionally, the unions said, there needs to be some strict time-lines to stop employers deliberately sabotaging the recognition process by not replying to Board enquiries.
At the conclusion of the meeting, it was agreed that the JTUM would send the Board a memorandum of its proposals, which included a suggestion that there should be a Joint Working Party to examine the procedures used by the Board with the object of having recognition claims finalised within three months.
Interesting … but don't hold your breath for too long!
In this day time of searching for miracles, when religious orthodoxy has some believers Pantin at the possibility of a saint from Trinidad (Tobago?), I do not know how these things work, it is interesting to note another unnaturally occurring phenomenon in our midst. I refer to a re-incarnation of Cobo Jack.
Now, as I proceed: please bear in mind I am not faith based, actually I am from Central and my religious identification card would read "recovering Christian.' Who or what is a recovering Christian? Someone who was led along that ideological path and managed with the avid support of others to turn away but is daily bombarded with inducement to take up that type of "drinking" again. That type of bar requires no license, is open 25 hours a day and can advertise freely in any medium.
Back to Jack. The original Cobo Jack is a legendary panist who tuned for and captained the Invaders steelband. He would have been a contemporary of Ellie Mannette. When I enquired about him I was told that, like Mannette, he had migrated and is living in New York. Which makes this all the more interesting because generally one is re-incarnated after one's passing; not while one is still among the living. That would be a miracle which would qualify us here in Trinidad (Trinidad/Tobago?) for another saint, providing Tobago is willing to share/participate.
The new "Cobo Jack'' is a genetic mutation turned phenomenon. The cobo (corbeau) is a bird of prey. Which means upon scenting carrion it swoops down upon it and pecks it clean (Nature's Environment Management Agency). It even portends death by hovering over the weak and dying. MSJ...look out! This 2013 Cobo however is seeking to raise the dead by resurrecting an entity which was politically (one can almost say virtually) shot to death in the early 90's. by members of a religious sect who claimed that God was on their side.. See why I am Central and not "faith based?"
Such an occurrence would stand Darwinism on its head since this form of new Cobo represents a complete role reversal and revision of job specification. One cannot say the deceased was 'playing dead to ketch cobo alive' because it was and is dead anyway. And who would want to "ketch" that cobo anyway, especially after it was booted out of nests in Tobago and St. Joseph.
So we can only hold our noses and see where this will end. At least another "bird of play'' has returned to his natural habitat proving that working class journalists are generally right…sometimes. I speak of Ian who I suggested was only out for a lark, as the English say, when he contested the St. Joseph bye-election. Ian has quietly folded his political wings and returned to the media swampland of exploiting human tragedy for television ratings
The workers of CLICO and British American Insurance Companies picketed the Central Bank and Ministry of Finance on December 2nd and followed this up on December 3rd by picketing the offices of CLICO on St. Vincent Street in Port of Spain.
These workers are victims of the takeover of the companies by the State in 2009 in the wake of the crash of the Duprey empire which threatened to destroy the entire financial structure in the country. The Banking Insurance and General Workers Union, which represents the CLICO workers issued the following statement on the issue
In 2009 CLICO/BA came under the direct control of the state/Central Bank for reasons we are all aware of.
Since then, workers at CLICO/BA have been exposed to abuse by disgruntled clients for reasons not of their making; despite this abuse workers at CLICO/BA have endured and demonstrated unrewarded commitment in pursuit of restoring and maintaining public confidence and financial stability in CLICO/BA. In fact, the reward of workers at CLICO/BA has been one of loss: loss of uniforms; loss of increases in salaries/allowances; loss of confidence by banks/other lending agencies in granting loans to CLICO/BA employees and so on.
Over this period too, the Union and workers would have sought and would have secured written guarantee to have workers’ severance payments honoured, given the stated intention to cease the operations of CLICO/BA and bring into being a new corporate entity – ATRIUS as it is now called.
On May 05, 2013 Minister of Finance, the Honourable Senator Larry Howai, to his then credit, directly addressed and promised workers of CLICO/BA - during a public protest over continued indecision in bringing ATRIUS into being - to expedite all matters related to its formation…including ending the anxiety, frustration and agony being experienced by CLICO/BA workers in not being able to properly plan their lives, given the delays and constant changing of dates for ATRIUS to commence operations.
Since then, while ATRIUS has been legally constituted, Board of Directors and all, enquiries to CLICO/BA’s management about an operations date for ATRIUS and payment of severance to workers has been met with the explanation that it is in the hands of the Minister/the government.
WELL…ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!
CLICO/BA workers have endured; CLICO/BA workers have been punished and pushed around; CLICO/BA workers are resigning, tired and depressed, and going home empty-handed after years of contribution and sacrifice.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!! Union members; non-members; agents; management – let your voices be heard and presence be felt as we protest and call upon Minister Howai and the government to end this oppressive and unfair state of affairs:
The Labour Advisory Bureau (LAB), the Education, Training, Research and Publication arm of the National Workers Union NWU) conducted the second of its interactive Seminars on Friday November 29 and Saturday November 30, 2013 at the Transport and Industrial Workers Union (TIWU) headquarters in Laventille.
The seminar dealt with the issue of collective bargaining and was entitled FROM PROPOSALS TO SETTLEMENT.
Eighteen (18) trade unionists representing six (6) unions participated in the interactive two - day sessions of the Seminar.
The facilitators were Frank Sears, President of NWU and former Health Safety & Environment Officer and Organizer Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU); Cecil Paul, Deputy President NWU and former General Secretary Council of Progressive Trade Unions, former Chief Labour Relations Officer OWTU; Sylvan Wilson, former Acting Chief Labour Relations Officer OWTU; Gerry Kangalee, National Education and Research Officer NWU and former Education and Research Officer OWTU; Dave Smith, General Secretary NWU and formerly Area Officer NUPE of the United Kingdom, Regional Officer UNISON and Director of Communications National Union of Government and Federated Workers and His Honour Gregory Rousseau, Industrial Court Judge.
The Course Outline on Day 1 included among others:
The Historical, Political, Economic and Social Perspectives of Collective Bargaining
The Social Wage
A Vision for the Future
The Legal Framework (Industrial Relations Act Chap. 88:01
Workers, Shop Stewards and Branch Officers involvement in formulating and approval of Proposals
Labour theory of value
A model proposal
Preparation of Proposals and proof reading
Submission of Proposals to the Employer and the Ministry of Labour and the covering letters
Selecting Negotiating Team and Date of Commencement
Union’s Rules and Protocols for the Negotiations
The issue of protest action during Negotiations
Communicating the Proposals to workers and reporting on the state of the negotiations
On Day 2 the Seminar dealt with:
Collective Bargaining Issues (job evaluations and descriptions, financials, transparency and disclosures, Employee Assistance Plans (EAP), definitions).
Third Party Intervention on Breakdown of Negotiations.
Reporting the Dispute
Submission of Memorandum
Referrals to Industrial Court
Preparation of Evidence and Arguments
Conciliation and Arbitration at Industrial Court
Reporting to Workers at stages of Third Party Interventions
The Human Resource Manual/Handbook and the Collective Agreement
Trade Union Rights, Responsibilities and Facilities
Contract Labour/Outsourcing and Job Security
Negotiating Wages and Salaries and the Arguments
Cost of Living Allowance (COLA)
Understanding the index of retail prices for COLA Negotiations
Consolidation, Expiration and Implementation of New COLA
Negotiating Cost Items
Negotiating Leaves of Absence
Negotiating Other Provisions of the Collective Agreement
A brief review of a model collective agreement
In 2014, the Labour Advisory Bureau will continue to provide this service of Interactive Seminars to workers and trade unionists geared towards developing the skills and competence required of Industrial Relations Practitioners and those interested.
The LAB also sees an urgent need for succession planning in the Labour Movement and the need to educate a cadre of young trade unionists to not only match but also surpass the capabilities of the employer operatives in the field of Industrial Relations, Labour Economics and the politics of Labour.