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

QUESTIONS FOR WOULD BE PARLIAMENTARIANS by frank sears

posted 3 Jul 2020, 05:04 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 3 Jul 2020, 05:05 ]

Some questions for any would-be Parliamentarian canvassing for my vote. Only four queries for now, but based on your response there are others to follow. I would prefer your reply be given via a public medium.

How do you plan to share your time in pursuing attendance, research and responses in Parliament; physically serving your constituents; being active in your political party; liaising with the local councilor/s; continuing in your chosen profession, while being a family man or woman? Please give a breakdown of the expected hours to be spent on a weekly basis.

What community work have you been involved in over the last ten years. This could include any sporting, cultural or business organization at managerial level?

State briefly what you have noted are the major issues deserving priority attention and resolution in your constituency.

State whether there is a structure in place to inform constituents on a regular basis on matters affecting them e.g. water shortage, infrastructure, known ‘hot-spots’ where anti-social behavior is entrenched, etc.

Note, dear ‘would-be’ Parliamentarian, I intend no frivolity, sarcasm or any negative thought, but being historically non-aligned (to any political party) I am skeptical of the political process.

Other questions are on a national perspective and may or may not arise based on your response. Born and bred on Coffee Street, I am a resident of San-Fernando East constituency. Thanks in advance.

frank sears
Turton Street
San Fernando

NEW NORMAL? OLD NORMAL ON STEROIDS by Dave Smith

posted 28 Jun 2020, 03:52 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 28 Jun 2020, 03:56 ]

Employers have been playing with euphemisms in the English language for years in order to confuse, hide and blur what they are really up to.

They don’t make you redundant or dismiss you. Oh no, that’s far too harsh and unpleasant. They “let you go”. The National Workers Union (NWU) has done a quick poll of those who have been “let go” and found that only parrots are really happy when you “let them go”.

Some employers stopped employing workers a long time ago. Now we are “associates” who are part of the “Company Family”. It doesn’t stop them” letting you go” when they want to.

American Airlines is an example of one employer who no longer issues warning letters. Now they are “advisories”. But don’t get too confused. They still “let you go” when they’ve run out of “advisories”.

The latest linguistic distortion is “New Normal”. Confused? Don’t be!

The Workers of the World Dictionary describes “new normal” as being a situation where the employers have moved the goal posts and you have to accept these new arrangements as if they are normal. Simple really.

Over the past few months the “new normalites” have been busy new normalising by cutting pay, cutting hours, sometimes cutting pay AND hours at the same time, dismissing workers (sorry, letting associates go), laying off “associates” with no pay and restructuring.

Before we get distracted by this “we’re all in it together” stuff, let's take a step back and see what’s “new” about all of this. Let’s put this into some proper perspective.

The employment relationship is fundamentally unequal and always has been. It is the employer who decides who and when to employ, how and when to dismiss, when to reorganise and make workers redundant,

The balance of power in the employment relationship is tilted firmly in the employers favour. Traditionally, the workers' response has been to organise. Instinctively we know that when we say to an employer “we” want this or “we” won't accept that, we are much stronger than one person saying … please sir, if you wouldn’t mind and if it’s not too much of an inconvenience ...

The “we” implies a threat that if “we” don’t get what “we” want then “we” have the potential to do something about it … providing we stick together that is. Remember all that Unity is Strength stuff these old trade union people talk about?

Now here’s the rub. In T&T only between 15% to 20% (if so much) of workers are covered by Union Collective Agreements.

The balance of these non-organised workers have to rely for their protection on what might be provided by the law or case law developed in the Industrial Court

But let us have no illusions about labour laws - they are not neutral.

Laws are passed in response to social pressures and the balance of class forces that are prevalent at the time, whether in response to changing social attitudes to issues such as abortion or gays rights or pressure from the streets.

A classic example of pressure from the streets are the demands being put on the capitalist class in America by the Black Lives Matter movement. Demands which have now extended well beyond the immediate issue of the murder of George Floyd. That is the sort of social pressure it takes to generate real changes in society.

If you look at the Industrial Relations Act, a product of the events of the 1970’s, whilst its primary objective was always to restrain and constrain workers’ ability to take industrial action in defence of their interests, some concessions had to be built in to recognise the strength of the unions at the time. Interestingly, those very concessions are now the target of the employers’ anti-union agenda.

While there are limitations in all labour laws, after all they are a reflection of the struggle at the time, they are what we have. Workers have always learnt to fight on as many fronts as possible and even if the laws do not provide all the protection they should, we still need to extract what we can from them.

We need to remind ourselves that Covid-19 does not change the law.

What is happening is that employers have rearranged the employment relationship in their heads and are carrying on as if contracts of employment and the law no longer apply. Employers are trying to create a “new normal” by tearing up contracts and ignoring the law.

The truth of the matter is that they will get away with it if there is no resistance.

We have to take the position that there is no “new normal”. Our starting point is that the “old normal” continues until there are discussions and negotiations about changes.

And workers need to learn the lesson that they must get organised.

“Divided we beg, united we bargain” is not just a slogan from history - it describes the reality of the employment relationship today, tomorrow and every day.

End 

FROM THE BELLY OF THE BEAST - NOTE NO. 5 by Godfrey Vincent

posted 25 Jun 2020, 15:23 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 25 Jun 2020, 15:30 ]

1. There are two major struggles occurring simultaneously in the United States: The struggle for Racial justice and the class struggle between the owners of capital and labor. This note focuses on the former.

2. This struggle for racial justice has its genesis with the institution of slavery, first in the Thirteen US colonies and then its establishment throughout the United States. At one point in time in US history, the US constitution sanctioned slavery in Article 1, Section 2 of the original constitution, Article 1, Section 9, Clause 1 of the original constitution, Article 4, Section 2.

3. Moreover, Slave Codes existed in every state that practiced slavery. According to the Library of Congress, Slavery in the United States was governed by an extensive body of law developed from the 1640s to the 1860s. Every slave state had its own slave code and body of court decisions. All slave codes made slavery a permanent condition, inherited through the mother, and defined slaves as property, usually in the same terms as those applied to real estate. Slaves, being property, could not own property or be a party to a contract. Since marriage is a form of contract, no slave marriage had any legal standing. All codes also had sections regulating free blacks, who were still subject to controls on their movements and employment and were often required to leave the state after emancipation (See https://www.loc.gov/collections/slaves-and-the-courts-from-1740-to-1860/articles-and-essays/slave-code-for-the-district-of-columbia)

4. It must be noted that every state was involved. The myth that Slavery was only a Southern phenomenon must be debunked. It existed in the Northern states as well. Alexander Nazaryan, in a Newsweek article, asserted, “We rarely think of New York as a slaveholding city, but it had more slaves than any other city except Charleston. Foner writes that on "the eve of the War of Independence...some 20,000 slaves lived within 50 miles of Manhattan island, the largest concentration of unfree laborers north of the Mason-Dixon Line." Brooklyn was even worse than Manhattan: In 1771, one-third of its population was slave (Newsweek, 04/15/15).

5. As slavery expanded, so did the production of cotton in the Southern states. States like Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana became centers of cotton production and major slave states. Because of these developments, “…. the subordination of black men and women to the cotton economy, shaped the plight of African Americans throughout U.S. history. And as cotton shaped the social landscape, racial oppression shaped its social landscape" (See Gene Dattel, Cotton and Race in the Making of America)

6. This expansion, was not lost on Karl Marx who in 1846 wrote that “without cotton you have no modern industry.” Furthermore, he stated that “Without slavery, you have no cotton.” Even though slave labor aided in the development of the Industrial Revolution, black people never reaped the rewards of their labor.

Rooted in Slavery: Prison Labor Exploitation | Reimagine!7. What did they reap? First, Black People reaped Black Codes. When white people in the defeated confederate states regained political power after the collapse of reconstruction, they legislated laws in 1865 first in Mississippi and South Carolina that sought to keep blacks in subjugation (See Constitutional Rights Foundation “Black Codes). These codes were "an array of interlocking laws essentially intended to criminalize black life", to restrict the economic independence of blacks and provide pretexts for jail terms. Blacks were often unable to pay even small fins and were sentenced to prison labor as a result; convicts were leased to plantations, lumber camps, and mines to be used for forced labor. Joseph E. Brown, former governor of Georgia, amassed great wealth based on his use of convict labor in his Dade Coal Company mines and other enterprises, from 1874 to 1894.”

8. Second, blacks experienced lynchings. While some believe this is a thing the past, it continues. Recently, four black men were found hanging from trees. The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), located in Montgomery Alabama, has affirmed that, “Lynching of African Americans was terrorism, a widely supported phenomenon used to enforce racial subordination and segregation.” Additionally, the organization “has documented 4,084 racial terror lynchings in 12 Southern states between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and 1950, which is at least 800 more lynchings in these states than previously reported. EJI has also documented more than 300 racial terror lynchings in other states during this time period. In addition, for all the documented lynchings covered in newspaper reports, many racial terror lynchings went unreported and their victims remain unknown (See EJI website).

9. Thirdly, black peoples have reaped segregation, known as Jim Crow segregation. This segregation was both de jure and de facto. In the South, de jure segregation existed because it was the law. In the North, de facto segregation was practiced although it was not law. One commentator noted, ‘Until 1964, most white Northerners regarded race as a peculiarly Southern problem that could be solved by extending political and civil rights to Southern blacks. Beginning in 1964, however, the nation learned that discrimination and racial prejudice were nationwide problems and that black Americans were demanding not just desegregation in the South, but equality in all parts of the country. The nation also learned that resistance to black demands for equal rights was not confined to the Deep South but existed in the North as well.”

10. Unfortunately, this discrimination did not end with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Black people continue to experience racial injustice, and therefore, they are in the streets. Since the 1900s to the present, Black people have engaged in all forms of protests, both peaceful and violent. However, in 2020, this new generation of young people are saying, “We are not our parents’ generation. We will….” They just do not want to see Confederate flags and icons removed. These young people are demanding a new America that gives black and brown peoples equal rights and justice.

FROM THE BELLY OF THE BEAST - NOTE NO. 4 by Godfrey Vincent

posted 20 Jun 2020, 07:53 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 20 Jun 2020, 08:14 ]

1. Amid the COVID 19 pandemic, Police Murder and Brutality, Lynching, and Economic crisis, there is a major struggle for ideas as it relates to the future of the United States of America. This struggle is currently being played out in the streets in Urban, Suburban, and Rural America between the forces in the suites and the forces in the street.

2. Representing the forces in the suites are the Trump Administration, the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, and the one percent that is represented by the various business groups.

3. In the streets, there exist groups such as Black Lives Matter, NAACP, Color of Change, Occupy Movement, Anarchists, LBTGQ, Latino Immigrant groups, the Black Alliance for Peace, People’s Strike, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, the National Black Food and Justice Alliance, Feed the Streets LA, Chicago Alliance against Racist and Political Repression, Radical College students, BYP 100, the Navajo nation, the Poor Peoples Campaign, Women Rising, and other radical and progressive groups. It must be noted that Black Lives Matter is leading the protests in the streets.

4. In terms of its ideas on the future of America, the Trump administration is doubling down on its policy of “Law and Order.” Even though, the president signed an Executive Order on Police Reforms, it failed to acknowledge that Systemic Racism exists in America.

Before he addressed the attendees, he once again signaled to his base that “people want Law and Order.” Additionally, the future of America for the Trump administration is one where the one percent continues to obtain massive tax cuts at the expense of workers and the working poor. Moreover, even though the administration sent the military back to the bases, President Trump wants to use the army to crack down on the autonomous zone that the people of Seattle liberated.

Furthermore, the administration is no longer addressing the COVID 19 pandemic as it focuses on re-opening the economy. Its main concern is the health of Wall Street rather on the total health of the US population. Riding on the slogan “Make America Great Again,” the administration is counting on its minority White Nationalist base to vote it into office for another four years. The goal is to maintain a system based on White Supremacy that continues to disenfranchise Black and Brown people, and immigrants. Additionally, it wants to maintain the capitalist system that excludes trade unions, allows right to work states, pays minimum wages, cuts health care, underfunds the social safety net, pollutes the environment, and promotes privatization.

5. The GOP, in the Trump era, has ceased to be an independent party and has become the party of Trump. All members in the Senate and House of Representatives have abandoned their principal positions and have become ardent supporters of the President. The party refused to impeach the president in the Senate and has rubber-stamped every legislation that supports the Trump agenda.

6. On the topic of policing that has now come front and center in the discourse, the GOP bill 1. Requires data collection on use of force and no-knock warrants; 2. Incentivizes state and local police to ban chokeholds; 3. Calls on state and local departments to document police misconduct; 4. Directs Department of Justice (DOJ) to establish de-escalation training guidelines; 5. Establishes a Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys; 6. Sets up grant programs for body cameras; 8. Makes lynching a federal crime.

How Trump Will Make America Great Again? InfographicWhile it appears that the GOP wants to see the bill becomes law, critics say that the bill does not include defunding the police. Additionally, the GOP is backing Trump’s position on Law and order. On the question of the economy, the GOP does not want to support another stimulus package that will bring relief to some 30 million unemployed workers. Known as the party of “Big business,” the GOP views the various stimulus packages as a form of welfare. Their position is to pass economic bills that will give more tax cuts to Big business.

As to the protests in the streets, a CNN report has confirmed that top Republican senators defended the use of force to clear out peaceful protestors near the White House that allowed the President to
The Making of a Conservative Superstar - The Atlantic
Senator Tom Cotton wants Trump to send in the troops
take a photo-op near a church holding a bible (See CNN News, June 2, 2020). Moreover, Senator Tom Cotton, in a New York Times OP-ED, Send in the Troops in which he made the case that federal troops are needed to stamp out "anarchy" caused by the protests sweeping the United States that he claimed recalls "the widespread violence of the 1960s” (See CNN News, June 4, 2020). Cotton, who is a militarist, and a strong supporter of President Trump, wants to see the movement in the streets crushed. It must be noted that Cotton’s position represents the position of the GOP.

7. With mass protests in the streets, the one percent, and Corporations facing a backlash from the protesters are doling out millions of dollars to Black and Brown communities and Historically Black Colleges and Universities to appease these communities. Recently, Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix and his wife gave $120 million gift to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) (See Chronicle of Higher Education, June 17, 2020). Moreover, Michael Jordan and his Jordon Brand gave $100 million to organizations that are engaged in fighting racism (See CNBC, June 4, 2020). On June 11, 2020,

TeenVogue, reported that forty-four fashion and beauty brands have pledge hundreds of million dollars in support of Black Lives Matter. Moreover, facing product boycott by shoppers, The Quaker Oats Company, manufacturer of Aunt Jemima, has announced a name changing, citing that the brand has deep roots associated with slavery (See NBC News, June 17, 2020). Compared to 2014 when only Black people took to the streets, the CEOs of these major corporations are seeing a broader coalition of Blacks and Whites who are not only angry but have not forgotten the Corporate Bailout Wall Street received during the Great Recession.

8. What is the position of the Democratic Party? It depends on which fraction of the party from which one is seeking an answer. The Democratic party is made of different coalitions: New Deal Democrats, Conservative Democrats, Third Way Democrats, Progressive Democrats, and Black Caucasus Democrats. The New Deal Democrats want to see government playing a greater role in the economy by pursuing policies that the FDR administration pursued from 1936/37 to address the socio-economic problems caused by the Great Depression (1929). Moreover, they also want to tackle the problems of systematic racism that has plagued Black people since Slavery was instituted.

Conservative Democrats are those politicians who seek very slow incremental changes to the society. The Conservative democrats resist defunding the police and support the maintenance of racial hierarchy, and capitalism that provides minimal welfare benefits.


Bill Clinton dismantled the welfare system
Third Way democrats or “New Democrats” are those politicians like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama who support Neo-liberal economic policies. While they talk about Opportunity for all, and “Hope and Change,” their positions are aligned with Wall Street executives. Remember, it was Bill Clinton who dismantled the Glass/Steagall Act. It was under his administration that Welfare as we know it came to an end. While they talk a good game about police reform, voting rights, Health Care for all, this wing of the party is anti-working class.

The Progressive wing of the Democrats are pushing for a New Green Deal, $15-20 hour living wage, comprehensive health care for all, comprehensive immigration, cancellation of student debt, comprehensive police reform, regulation of Wall Street, comprehensive voting rights, gay rights and women’s rights.

9. So far the protestors have been able to force the Democratic party in general and Democratic mayors and governors in particular to make concessions like making Juneteenth a State Holiday and City holiday (NY and NYC), pursuing police reform, removing significant funding from police departments (LA), prosecuting police officers for the murder of George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks, and firing officers charged with these crimes, painting entire streets and plazas dedicated to BLM, removing confederate monuments, and passing a comprehensive Police reform bill in the House of Representatives and an anti-Lynching Bill in the Senate (GOP senator Rand Paul is blocking this legislation). Additionally, the Democratic party is trying to co-opt the movement by encouraging the protestors to throw their support for Joe Biden in the 2020 Presidential election.

10. While the Democratic party is trying to wrest control of the protest, the forces in the streets, mainly led by BLM, are calling for reparations, defunding the police, total reorganization of policing with greater community involvement, a living wage with health care, paid sick-leave, maternity and paternity leave and other work-related benefits.

They are also calling for federal, state, and local government spending and investment in black and brown communities, student loan debt forgiveness, total dismantling of all confederate flags and monuments, an end to voter suppression, an end to stand your ground laws, citizenship for all DACA people, the creation of autonomous zones, banning of the KKK, ending of all forms of racial discrimination, greater funding for all Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), an end to military interventions, end to poverty, end to red-lining and gentrification, women’s reproductive rights, LBTGQ rights, and union rights. In sum, the movement is demanding an end to systematic racism and the creation of an America that works for most of the people.

11. Currently, there are thousands of people in the streets celebrating Juneteenth. The protest is continuing because it has gone beyond the issue of police murder and brutality. On Saturday, low-income
How Chicagoans Are Celebrating Juneteenth | WBEZ Chicago people from about 40 states are protesting in Washington, D.C. Led by the Poor People’s Campaign, this march will “demand action on a specific policy agenda that brings the fight against poverty, racism and over-militarization together with campaigns to protect the environment and make it liveable for all.

Grounded in a 2020 report entitled The Souls of Poor Folk: Auditing America, the agenda focuses on five core justice issues: "systemic racism, systemic poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy and militarism, and a distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism” (See Triple Pundit, June 19, 2020). Speaking on MSNBC on Thursday night, Reverend William J. Barber II stated that both political parties have neglected the poor and only focus on the middle class and the movement will use the march to make the plight of the poor a major policy debate in the US.

12. While the political pundits are mainly focusing the protests as a race issue, a few local unions have intervened in the struggle. In California, the International Longshoremen’s, and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU) in general and ILWU 10 in Oakland California have joined the protest by taking to the streets for Juneteenth. (See CBS FS Bay Area, June 19, 2020). Writing in the Jacobin, David Ward makes a passionate call for trade unions to embrace Black Lives Mater. According to Ward, “Black lives do not just need allies who condemn what happened to George Floyd — they need comrades who are prepared to do the work to make change happen. Martin Luther King Jr spoke about “four catastrophes”: militarism, materialism, racism, and poverty. We must ensure that we fight in his memory, within working-class communities, to take up his challenge of confronting these evils.”

13. The late James Brown said that we are living in critical and crucial times. This column states we are living in times of Class struggle that is intensifying as capitalism is plunged into deeper crisis. Some years ago, the Fatback band sang “who is gonna take the weight, not me.” Writing in the same vein some years later, the Poet, Abdul Malik, wrote, More Weight, More Weight and we ‘pon the ground. More Weight, More Weight, and dey kicking we down. Man, we have to fight to survive to survive. Man, we have to kick to survive.” From their various perspectives, both Fatback Band and Abdul Malik sighted up the need for people to engage in class struggle. What is emerging in the streets of America is class struggle that is why the forces supporting President Trump is calling for “Law and Order.” Watch this space!

NWU: WORKERS MUST UNITE AS A CLASS. JUNE 19TH 2020 STATEMENT

posted 18 Jun 2020, 20:53 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 18 Jun 2020, 20:58 ]

For the past few years the National Workers Union has been warning workers that the employers, the one percent, and the government have been seeking ways to force working people and the poor to bear burden after burden, as the economic system goes into free fall.

The employers are seizing the COVID crisis to carry out their plans to slash labour costs and re-organise their companies. People are struggling to feed themselves, to pay their rents, to keep up with their mortgage and vehicle payments. The education system is in collapse mode and the institutions in the country have lost all credibility – political parties, the church, the police, the judiciary, the trade unions

They are using the covid 19 situation to step up savage attacks on the rights, entitlements and standard of living of working people, but these attacks were coming long before covid appeared on the scene.

Public sector workers, including health care workers, teachers and public servants have not had a wage increase since 2013. They have not even had the full retroactive payments due to them and owed to them for more than six years.

The widespread use of the contract system has turned a growing proportion of public sector workers into little more than indentured servants, with no job security and with little hope of lifting the standard of living of themselves and their families.

Thousands of Petrotrin workers and thousands more workers and small businesses that depended on Petrotrin were thrown on to the rubbish heap long before covid became a reality. Covid had nothing to do with the retrenchment of thousands of workers at Arcelor Mittal, RBC, Berger Paints, Trinidad Cement, OAS, UTT, Centrin, TSTT, IOCL, Agostini’s, Unilever, Yara and many more.

Now, under the covid cover, some utilising the fig leaf of temporary layoff, jobs are being lost at Massy Motors, Electrical Industries, Stork Technical, Newsday and others. Workers’ salaries are being slashed at Coca Cola and at a host of non-unionised workplaces.

The situation is so horrible that one non-unionised employer cut the pay of staff by 50% and then reduced hours from 40 a week down to 20. Having effectively cut pay by 75%, this employer promptly made eight workers redundant and based their severance calculations on the reduced pay. Not satisfied with that, he decided that the 45 days’ notice required by the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act (RSBA) was far too much and has unilaterally decided to change the law by only giving 14 days notice.

A Joint Survey was done by the Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI) and the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association (TTMA). 394 businesses in Trinidad and Tobago were recorded. The survey was titled Economic impact assessment of COVID-19 on Services & Manufacturing Sectors

It revealed that 36% of businesses surveyed had terminated fulltime employees and 55% of businesses surveyed have terminated part time or contractual employees. For companies that did not terminate staff, 58% were furloughed (temporary layoff) employees. Among these companies, 67% have furloughed at least 25% of their workers comprising of both full-time and part-time employees. Furthermore, those employers who did not terminate staff, 50% resorted to a reduction in wages. Most of the companies surveyed reduced wages by at least 26%

Most workers terminated were from arts, entertainment and recreation, tourism, manufacturing, food processors and drinks and the construction sector.

Let u
Industrial Relations Advisory: Criteria for Retrenchment | PMSL
s be realistic. Let us not fool ourselves and hope that things will turn around or that you will, hopefully escape. Things are not going to get better, unemployment is going to increase, a number of jobs will be lost forever, especially in hotels, restaurants and bars. The big conglomerates like Massy and McAl are feverishly re-organising their operations.

Massy Motors has put a number of workers on temporary layoff without pay until August 31st and given themselves time to eliminate a number of jobs, so that when these workers return they may very well have to go back home permanently. Electrical Industries has put workers on temporary layoff with no return date and no salary.

Public sector workers have been assured that they will not lose their jobs. Remember a promise is a comfort to a fool. TSTT. Petrotrin and UTT were all owned by the state and where are their workers now?
For the last few years the National Workers Union has pointed out that the employers have designed a strategy to further weaken unions, already at their weakest in terms of leadership and ability to fight since 1937, while ensuring that non-unionised workers know and stay in their place.
They want to remove the provision in law that says that a worker, whether previously unionised or not, must be represented by a union in the industrial court. They want what they call small and micro enterprise employers to be exempt from punishment for unfair dismissals and from the procedures that apply to other employers when it comes to trade disputes.

They want to make it illegal for the Recognition Board to grant recognised majority union status to a bargaining unit of less than twenty workers. They want unions to be decertified for bargaining units that fall below the magic number (twenty).

They are against domestic workers being treated like “workers” under the law, despite the government promising to enable it through legislation. They are against workers who have been unjustly dismissed being re-instated. They want to be able to retrench so-called “contract workers” at will. They want to cut back on leave provisions in collective agreements.

They have developed legal mechanisms to delay and frustrate the already long drawn out process of recognition. They want restrictions on appeals against industrial court judgements to be removed. They want judges in the industrial court to come largely from the “private sector”.

They have set up a high level legal team to oppose and obstruct judgements coming out of the industrial court that are not in their favour and they have decided that the President of the Industrial 
Seeking interests of the community as a wholeCourt must be removed.

The point of all this is that the economic elites in this country and their political watchmen realise that the economic system is sinking deeper in trouble both internationally and locally. The economic pie is shrinking and for years they have adopted policies to protect their share of a shrinking pie by picking the pockets of working people and transferring what we thought was our share of the pie into the pockets of the one percent, the economic elites and their political acolytes.

Unionised workers have to put pressure on their failing unions to get off their backsides and do what unions are supposed to do which is defend and protect the interests of the workers and not concede to the demands of the employers under the guise of all ah we is one! This is the biggest myth that we have been taught. They are sailing on luxurious yachts, while we are trying to bail water out of leaking pirogues.

There is no buffer between working people and the poor and those who control the means of production. The lines are drawn. The class struggle is exploding and we are going into a period of instability and unrest.

If we remain disunited they will pick us off bit by bit. Through serious networking and collaborating in action we have to come up with a counter attack to beat off this assault by the one percent, the employers and their protectors in the government.

The health care workers are showing the way. They have decided to stand up and fight for what is theirs. Workers must reject the myth that employers are doing them a favour by giving them jobs. Without labour there is no production of surplus value that the employers are appropriating for themselves. Workers have the power of numbers and the power over production. People all over the globe are showing that they are no, longer willing to put up with oppression and exploitation. We ent folks too? If the priest could play who is we?

We cannot look to politicians to defend us. We cannot look to pundits, imams, priests and pastors to defend us. We cannot look to the judicial system to defend us. We cannot look to weak, sell out and flip flopping trade union leaders to defend us. Only the workers can save the workers.

We have to realise we are in a vicious class struggle and we have to respond not as workers in this workplace or that workplace; as workers in this union or that union. We have to respond as a class. We have to unite across workplace and union lines. We have to unite across regional and religious lines. We have to unite across ethnic and racial lines. Only as a united force would we be able to push back the assault from those who exploit our labour, live high on the hog and push us down into the mud. Let the debate begin!

- END -

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Gerry Kangalee (National Education and Research Officer – Cell: 785-7637)

A JUNE 19TH MESSAGE FROM DR. JAMES MILLETTE. CAN PARTIES OF THE PEOPLE GOVERN FOR THE PEOPLE?

posted 18 Jun 2020, 16:07 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 18 Jun 2020, 16:33 ]

Dr. James Millette is a Trinidadian scholar whose specialty is Caribbean history and whose expectations are that one day the Caribbean people “will rise”. He has lived and worked in the Caribbean, in the United Kingdom and in the United States.

He was the leader of the United National Independence Party and the publisher of the Moko newspaper in the 1960s-1970s. He was the general secretary of the United Labour Front which fought the 1976 elections.


Warm greetings to all participants in this celebration of the 83rd anniversary of the workers’ rebellion of June 19, 1937.

June 19 is the day when the nation pauses to recognize and pay respect to the workers of the country and to acknowledge their achievements. Eighty-three years ago, on this day, the workers in the oil industry rose up in resistance against colonial domination and exploitation of the working people in Trinidad and Tobago. Soon they were joined by workers in the sugar industry as well as other sectors of the economy.

This year, 2020, is also the centennial year of the 1919-1920 riots and strikes that marked the beginning of the prolonged agitation that changed the face of social and political affairs in the country.

As a result of those early acts of resistance the death knell of British colonialism in the Caribbean was sounded in Trinidad and Tobago and the rest of the Caribbean. The militancy of the workers at Forest Reserve, and Apex Oilfields in Fyzabad, started a chain reaction throughout the length and breadth of the country and, in due course, throughout the entire British West Indies. The rumblings and grumblings from these small islands, a "warning from the West Indies", echoed throughout the world and helped to usher in a new anti-colonial sentiment that ultimately was unstoppable in its effects.

As a result, between 1937 and 1962 Trinidad and Tobago was transformed in the relatively short space of twenty-five years. Trade unions and political parties grew to maturity, the people agitated and attempted to take control of their own affairs, and the colony was replaced by the country.

One of the prime purposes of today's celebration is to pay homage and honor to the leaders and the participants in the events of that day. Tubal Uriah "Buzz" Butler, the recognized leader of that movement, the leadership of the Negro Welfare Cultural and Social Association, and George Weekes, Basdeo Panday, Joe Young, Raffique Shah and other prominent leaders of the workers’ movement are important pillars in the establishment of our nation state.

The movement that Butler formed, the organizations that he inspired, collaborated with, and in some cases fought against, laid the basis for popular participation in national politics and made possible the development of the national sovereignty that we have today. With the efforts of Butler and his brave and hardy band of followers, and others like him, Crown Colony government was eventually overthrown in this country, clearing the way for sovereignty and independence.

The little village of Fyzabad emerged as one of the most important departure points from which the global decolonization movement developed. The serious determination and resolve on the part of the workers, and the riots and strikes that started on this hallowed spot, provided an example that inspired others everywhere. What happened in Trinidad and Tobago in 1937, repeated itself in Barbados and Jamaica in 1938 and intensified the pressure on the besieged system of British colonialism. Today, it should be a continuing inspiration for the work that this generation must do to defend the gains of 1937.

WHAT WERE THOSE GAINS? 


First of all, 1937 put a halt to the rapacious plunder and oppression of the laboring population that was ongoing in the oil and sugar industries and in other places of employment. It did not stop it, but it
 slowed it down considerably. The starvation wages paid before 1937 were slightly increased by a few cents per day. The workers got more, but not much more. And the problem of low wages and bad working conditions continued to be a major problem. Employers continued to control the economy, to make enormous profits, and to live the good life. Workers continued to struggle and protest.

Secondly, trade unions made their appearance. The Oilfields Workers Trade Union, and the All Trinidad Sugar Estates and Factory Workers Trade Union emerged under the leadership of Butler and A.C. Rienzi to the detriment of the long established Trinidad Workingmen's Association. So did collective bargaining, and the benefits that flowed from these developments.

Freedom from tort, the eight-hour day, overtime, the opportunity to fight for the improvement of working conditions and a lot else that is taken for granted these days, dates from the 1930's and the triumph of the working people engaged in those early struggles. Even the constables and other lower ranked policemen credited Butler with giving them access to "khaki", opening up opportunities to higher ranks in the service.

Finally, from the bowels of the trade union movement, directly or indirectly, acknowledged or unacknowledged, welcomed or opposed, popular political parties emerged to promote and represent the interests of the masses of the people who had made them possible. The TWA was transformed, to its detriment, into the Trinidad Labour Party, and the Cipriani era came to a close. The machinations of the old colonial system turned to the task of impeding the development of the new forces and Butler's own attempts at party formation were, literally, brutalised and beaten into the ground. The triumph of anti-colonial nationalism had to wait another day and the emergence of the Peoples National Movement in the 1950's.

In the hundred years since the riots and strikes of 1919-20 the colonialists have never had a political party of their own to represent their interests. They had power, they had privilege; but they had no party and efforts to build one were largely unavailing. Today they still have no party, but they are adept at claiming control of parties that the people build. The masses build parties because they could not fight as trade unionists alone. But they have been like cannon fodder, providing votes for political organizations destined to genuflect at the altar of established power and privilege once the elections are over. All over the Caribbean, in fact throughout the Latin American, African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, with few exceptions, mass parties of the people, which have come to power and to prominence with the initiative and support of the people, have been captured and seduced into acting against the best interests of those who gave them birth.

So today we are celebrating the 83rd anniversary of the 1937 riots and strikes, a signal event in the development of the country, and it is interesting that the question we have to face once again is the question of race and economic inequality. We have faced this question before. We faced it when the slaves were enslaved. We faced it when and after the slaves were emancipated in 1838. We faced it in 1838-1919. We faced it again in 1919-1920. We faced it in 1937. And we are facing it again in 2020. But this time we are facing it in significantly different circumstances. 


RACISM AND SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC INEQUALITY BACK ON THE AGENDA


Racism and social and economic inequality, dismissed by the propagandists, as "victimhood" issues peddled by troublemakers, are confronting not only small island Caribbean nations with a colonial past but rending and tearing asunder the major industrialised countries of the world. Racial discrimination and exploitation, which some folk were quick to relegate to the distant past, have come roaring back onto the modern agenda.

In the United States, as we celebrate Labour Day, the sons and daughters of slaves and their descendants are celebrating Juneteenth, the final emancipation of the enslaved people on June 19,1865, more than two years after Abraham Lincoln had issued the Abolition Proclamation on January 1,1863. And while they celebrate, they also mourn. They mourn the destruction of the Black Wall Street community and the massacre of more than 300 men, women and children in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 1, 1921. And they mourn the ongoing and continuing brutalisation and murder of Black men and women by racist police even in the face of worldwide condemnation and denunciation.

Trinidad and Tobago Extractive Industries Transparency ...A significant factor in the present conundrum is, of course, the pestilential coronavirus which is sickening millions and killing off hundreds of thousands the world over. The international economy has been severely disrupted and might well be, if the worst is realised, brought to a halt. At the time of writing, the total confirmed number of cases worldwide is about 8,000,000 and the number of deaths is closing in on 500,000. Those figures could easily double if the present run rate continues. It is not an exaggeration to say that life as we know it has been, and continues to be, fundamentally destabilized.

For petroleum and gas producing countries like Trinidad and Tobago the situation is particularly testing given the challenges facing the international petroleum and gas sectors. It was not too long ago that authors were lamenting the approaching attainment of "peak oil", that is to say the exhaustion of oil reserves by virtue of dwindling supplies and excessive demands on a finite resource. In fact, the reverse is true. Today supply greatly exceeds demand and the industry as a whole is in a state of global turmoil. In addition, Guyana is now a rising source of additional oil supply within CARICOM.

As for natural gas, Trinidad and Tobago was extracting and exporting the liquefied product decades before the first LNG plant was built and commissioned in the United States. Unfortunately for Trinidad and Tobago, the US is now a major exporter of LNG, is no longer a secure market, and is in fact a ferocious competitor marketing the product worldwide. Also, the eventual abandonment of fossil fuels and their replacement by sustainable alternatives is like a sword of Damocles threatening the long term integrity of oil and gas, and the economies that depend on them.

Politically, in the era of globalization the crises that used to be primarily critical for agricultural, manual and industrial workers in colonial and Third World environments are today ripping apart the societies of the major industrial countries. Social sectors that turned a blind eye to the struggles of the workers when the workers were struggling alone, and thought themselves immune from distress, are today present in the demonstrations and the marches stimulated by the current crises. Black Lives Matter is an international refrain repeated again and again, not only by Black people, but clearly by thousands and thousands of white people, young and old, themselves the casualties -collateral damage- of the capitalist order. George Floyd, unknown even in his own country a short while ago, is now firmly established in the pantheon of civil rights leaders, rubbing shoulders with Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael.
 

CRISES ARE EVERYWHERE


Crises are everywhere. The question is not where crises are, but where they are not. Serious economic, political and social turbulence is challenging the viability of the most developed economies and the most developed states. In the main capitalist countries, unemployment rates in excess of 15 percent are now commonplace. Reckless capitalist speculation and corruption, the collapse of venerable and powerful financial institutions in the leading capitalist countries, the super-exploitation of the ordinary people by the super-capitalist individuals and organizations stoke the fires of suffering and despair. Taxpayer revenues are diverted to shore up and support, and even to reward, the individuals and corporations that created these problems in the first place.

And there are consequences, some of them unheard of until the present period. Factory floors are increasingly abandoned. Those who can are working at home. The pre-industrial, cottage industry is 
AMERICA'S GLOBAL DECLINE | Desertpeacemaking a return. International travel is at a virtual standstill. Sporting events are postponed, some seemingly indefinitely. The statues of historical scoundrels are pulled down and unceremoniously dumped. Airplanes are grounded. Hotels, theatres, movie houses, places of worship, schools, colleges and universities are empty, half-empty or closed, uncertainly wondering what the future will bring. The hospitals and clinics are strained and overwhelmed; many of them are running on full. As for the printing presses, they are operating non-stop, disgorging billions and trillions of dollars and other currencies. The menace of an economic armageddon is on everybody's lips and the major central banks in the world, and the IMF and the World Bank, have openly committed themselves to doing whatever is necessary to obviate its impact. 

Interestingly, the remedies look increasingly socialistic, more and more statist, less and less capitalistic. Factors of production, scarcity, supply and demand, free market, globalizing and neo-liberal principles, de-regulation and the whole claptrap of the Friedman, Hayek, Pinochet, Chicago school of economics are abandoned like garbage at the side of the road. The Paycheck Protection Program and the Universal Basic Income, implemented not only in the United States but widely in the periphery of global imperialism throughout the world, are signs of the times. It used to be that the people who created the crisis were determined that workers should pay for it. And they have been succeeding so far. Profits and bonuses for the corporations and captains of industry are still skyrocketing while the unemployment figures and the food lines are growing. But the panic induced by the present crisis is prioritizing survival above everything else.

Conservative and right wing political interests, accustomed to expending vast amounts of money and influence to normalize the accelerated exploitation of ordinary people in the interests of the chosen few, have now arrived at the startling conclusion that economies are about people, and that people who cannot survive, cannot consume and cannot work are ripping the sensitive underbelly of the capitalist system. The circulation of money and the circulation of assets and resources are what make economies economic. Money and assets and resources don't move themselves; people do. If, for whatever reason, man can't move and woman can't work, economies can't exist, or maybe only if they are radically different from the economies of today.

And the major economies of today have features unheard of in the not too distant past. The leading capitalist countries are structurally dependent on China, a communist country, for markets, for capital investment, and critical supply chains of strategic assets. Personal protective equipment that frontline doctors and nurses need to fight the virus in the US are imported from China. The battle over 5G technology is pitting the US and China in toe to toe combat. Venture capitalists are anticipating the dramatic opening up of the Indian economy hoping against hope that the phenomenon, when it happens, will add vim and vigour to the capitalist world. Those inclined to look further afield are positioning themselves to reap the rewards of an early involvement in Africa, and a new race for resources in the continent.

This is where we are in 2020, and only the foolhardy can dare to predict where we will be in 2021. In all the mayhem that is taking place the dominant question in democratic politics remains what it has always been in the age of independence. In this maelstrom of challenges can parties of the people govern for the people? This is the question that should be in the minds of everybody today. It is a question calling urgently for an answer. That answer, when it comes, will undoubtedly reflect the unusual characteristics of this centennial year 2020.

HEALTH CARE WORKERS BEGIN TO RUMBLE by Gerry Kangalee

posted 16 Jun 2020, 09:30 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 16 Jun 2020, 09:44 ]

A wave of discontent is sweeping through the regional health authorities (RHAs), kicked off by the action taken by workers of the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA). Workers at the Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA) have joined in the struggle. Government has announced that they will pay 25% of the arrears to NCRHA workers by the end of June. The problem is workers in all the RHAs have the same issues.


Some of the more important issues highlighted by the workers are the failure to pay arrears, payment of overtime for work done during the Pandemic, a settlement of all outstanding negotiations and payment of a hazard allowance to all healthcare providers and the exploitation of so-called temporary workers through the contract system.

Let’s look at some of the long-standing issues plaguing public sector health care workers. 



STAFF SHORTAGES
 

There are thousands of vacancies in the public health care system. According to official statistics, in 2016 in the North Central Regional Health Authority there were, at least, six hundred and fifty vacancies to be filled, and in the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) there were three thousand four hundred and thirteen (3413) vacancies, nine hundred and ninety-two (992) of them being nursing vacancies.

At the San Fernando General Hospital, the nurse to patient ratio is close to one nurse to twenty-two patients and this has been made worse since the advent of the Teaching Hospital and now the Covid situation has further depleted staff as some medical personnel have been assigned to the parallel health structure. This is unsafe and puts both nurse and patient at risk.

Staff shortages result in long hours, excessive overtime, tired workers, denial of legitimate leave. Overwork, frustration and a total lack of respect by those in authority for workers who work overtime and extra duty for minimal compensation in order to keep the hospital running is the order of the day.

The shortage of medical personnel is bad enough, but there are also shortages of laboratory techs, phlebotomists, radiographers, pharmacists, dietetic and nutrition personnel, health, safety and environment personnel, medical social workers and many other specialisations.

Hospitals are being built when there is a shortage of specialists, shortage of nurses, shortage of midwives, shortage of lab managers. A former Minister of Health claimed the Couva Hospital needs 2, 500 workers. But there is also the Arima Hospital and the Point Fortin Hospital to staff. Where are these workers going to come from? Are the other medical facilities to be cannibalised to staff these facilities when they are already short of staff? 


CONTRACT SYSTEM


The morale of thousands of workers in the RHAs is being undermined by the ridiculous job appointment system in the RHAs which has as its base what are called cabinet approved positions and board approved positions. 
Contract vs. Full-Time Employees: How to Make the Right Decision ...
Cabinet approved positions are so-called permanent appointments and board approved positions are short term contract provisions. These short-term contracts may be month to month contracts; for other categories there are six-month contracts, one-year contracts and two-year contracts.

The short-term contract system is being used as a device to escape management’s obligations to workers. There are workers in the system at all levels who have been subjected to continual rollovers of their short-term contracts and who have been employed continuously for as much as fifteen years. Yes, you read right – fifteen years!

Some categories of permanent staff that are offered promotions are told that they have to resign their positions and go on short term contracts to accept the promotion. This horrendous contract system affects both workers with professional qualifications and those without.

Short term contract workers obviously suffer anxiety over their job security, are at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing mortgage and other loans and credit facilities. They cannot properly plan the future of their families or make significant investments and they are not entitled to be members of the Regional Health Authorities’ Pension Plan. 
This short-term contract system must be abolished as a matter of priority. 

PENSIONS


Even if they eventually become “permanent” and eligible to join the Pension Plan, the service they had before they became permanent is not counted as service in the plan. It must be noted that the formula for calculating pensions is based on a worker’s final salary and on years of service.

So-called permanent workers, as a condition of their employment, are members of the RHA pension plan. This is a plan that has been imposed on the workers and not negotiated because there is no recognised majority union in the RHAs. Some workers are retiring on the princely sum of $600.00-$800.00 per month.

Most of the workers do not have a clue about the pension plan. While it is dubbed the EMPLOYEES’ pension plan most of the workers have never seen the rules, trust deeds, or the financial reports. When workers request copies of these documents, management comes up with flimsy excuses why they cannot be provided although according to the law the members of the plan are entitled to these documents. RHA managements break the law with impunity.

Workers have no evidence as to whether their pension deductions over the years are paid into the plan and they do not know if the employers pay their share and on time.

How can workers who are not comfortable when it comes to their quality of life be expected to provide quality health care for the members of the public? 

Management of the RHA’s is based on political allegiance and not on providing a first-class health service to the citizens. The industrial relations are atrocious and lead to low morale and frustration on the part of employees who are not connected to the party in power.

NEPOTISM

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION LAWS IN INDIA ...Nepotism/friend thing reigns unchecked; unqualified personnel are put in positions of responsibility; promotions are based on favouritism; victimisation flourishes. Performance Appraisal is at best a hit and miss affair or at worst a tool of victimisation.

There is top-heavy management in the RHA system with different job classifications having overlapping responsibilities which is, of course, a recipe for chaos, confusion, and infighting for organisational turf.

Appointments that have been made by the apparently responsible officeholders have been overturned by other management personnel. This is exacerbated by the ever present partisan political cliques within management and board circles.

Job specifications are altered in a whimsical fashion and are not embedded in a proper structure with clear pathways of progression, thus adding another burden on the backs of already stressed out workers.

Many people may not know that there are only two recognised majority unions in the RHA system. They are the National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW), which represents daily paid workers in all the RHAs and the Medical Professionals Association of Trinidad and Tobago, which represents doctors, only in SWRHA.

This means that the vast majority of the thousands of workers in the public health sector have no input into what constitutes their wages and their working conditions. They have to wait until the Public Services Association completes negotiations with the Chief Personnel Officer and then the RHAs follow suit with wage increases. Like, other public sector workers, health care workers are subsisting on 2013 wages.

Is it any wonder that after years of frustration, health care workers have decided to fight for what is theirs; to fight for decent conditions of work; to fight for a people-friendly health care system and not one designed to serve the interests of the medical mafia?

The law of unintended consequences is certainly at work. A measure to bribe SEA teachers and primary school principals has resulted in NCRHA workers demanding their entitlements. To calm down the situation, the government decides to pay a portion of the arrears owing to NCRHA workers. Other RHA workers have responded by saying if the priest could play who is we and are demanding their just dues. The very flame that the government is trying to avoid lighting during this crazy election season, by their actions they have ignited. Fasten your seatbelts! It’s going to be a rough ride.

SHOULD WE REAPPRAISE CROWN POINT AIRPORT INVESTMENT? by David Walker

posted 12 Jun 2020, 06:45 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 12 Jun 2020, 06:56 ]

David Walker
The field of Investment Appraisal is a most fascinating one. It essentially involves assessing the relative merits of a range of investment options in a situation where investment capital is limited. In reality, no organisation has access to limitless capital so the practice of Investment Appraisal applies to all. Even when there appears to be only one option, the alternative of doing nothing or discontinuing an existing investment must be considered.

Investment Appraisal uses a bewildering array of mostly mathematical based tools in order to make better decisions than would be possible otherwise. Yet, it is based on a number of simple principles that are well understood by all of us. Most people have the capacity to grasp the issues involved in what might seem a very complex investment appraisal. For some reason however, our leaders never express their decision making in terms that the general population can relate to.

Today I'm challenging you to follow the logic of a particular investment decision facing our leaders. I will present you with the central issue by way of an analogy, the logic of which I hope you can then apply to a billion dollar investment decision. Ready?

Imagine that you're living in a housing development that is seven years old. As an entrepreneurial type, you've started a small type shop catering for vehicle 
Crown Point – izzsoowners in the area. Things have gone well after a rocky start. You've paid off the money you borrowed to get started and make a profit of about 10,000 dollars most months. You would love to earn more, but you're fairly contented with your lot.

Along came the government who made an announcement a year ago that they plan to expand the housing scheme and add a school. This is great news as you estimate that there would then be three times the number of vehicles in need of your services.

You would have to borrow a large sum of money to finance your proposed expansion but you know the business well and are confident about the profit margins you will make. Because of your track record over the past three years, the bank is willing to lend using your house as security. You're confident that you will be able to meet the loan payments and still have enough left to continue withdrawing 10,000 per month until the loan is repaid and you can reward yourself a bit more for your efforts. Discussions with the bank are progressing nicely and you're eagerly anticipating your expansion.

Fate can however be unkind. For whatever reason, the government has unexpectedly reversed its decisions about both the expansion of the development and the construction of the school. No plans have even been announced as to whether they're still on the drawing board for possible consideration at a later date.

You did your investment appraisal that estimated the returns from the expansion of your business based on increased demand. That demand is now known not to be materialising. Do you simply press on regardless or do you reassess the situation based on these revised expectations? Would you still proceed with the loan and the expansion of capacity?

That is not all. A new technology for later model vehicles is now available that your garage cannot deliver presently. The result is that more than half of your existing business is about to disappear because of this new technology that vehicle owners prefer if it works on their vehicles. Faced with the reality of reduced demand for these two reasons I suspect that I could confidently predict the decision that most rational persons would make.

We've explored a very simple Investment Appraisal decision. The facts in this case are straightforward and easy to grasp. Arriving at the correct decision is a simple task that is within the capacity of most citizens. Are our big decisions any more complex? I invite you to move now from this analogy to a very real situation.

The government told us about four years ago that they anticipated a large increase in the number of visitors to Tobago as a result primarily of a hotel development project by Sandals. As a result we would be undertaking a billion dollar upgrade to the Crown Point Airport. They suggested that apart from the Sandals effect, their own promotional work would add significantly to the number of visitors. Clearly, to service this new demand, and to benefit financially from it we would be well advised to undertake the airport expansion.

For reasons never fully disclosed, and of no bearing to the airport investment appraisal, the Sandals project has now been terminated. I invite you to consider the same question as in our analogy. Do we press on on as if nothing has changed or do we reassess the viability of the project?

Further, in similar vein to our analogy, a matter outside of our control has decimated our client base for the foreseeable future. COVID-19 has negatively impacted the travel industry like nothing ever before. Airlines are flying at less than 10% capacity and the expectation globally is that 2019 levels of international tourism will not return for at least five years.

It is with that backdrop that we must view the Prime Minister's statement last week that he assures the population that the airport upgrade will not be stopped. He is reported to have said that “The $1.2 billion airport expansion project is going full speed ahead”, and he noted that funding is in place and covid19 has not hindered the project. “It is on the front burner. Everything is in place for that, the work is going on apace”. Dr Rowley made the statement during an interview on Tobago Channel 5 on Tuesday last.

So there you have it. The anticipated massive increase in traffic is but a very distant dream. In fact we are being led to expect a sharp drop in traffic from the already anemic levels we have had over the past few years. With that backdrop, the Prime Minister is determined to lumber the nation with yet another loan, this time for 1.2 billion dollars according to reports.

I'm not going to say what I think should be the correct Investment Appraisal decision here. I'm confident that you understand the issues. You can probably also make a very good assessment of the outcome of this project over the next decade. Of course it would help if you had access to the underlying assumptions like interest rate and repayment terms on loans, anticipated traffic, income and expenditure (especially maintenance and security) to name just a few.

As with the analogy, we will have to repay this loan well into the future. As in the analogy, if the project fails to yield suitable returns, the carrying cost of the loan will have to be borne by the rest of the economy.

At the conclusion of this short and simplified treatise in Investment Appraisal, what would your decision be about the continuation of this project? Investment Appraisal isn't all that difficult, is it? Why won't our leaders walk us through their decision making process in like manner?

Often times though, we face situations with multiple possible courses of action from which we seek the optimal one. For example, in the analogy we could evaluate the results of using the loan from the bank to upgrade your operations to include the new technology. That would likely enable you to attract business from other garages in nearby districts. Similarly, if 1.2 billion of loan capital is available to the government to develop Tobago tourism, should they not be looking at other investment options that ideally could repay the loan directly from income generated?

FROM THE BELLY OF THE BEAST - NOTE NO. 3 by Godfrey Vincent

posted 12 Jun 2020, 05:36 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 12 Jun 2020, 05:47 ]

1. In the US two things are spreading simultaneously and rapidly: COVID 19 and Mass Protest.

2. Samantha Pell, Candace Buckner, and Jacqueline Dupree, writing for the Washington Post on 6/09/2020, noted that since Memorial Day, fourteen states and Puerto Rico have seen the highest seven-day average of new coronavirus infections.

Rhea Mahbubani, reporting for Business Insider, has noted that “as the US nears 2 million coronavirus cases, 21 states have reported an increase in infections and nine have seen hospitalization climb. Some experts have attributed these increases to the economy re-opening too soon. Seeing these spikes and hospitalization rates increasing, Health experts fear that a second wave is on the way. At the time of writing there are 2, 066, 508 cases and 115, 137 deaths. By weekend, these numbers will rise significantly.

3. George Floyd’s death has sparked mass protests all over the United States. Unlike 2014, when BLM protested Michael Brown’s murder and the demonstrations were confined in a few cities, Floyd’s murder has shown a geographical and demographic shift.

4. In terms of geographical shift, mass protests have not only erupted in large cities but in states and communities where some commentators have least expected. In a study on the protest, Jiachuan Wu, Nigel Chiwaya, and Savannah Smith have mapped out the states and communities where protests were held. Their study showed that 450 protests erupted all over the U.S. over George Floyd’s death (See NBC News, June 1, 2020).

5. To show how these mass protests have spread all over the U.S, just take the case of Wayne, New Jersey, a predominantly white city. On June 6, 2020, six students from Wayne Hills and Wayne Valley High Schools organized a Black Lives Matter Protest and Rally. This did not happen in 2014 in places like Wayne. It tells us that people are paying attention and that the young people are growing in social and political consciousness (See Jon “Ferris” Meredith, “Black Lives Matter Protest comes to Wayne, Law and Justice, June 5, 2020).

6 Teenage Girls Spearheaded a Protest of 10K People in Nashville ...6. Moreover, On June 4, 2020, six young girls ranging from ages 14 to 16 organized one of the largest protests in Nashville, Tennessee. Some parts of this city remain a bastion of White Supremacy. Yet, these young teenagers mustered courage to confront the beast (See Tennessean, June 4, 2020).

7. Furthermore, Austin, Texas on June 7, 2020, thousands of people participated in a BLM protest and rally outside the Capitol grounds. Texas is a GOP stronghold, and this protest suggests that the political ground is shifting (See Patch News, June 7, 2020).

8. These protests that are taking place in small and large cities, in urban, suburban, and rural communities are signs that “the center no longer holds.” There is a major political shift taking place in the United States. Something is occurring, and political pundits should not dismiss it.

9. In terms of demographic shift, the protest and rallies have drawn people of different races, ethnicities, genders, social classes and age groups. Unlike the protests that occurred in New York for Eric Gardner and Ferguson for Michael Brown in 2014 that were predominantly black, the protest that began in Minnesota for George Floyd has become multi-racial and multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-generational. This shift is significant because police brutality and capitalist oppression are not confined to one group of people but also affects people of all races and classes, who occupy the bottom tier of the system.

10. The BLM movement that some in the US have tried to marginalize has now become an Anti-Racist Global Movement. Racism is very pervasive in many countries and is not only confined to Black peoples. In some countries, ethnic minorities and immigrants face laws that are very discriminatory.

11. Savannah Smith, Jiachuan Wu, and Joe Murphy have noted that protests occurred in 40 countries that represented every continent except Antarctica (See NBC News, June 9, 2020). These protestors, numbering in the thousands, have taken to the streets to show solidarity with the BLM movement in the United States. In some countries like England, the protestors have taken matters into their hands by dismantling the statues of former British men who engaged in the Atlantic Slave Trade.

12. These Global acts of solidarity teach us that when people engage in effective struggle, it impacts the lives of other people and causes them to act. Under the system of capitalism, oppression is the common denominator that unites people across lines of class, race, ethnicity, gender, and religion. In the struggle, there is a saying that “a blow to one is a blow to the other.” This global act of solidarity for BLM has become a political nightmare for the International capitalist class.

13. This new Global movement has linked peoples because of the legacy of Slavery, Jim Crow Segregation, Apartheid, Imperialism, Colonialism, and now Neo-liberalism.

DOES HISTORY REPEAT ITSELF? by Burton Sankeralli

posted 9 Jun 2020, 16:30 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 9 Jun 2020, 16:56 ]

“History repeats itself. The first time as tragedy the second time as farce.” 
(Karl Marx)

Burton Sankeralli
Back in the first half of the twentieth century as he sought to consolidate power and secure the allegiance of certain centres in Germany (including sections of the military), Adolf Hitler found that he had a problem.

You see, old Adolf had enthusiastic support among the youth and there was this little section going around in neat little brown shirts seeing to it that the agenda of “National Socialism” was being implemented on the ground. This they went about with great fervour (euphemism intended).

But as we said, Hitler is now seeking more formalized political authority with all the trappings this entails. Thus such enthusiastic fervent youthful thuggery was no longer appropriate.

But what is to be done? These youths so full of energy; ready to serve and implement cannot be expected to cease and desist. What do you want them to do: kick back, lime, drink beer, and run woman? There they were on the streets doing what they do best.

But as the historical record shows Adolf had a talent for final solutions. And on a fateful evening, daggers drawn, Hitler removed his enemies; among them even supporters who had grown obsolete and needing to be disposed of. The still required dirty work can easily be handled by other agencies…state bureaucracy… military…Gestapo…SS etc. etc.

Memphis, Tennessee sanitation workers strike. 1968
It does appear that we are at a similar juncture in the history of the present empire. These red necks and their Ku Klux Klan Police are an embarrassment, dinosaurs that simply do not belong in an age of a kinder, gentler, more Liberal White Supremacy. So like Adolf the present system has to consolidate.

What leads to this? Well, not only is such brutish violence no longer acceptable to white liberal sensibility; not only is the old racist crap seen as just that by the present generation cutting across lines of race. But there are other pressing considerations.

One is a very important statistic that by the end of this century Whites will be a numerical minority in the US. So it is becoming important that a rising upwardly mobile elite of those once seen as less than white now internalize a functional White consciousness and join the team. This is actually an old colonial trick of the Spanish and Portuguese in our hemisphere (but I digress).

Even more urgent is that American global hegemony is facing collapse. The writing was already on the wall with the rise of the economic powers of Asia. And now this COVID fiasco presided over by a bumbling moron of a President – I knew it was good idea for us to put him in power; he is out-performing and exceeding expectations – has underlined the fast approaching abyss. Long story short - the Empire needs all hands on deck and African Americans need to be corralled. Put them in the old social Liberal Political Democrat Party ship.

Yes, we can manners the brown shirt…sorry…blue shirt police…Yes, we can make some economic concessions once there are enough poor people left in the System to keep the cogs turning.

And you know which system I am talking about. The patriarchal-bureaucratic-individualist -techno-capitalist-globalist system. The military-industrial complex and its imperialist genocidal foreign policy. The systemic rape and plunder of Mother Earth. The entire religious-cultural cosmology that has been imposed on us natives (that curiously enough we don’t get to vote on). And speaking of voting: the individual based system of liberal democracy (that is destroying our own society right here); this with the corporate liberal media - the smiling faces of the New Supremacy.

Yeah that system! The nuts and bolts of White Supremacy. Let’s just call it – Western civilization.

This social movement is rooted in the great Civil Rights and Black Power Movement of the 1960s and we well know the tragedy of what befell some of its great leaders. Since then a great deal of this has been domesticated by the Regime. A great number of its supposed leaders happily vote Democrat. (Elsewhere I referred to this as “black slaves matter” but I won’t go there now).

And I note with alarm how it is precisely the White Corporate Liberal media that is framing the grand narrative of “Black Lives Matter”. And so we are seeing the most stunning pictures of this uprising; framed and cheered on by this old Yankee media itself. Even the clenched fist of Black Power has been appropriated. Amazing scenes indeed.

I do not what to be misunderstood. We must grab with both hands the positive outcomes of this movement and move forward. We must put the police in their place. And how much we need that here in Trinidad and Tobago where the Police “Force” has long been and continues to be murderous.

I also still have faith that this is a movement that will not at the end of the day be so corralled. That there are truly progressive currents and soldiers that will not submit to this new normal. But I also wish to share with my comrades of the real “left” an old story.

Once upon a time there was an old cobra who used to wait at the side of the road to frighten the school children passing by. One day a wise owl observing spoke to the cobra “Why are you doing this? You are so old you have no venom so stay in your hole”. The cobra pondered these words and followed the advice. The next day when the school children did not see the cobra they went, dug him out of his hole and killed him.

So is there any venom left?

And for the sincere well-meaning reformists around us, a word of advice – YOU CAN’T CLEAN A THING FROM ITSELF!

May you survive the night of the long knives.

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