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

WHEN THE MASSES ARISE by Gerry Kangalee

posted 17 Nov 2017, 05:37 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated ]

Job insecurity is the cry across the land. Workers are under pressure. Employers are moving to eliminate jobs, safe in the knowledge that the government, itself, being the biggest employer in the country, is quite prepared to force the working people to eat fig and salt. Of course the poor have been eating dhal and rice for as long as one can remember.

The Rowley administration cries that it is trying to preserve jobs, while bit by bit, so-called contract workers in the public service are disappearing, state enterprises are being shut down. Public servants are being threatened with dismissal, egged on by the conglomerate-controlled media.

The joint select committee of parliament (made up of PNM and UNC parliamentarians along with the President’s men) has now plunged into the fray. They are calling for a wage freeze at Caribbean Airlines and for job cuts at VMCOTT.

Throughout the East West Corridor, the manufacturing sector is crying hard times and setting up a retrenchment scenario in their dealings with unions. Labour relations officers in the area are convinced that industrial relations is going to shift from around the table to outside the gate. Manufacturing firms are seeking to offer early retirement and time off without pay.

The Public Service Association (PSA) ever since the 1990’s when the Regional Health Authorities were set up, has taken a lot of blows as its membership dwindles and as the public service has been riddled with thousands and thousands of so-called contract jobs. This situation has not been helped by the poor leadership of the PSA since Jennifer Baptiste-Primus put the interests of the People’s National Movement before those of the public servants.

Now that the PSA has been weakened and reduced almost to a backdrop for the stage where one man plays his parts – now trade unionist; now politician, now buffoon; the spotlight has shifted to the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU), now a mere shadow of itself. Errol McLeod did a magnificent job of gutting and pulling the teeth of what was once the most powerful social institution in the Caribbean.

Trinidad Cement Ltd. (TCL) is seeking to eliminate hundreds of jobs through the VSEP. The oldest multinational corporation in the world, Unilever, is attempting to eliminate dozens of workers and the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) seems hell bent on downsizing, shutting down campuses and cutting staff. The OWTU represents the workers at these three corporations.

As the Rowley Administration implements a vicious austerity programme designed to raff the last few cents from the pockets of working people and the poor and hand them over to the big business elite, the multinational corporations and the host of parasites clinging on to the coattails of the State, the trade union leaderships are under the microscope.

The test is whether rhetoric can be transformed into direct action to defend the interests of organised and unorganised labour because it is clear that deals with politicians, seats in parliament, memoranda of understanding, Fyzabad accords – none of these has resulted in defending the interests of working people. In fact, they have disarmed the workers and reduced them to spectators as many trade
union leaderships have substituted their personal interests for the interests of their members.

The OWTU ever since the 1960’s has been viewed by the rest of the labour movement and by working people as the strongest section of the trade union movement; dedicated to the defence of class and national interests.

Today, the president general of the union is crying foul on the government for not keeping its promise of no retrenchment for the rest of the year. Think about it! Every child knows a promise is a comfort to a fool...everybody, it seems, except the leader of the group of workers that are, still, the most strategically placed to lead the defence of the working class. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Sooner, rather than later, Petrotrin workers, the heart of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union, are going to be faced with the elimination of thousands of jobs, particularly in the refinery. When the retrenchment cutlass begins to swing at Pointe-A-Pierre, the economy of the South is going to be devastated. Small and medium businesses, engineering firms, suppliers, contractors, retail businesses, transport etc. will be caught up in the whirlwind. The future, the very survival of the OWTU, itself, is going to come under scrutiny. If you think things are hard now...

As the country stumbles toward an inescapable social explosion, the working class and the organised labour movement is going to have to deal with the steady elimination of jobs. All the bluster about boycotting the one percent, support for the MSJ and general strikes will count for nothing, if most trade union leaders continue to believe that photo opportunities and sound bites are sufficient to mobilise their members. It clearly is not!

We have allowed the government and their corporate financiers to have free rein in building a narrative that says there is no money for wages and salaries but, of course, there is for highways to nowhere, for renting and leasing unoccupied buildings and for leaving as much as $15 billion dollars per year of uncollected taxes in the hands of the ruling elites.

We have swallowed their nansi story about sacrificing in the interest of the “economy” as if “the economy” is some vengeful pagan God; some disembodied entity that feeds on human labour and when that proves not to be enough feeds on human blood. Economics is not some objective scientific discipline to which we must pay homage. Economics is the study, as one historian said, of how some people push others around.

Unionised workers must insist that their leaders stop dealing in bravay danjay ole talk and buckle down to doing the serious work of informing and educating their members and involving them in the search for a strategy that can push back against the massive assault being waged by the government and the employers on the standard of living and the quality of life of the hundreds of thousands of working people who are the lifeblood of this country.

Whether I like it or not, whether, the labour movement is prepared for it or not, social upheaval like the poet’s “rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born…” Should we, then, not prepare ourselves for what we know is to come? Should we not organise ourselves, in such a way, that we can protect and defend our interests and that of our families?

The leaderships of the trade union movement must face the realisation that if they duck from reality and pretend that National Tripartite Advisory Councils and promises from venal politicians are going to save jobs and stave off austerity, when the masses arise, they will be viewed in the same light as the confidence tricksters, political hustlers and parasitic professionals who feed off the misery of the poor. The cry would be: Fire bun dem!

BATTLE FOR TSTT By Laurence Brown

posted 11 Nov 2017, 06:22 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 11 Nov 2017, 06:27 ]


Laurence Brown is a former President of the Communication Workers Union
The only future the Political Hustlers have for TSTT is to place it into PRIVATE hands, preferably their financier of choice. Dr. Eric Williams in 1970 with his trademark vision purchased 51% share holding in the then Cable and Wireless to create TEXTEL, which had full responsibility for all of Trinidad and Tobago's External Communications via the technology of the day. The purpose of this move by Prime Minister Williams was to ultimately place the Government and people of Trinidad and Tobago in charge of the country's telecommunications future.

This move by the Dr. Williams led Government was not a simple one and came with its drawbacks. At the time of the share purchase, Trinidad and Tobago was in the early stages of internal societal upheaval, the oil boom was some way off and the leaps and bounds in information technology was in its embryonic stages.

The twenty year agreement commencing January 1970 between the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and Cable and Wireless which gave life to TEXTEL, seemingly gave the Government an upper hand via its 51% shareholding. In reality, Cable and Wireless, with its two hundred year presence and experience in the colonies, as agents of the crown, contrived a deal very much in its favour.

In the same period, Cable and Wireless having recognized the need to upgrade its regional facilities in preparation for the approaching technological boom, devised ways and means to do so without putting its own capital at risk.

In order to achieve this, the Colonial Telecommunications Giant entered into arrangements with Regional Governments whereby the Governments acquired 51% of Cable and Wireless shareholding in local operations. The Heads of Agreement (all of which have been shrouded in secrecy), reportedly included an arrangement whereby cash strapped Governments including that of Trinidad and Tobago, were loaned the money to purchase the C&W 51% shareholding by the very same Cable and Wireless, at interest rates favourable to them.

This came with generous tax breaks along with the right to secure its (C&W) share of profits before application of taxes; funding for upgrading of plant and technology to be borne largely by the majority shareholder; all operational improvements re parts and new technology to be bought through the same C&W at exorbitant costs.

While the composition of the Board of TEXTEL may have reflected the Government's majority shareholding, from inception the Chairmanship was always a government appointed party hack, in deference to any technologically literate leader with a vision for all of Trinidad and Tobago. All top managerial positions from the General Manager down, were Cable and Wireless’ British operatives with periods of 'understudy' by locals being written into the agreement(s).

The vision of Dr. Williams was never shared by his lesser colleagues both within the PNM and the traditional Political opposition and as such, while they played musical chairs as to who next will get to feed at the trough, C&W was always effectively in control.

With the coming of the NAR Government in the 1980's, another twenty year deal was struck between C&W the Government and a floundering TELCO, whereby the profitable TEXTEL was acquired and thus evolved TSTT.

By this time telecommunications machinations which began in 1970 had come full circle. The IT boom was on; technological advances had and continue to make worldwide telecommunications the most profitable industry ever seen, generating trillions of dollars per year. The true nature of CABLE AND WIRELESS then came to the fore, as they moved to retake full share ownership of all their operations in the Caribbean, an undertaking in which they were largely successful, with the notable exception of strategically located TSTT, the cash cow of its Caribbean operations.

This holding out of TSTT becoming once again fully under the thumb of CABLE AND WIRELESS, was not achieved by the altruistic view
Lyle Townsend
of any of the elected governments, but solely by the efforts of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) - expertly and selflessly led by the late Lyle Townsend.

It is no secret that in the ten years or so since Lyle Townsend's retirement and eventual passing, the CWU has been a shadow of its former self, struggling to produce new leadership of Comrade Lyle’s calibre, with the membership over the period having to settle for a more compliant leadership, which over the ensuing years, presided over the erosion of hard won rights, benefits and most importantly respect, all of which has now come back to haunt workers at TSTT and the Union itself.

This has not gone unnoticed by our local hustler/trader capitalists who through their respective client Governments, have been working diligently to ensure that TSTT and what it represents is safely secured in their hands. In this regard, the last two PNM appointed Board Chairmen, the mysterious MASSEY share purchase, the reduction of operational costs via closure of outlets etc, are all components of a strategy to disenfranchise the people of Trinidad and Tobago in terms of ownership and control of a key and profitable state enterprise and place it into the private and greedy hands of the less than 1% elite.

MAJOR STEP IN BOLIVARIAN DEMOCRACY By Larry Wasslen

posted 9 Nov 2017, 08:31 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 9 Nov 2017, 08:58 ]

Born of working-class family in 1952 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Larry Wasslen’s mother worked in a sewing factory and was very active in the union and was active against the Vietnam War. Larry studied nursing, graduating in 1973 then worked in the Pure North in Churchill, Manitoba.

After training in tropical diseases he went to work in Colombia where he had first contact with Revolutionary forces of the Communist Party of Colombia. Returning to Canada (with Colombian wife) he worked in several hospitals and deepened his Revolutionary studies.

Larry worked in intensive care of surgery "open heart surgery" and then with premature babies in "Neonatal Intensive Care Nursery" in the Ottawa Children's Hospital (CHEO).

There, he formed the first union in the hospital fighting for equal salaries with other hospitals in the region. As a Revolutionary he is the organizer of the Communist Party of Canada in Ottawa, active in movements of Peace, solidarity with Latin America (Cuba / Venezuela)

He is now retired from his job.

On July 30, 2017 over 8 million Venezuelans went to the polls to elect a national constituent assembly Asamblea Nacional Constituyente (ANC). The working class of Venezuela overwhelmingly supported the government’s effort to find a mechanism to break the constitutional impasse, overcome capitalist economic crisis gripping the country and halt the cycle of fascist violence that was responsible for at least 124 deaths and millions in property damage.

Peace or violence, democracy or repression, submission or independence these were the issues facing the Bolivarian Revolution. President Maduro put these questions to the people calling on them to take sovereignty into their own hands and make decisions. He called for the 2017-ANC.

On July 18, 2017 the Trump regime threatened “strong and swift economic sanctions” against Venezuela should the Maduro government proceed with the ANC. After the vote on July 30 Emperor Trump threatened military intervention. The Canadian government has been a virtual echo chamber for whatever noise has come from the Trump regime in Washington. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada has “serious concerns” about the process and stated that the ANC was “contrary to Venezuela’s constitution.” Mainstream media outlets from the CBC to the Washington Post have relentlessly repeated these accusations and warned that the ANC is just another step towards dictatorship.

Seriously lacking in the capitalist press is a thoughtful discussion of what led to the 2017-ANC, the actual struggles that have taken place in Venezuela over the past two decades, the Bolivarian constitution, and the aims and objectives of the 2017 ANC.

HISTORY OF THE FOURTH REPUBLIC 

Hugo Chavez swept into power in the December 1998 election winning 56.2% of the popular vote with the explicit objective of building a new Venezuela out of the shambles of the Fourth Republic, a time during which more than 11,000 political disappearances occurred.

The Oligarchic Fourth Republic of Venezuela emerged out of the Puntofijo Pact and was in effect from 1958-1998. The Puntofijo agreement was signed by Accion Democratic (AD), a social democratic party that belongs to the Second International; Comite de Organizacion Politica Electoral Independiente, a Social Christian Party and member of the Christian Democratic International (COPEI), and the Union Republicana Democratica (URD). This agreement allowed the capitalist ruling class to control all levels of power while sharing the presidency between the AD and COPEI. From 1959 to 1999 the AD elected 6 presidents and COPEI, elected 2 presidents.

The Fourth Republic has been characterized by the ruling class and their corporate press as a democratic paradise, governed by representative capitalist democracy. Venezuela Analysis described it as “State Repression and Neoliberal Misrule”.

Either way the Venezuelan economy was highly dependent on oil revenues, corruption and repression. When oil prices dropped in 1986, Venezuela’s foreign debt exploded and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stepped in with austerity demands which drastically increased already staggering poverty. “The poorest people bore the brunt of the economic freefall; the situation was so critical that people in Caracas’ slums would eat dog food – Purina – to sustain themselves. Salaries deteriorated and poverty increased.” 50.4% of the population lived below the poverty line in 1998 (pobreza relativa) while 12% barely survived in absolute destitution (pobreza critica).

Image result for caracazo 1989
When Carlos Andres Pėrez reneged on his election promises to oppose neoliberal policies and accepted another round of IMF cutbacks including “increasing oil prices, privatization of state-owned companies, elimination of import taxes, and a free-market in interest rates” massive protests began. On February 27, 1989 these protests were met with extreme violence which became known as the Caracazo.

While “official figures” put the death toll at 300 other estimates suggest that up to 3,000 people were murdered by the police and military forces. The Caracazo marks the beginning of the end of the Fourth Republic and paved the way for the Bolivarian Revolution.

On February 4, 1992 Commandant Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias and the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement – 200 (MBR-200) attempted a military coup d’etat which proved unsuccessful. Although several large cities were taken Chávez was unable to capture Caracas. He went on nation-wide television to state that efforts
to change Venezuela had failed “for now.” The MBR-200 attempted a second coup in November 1992 which was also unsuccessful.

Carlos Andres Perez and the AD/COPEI puntofijismo system were completely discredited allowing former president Rafael Caldera, one of the founding members of COPEI, to create a new political party, National Convergence, and win the 1993 elections with 30.5% of the vote. One of Caldera’s election promises was to liberate Hugo Chávez which he did in 1994.

Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias and the 1999-ANC 

The MBR-200 created the Fifth Republic Movement, a Socialist party that would support Hugo Chávez in the 1998 presidential elections. Chávez promised to end corruption, poverty, and the puntofijismo political system. He pledged to organize a referendum on the creation of a National Constituent Assembly with the hope of creating the Fifth or Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. He won the election with 56.2% of the popular vote on December 6, 1998.

Chávez became president February 2, 1999 and his first act was a decree to order a referendum regarding a National Constituent Assembly (1999-ANC). The first vote was held on April 25, 1999. Two important questions were put to the people: Should there be a National Constituent Assembly? 92% of those who voted answered Yes. Should it follow the mechanisms proposed by the president? 86% of those who voted answered Yes.

The second vote to elect delegates for the 1999-ANC took place on July 25, 1999. 131 deputies were elected to the National Constituent Assembly. 120 deputies, 92% of the delegates, were members of the coalition known as the Patriotic Axis (Polo Patriótico) which supported President Chávez. The new document, the 26th constitution in the history of Venezuela, known as the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, was submitted to the people on December 15, 1999 and approved by 72% of the electorate. This was the first time in 200 years that the people of Venezuela had been able to vote to approve or reject their constitution.
Image result for BOLIVARIAN CONSTITUTION
The 1999 Bolivarian Constitution invoked the “example of our Liberator Simon Bolivar” and called for the “reshaping the Republic to establish democratic, participatory and self-reliant, multiethnic and multicultural society” that “embodies the values of freedom, independence, peace, solidarity, the common good”.

Independence, liberty and sovereignty are constant themes of the document. Human, civil and political rights are well defined in Chapter 1 through 4. The Bolivarian Constitution clearly establishes the mechanism for constitutional reform in Articles 342 through 350. Articles 347, 348, and 349 clearly elaborate the National Constituent Assembly. Article 348 states that “the initiative for calling a National Constituent Assembly may emanate from the President of the Republic sitting with the Cabinet Ministers; from the National Assembly, by two-thirds votes of its members; from the Municipal Councils in open session, by a two-thirds vote of their members; and from 15% of the voters registered with the civil and Electoral Registry.” Participatory democracy is enshrined in the document.

The Bolivarian Government set to work on its other priorities reducing poverty, investing in education, health care and public housing. Poverty rates declined substantially. Education became accessible as enrollment in secondary education climbed from 49% to 72% by 2010. The government invested $22 billion in public housing for the most vulnerable citizens of Venezuela.

The ruling class did not accept the election of Hugo Chávez, much less the Bolivarian Constitution. Minor demonstration began almost immediately in some of the more affluent barrios of Caracas. Economic sabotage, strikes, a military coup d’etat (2002) and recall referendum (2004) all failed to overthrow the democratically elected Hugo Chávez.

The electoral success of the ‘dictatorial’ Bolivarian Revolution is impressive. Of the 21 elections the revolutionary forces have won 19 including Presidential elections: 1998 Chavez won 56.2% of the popular vote; 2000: 59.8%; 2006: 62.8%; 2012: 55.1%; President Maduro won the 2013 election with 50.6% of the popular vote after the death of Hugo Chavez. The Polo Patriótico led by the PSUV has won three of the four National Assembly elections since 1999. President Chávez narrowly lost a referendum regarding constitutional reform in 2007 and President Maduro lost the 2015 National

FASCIST VIOLENCE AND THE THREAT OF IMPERIALIST INTERVENTION 

In the 2015 National Assembly elections the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) won 109 of the 164 deputies. There was video evidence of electoral fraud and vote buying on the part of the opposition in southwestern Amazonas state and the Venezuelan Supreme court suspended temporarily the deputies and launched an official investigation. Henry Ramos Allup, the president of the National Assembly, ignored the ruling and swore in the members leading the Court to nullify all actions taken by the legislative body.

The two priorities of the legislative body were to immediately remove democratically elected President Maduro from office and release several violent criminals, responsible for 43 deaths, from prison. Freddy Guevara, a member of the far-right Voluntad Popular, stated “we have to accelerate the exit of this government as soon as possible.”

In February 2016 the illegal National Assembly passed a controversial amnesty law to free several criminals involved in the 2014 violence including Leopoldo Eduardo López Mendoza, founder of Primero Justicia, in clear violation of the Bolivarian Constitution. The legislative body made no effort to address the capitalist economic crisis that has been affecting the population.

Unable to overthrow the elected government by constitutional maneuvers the opposition changed tactics to fascist violence and foreign intervention. The street violence known as ‘guarimbas’, cost the lives of more than 120 persons with 1200 people injured between April and July of 2017.

Foreign financed street violence caused millions of dollars damage to public and private property in Caracas. Some people of colour became victims because they “appeared to be Chavistas”. They were doused with gasoline and set alight. Members of the Security Forces were attacked with Molotov cocktails and small arms fire. On the international stage the USA used the Organization of American States (OAS) as a forum to facilitate direct intervention in Venezuelan affairs. Secretary General Luis Amagro attempted to invoke the ‘Democratic Charter’ against Venezuela. The move failed when the Permanent Council of the OAS issued a statement in support of dialogue. 

2017-ANC 

Image result for VENEZUELA CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLYVenezuela needed to find a way through the constitutional impasse. It needed to respond to the capitalist economic crisis, the fascist violence and the direct threats of foreign intervention. President Nicolas Maduro turned to Article 348 of the Bolivarian Constitution and called upon the people of Venezuela to take power into their own hands.

On May 1, 2017 President Maduro issued Decree 2830. He wrote “I deem it an unavoidable historical duty to call for a National Constituent Assembly, based upon the constituent popular process, a legacy of Commander Hugo Chávez, and the pioneering and founding Constitution of 1999, so that our people, in the capacity of Original Constituent Power, expresses its iron will and the highest guarantee of defense of the sacred rights and social achievements attained”. Far from being a dictator President Maduro turned to the people of Venezuela placing all the power into their hands.

Maduro suggested 9 programmatic objectives:

Peace: “The constituent process is a great call for a nation-wide dialogue to contain the escalation of political violence”

Economy: “The perfection of the national economic system moving towards a Venezuelan Power by conceiving the new post-petroleum, mixed, productive, diversified and integrating economic model”

Missions: “To enshrine the Missions and Grand Socialist Missions in the Constitution”

Judicial System: “The broadening of the responsibilities of the Judicial System to eradicate criminal impunity, particularly regarding crimes committed against the people”

Democracy: “To enshrine in the Constitution the new forms of participatory and protagonist democracy through the recognition of the new subjects of the People’s Power, such as the Communes, Communal Councils, and the Workers Councils”

Sovereignty: “The defense of sovereignty and integrity of the nation and the protection against foreign interventionism” and “the promotion of the consolidation of a multi-polar and multi-centric world that ensures respect for law and international security.’

Multicultural character of the Homeland: “enabling us to recognize each other as Venezuelans in our ethnical and cultural diversity” “inoculating us from social and racial hatred that is today incubated in a minority of society.”

Youth: “enshrine the rights of youth…free and conscious use of information technologies, the right to a dignified and creativity-liberating job

Biodiversity: “the sovereign rights to protect our biodiversity and the development of an ecological culture in our society.”

Curiously the opposition had demanded a constituent assembly to try and oust President Maduro but when the call went out for its convocation the MUD boycotted the election.

The make- up of the 2017-ANC is extremely interesting. 364 seats were designated for the geographic regions of Venezuela including at least one seat per municipality and two more seats for each state capital. 8 seats were guaranteed for indigenous peoples to be elected according to their traditions. 173 seats were allocated to sectoral groups including workers groups (79), peasants (8), fishers (8), students (24), pensioners (28), disabled (5), communal council members (24), and business people (5). Clearly the working class is heavily favoured within the 545 seat 2017-ANC.

More than 6,000 candidates ran for the various seats on the ANC.

Despite significant efforts to prevent people from voting, including physical attacks on those trying to cast their ballot, more than 8 million people participated. The election of the 2017-ANC has enabled the government to take the initiative in the ongoing class struggle in Venezuela. Among the most important advances include bring an immediate halt to the street violence, the dismissal of Luisa Ortega from her position as Attorney General for ‘grave misconduct” including lying about her approval of Supreme Court Justices, calls for revamping the economy, and new anti-hate legislation.

The 2017-ANC is an important tool for the working classes of Venezuela. It is a major step forward in the struggle for national independence and sovereignty, against violence and war. It opens the door to more political and economic democracy. It will allow the government to address many of the problems facing the country including the capitalist economic crisis. The class struggle in Venezuela is far from over. The privileged classes will not accept the democratically elected ANC just as they have never accepted the democratically elected Presidents Chávez and Maduro. The struggle continues.

TRUE FACE OF PUBLIC/PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP by Eugene Reynald

posted 7 Nov 2017, 05:27 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 7 Nov 2017, 05:28 ]

Here is my take on the recent newspaper reports of there being serious conflict between Emile Elias and the Housing Development
Emile Elias
Corporation (HDC) over the construction of a housing project at Mt. Hope.

The Bids - as invited, stipulated terms and conditions among which was the requirement for all bidders to finance the project at their own risk. Payment is the single greatest risk on construction projects - if not the only one facing Contractors/Consultants in their Contracts with Clients. All bidders would or should have clearly understood this and fashioned their bid to suit.

Elias won the bid and is now on the job and is requesting a payment guarantee from the HDC. This request according to the HDC and the State would constitute a variation to the terms of the Request For Proposals (RFP) and, therefore, could not be included in the terms of the Contract to be entered into between himself and the HDC.

Mr. Elias is insisting otherwise and is citing, inter alia, differences he has with persons in Government for the reason his request is not being entertained. Mr. Elias knows better than most where the courts are and how to use such places.

The simple fact is that if Mr. Elias is allowed his request, the HDC is running the risk of legal challenges from unsuccessful bidders who would have submitted bids based on the terms of the RFP. Similar challenges can come from members of the public like me and many others in order to safeguard our “public interest” in the matter.

I also hope that the HDC does not allow Elias to exit the project and thereby force a rebid. If this takes place and results in an increase in the project cost, there are consequences that would and should accrue to Elias...and not to the public.

Having said all the aforementioned and knowing of the chronic lack of competence and corruption among public officials, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some screw up by one or more public official that gives Mr. Elias win in all of this.

Notwithstanding the screw up factor the facts on the surface puts Rowley in a tight spot; because given pressing and prior claims on the public purse - including the one billion dollars plus his Government is refusing to pay citizens for lands “stolen” from them by the State (and some of these crimes were committed by the State more than forty years ago by way of what they called “compulsory acquisition”), it would be interesting to see how he prioritises payments when the interests of “friends” are involved - as against the interests of those who are not “friends”.

There is also the dire need to prioritise the completion of the National Oncology Centre which I am sure is contributing to the suffering and deaths of citizens and possibly “friends” daily: although most of his “friends” do like him and others in his Government and fly abroad (some at our expense) for their treatment. But I will deal with that separately and at another time very soon.

Eugene A. Reynald

COLLAPSE: EVEYTHING FALLING DOWN! by Rae Samuel

posted 4 Nov 2017, 15:11 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 4 Nov 2017, 15:23 ]

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;"

WB Yeats

Okay. Apparently Colm and company are tired of waiting for their much anticipated scrap with organised but poorly represented labour. The other bust ups are occurring daily La Brea and at the sea ports and at the air bridge, not to mention in schools and in the prison system.

But these tend to be localised and not likely to affect production. Omit gambling/gaming since this is a recreational and thus optional form of 'productivity' and is really a veneer for other forms of 'enterprise'.

Monday 31st October was supposed to be the usual payday for public servants then and now - meaning pensioners too. Old people like me: some of whose incomes are proscribed by law to not more than $5000 T.T when pensions and NIS payments are combined. Now remember that the recent Budget and subsequent debates, which kept the Prime Minister high and dry away from the floods for days, saw marked increases in the cost of living for the poor.

It saw marked increases for the merchant and business class, in the time they will have to go through the ritual of showing their employees in Cabinet where to get off. This is their annual stick fight where they pelt one or two 'bois' at each other. The blood is fake but the Scotch is real. It is the blood of the workers that boils.

But this late money thing is another sign, a further crack in the shaky edifice of this crony capitalism we have been abiding. This is retrenchment and severance outside the context of industrial relations settings. There is money for the highway to Manzanilla, the Brian Lara Stadium. the hotel complex outside the Ato Boldon Stadium, to finance a Sandal’s hotel, to import and maintain high end SUV's from Japan and Germany and to purchase more military vehicles to push motorists off our thoroughly congested roads..

And Michael Scobie Joseph has been warning us all year round of efforts to impede if not scuttle the Carnival celebration since February this year. It would surprise no one if Carnival and Panorama are further 'down-sized' in the national interest

Of course on the other side of the pond, the political hyenas, scenting blood, have joined the hunt. But within the hunting pack there is bitter rivalry for leadership since they are convinced that the present king of the leeches is mortally wounded and they imagine easy prey. Some fangs seem more aimed to slash one another rather than the hunted.

Folks: it happened in Argentina, in Greece, in Portugal and it could easily happen here! We could go to the banks and be simply told that there is no money, that we will have to hold strain and tighten our belts. The public services in health, education, transport, infrastructure would have further deteriorated by then. And it would not have been due to Islamic fundamentalism, the alleged source of all our ills. Why do you imagine the recent Youth Parliament chose to discuss of all things, a counter to ''youth radicalisation'' policy?

Of course the police, army and other forms/firms of 'national security' would be in the streets heavily armed to make sure workers get the point

At this moment not much, has been seen from the unions representing the public sector. There has been the usual posturing for the cameras by some leaders but that is par for the media course. Those who are in leadership must recognise that this is an escalation, a shot across the bows from S.S. Colm. Let us see what their response is and it better not be some airy fairy fantasy like the phantom boycott of the one per cent.

TEACHERS IN THE EYE OF THE HURRICANE by Rae Samuel

posted 29 Oct 2017, 04:16 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 29 Oct 2017, 04:18 ]

I am suggesting that there is a link between what happens in the Secondary football league re 'transfers' and the bulling/bullying video
emanating from a prestige school, to the students male and female who are willing to fight in the streets and who are willing to go toe to toe, face to face with a principal or a uniformed police officer: a thoroughly broken, morally defective system

The assumption, in some quarters, that we can corral these students; 'manners' them into socially acceptable personas, continues to show false. Such an approach never has and never will solve social problems. Ask the police and the paramilitary who have been heavily armed for years and whose 'justifiable homicide'' rate parallels countries way larger than ours. 

Remember when Army vehicles would patrol the streets with heavily armed personnel hanging out the back? And from what this writer is being told, the Children's Authority is speedily heading in the direction of punishment over correction “in the name of the law''

The modern generation has matured in a rapid-paced, global environment. Societies move forward. It is an objective law. All who speak of 'old time days' are burying their heads in the sands of nostalgia and revisiting history through distorted lens of convenience. School violence was common in Arima, Marabella and Belmont in the 80's and 90's. There was a time, before schools were de-shifted, when police patrols had to be present at lunch time. I was recently reminded that a death occurred in the South during a schools’ football match when rival factions fought

This writer knows of two community figures, both ex-cons, who were brought in to solve the problem. One was the legendary late poet Cheteswayo and the other is still alive working with youths in the South. In both instances the first thing they did was ask the armed police to step back. It worked because these persons engaged the students

Caught on the frontlines of all this ongoing chaos are the teachers. Like the warriors sent to fight in Vietnam, they are trained but not prepared. Many are young, trained, qualified but in no way socially educated or prepared to deal with the students who are clear on what is happening. ''Go to school, become part of the CXC\CAPE machine, play some sport in the hope of winning a scholarship or joining a professional club''. But students are daily rejecting this model in large numbers. It is exclusive anyway

Parents complain that the young ones are wasting golden opportunities that the elders never had and that they are getting it for free. ‘Go to school and learn well' sings the Mighty Sparrow. But the same calypsonian sang."If mih head was bright, Ah woulda be a damn fool''. The contradictions mount.

Minister of Education Anthony Garcia
The honest among us recognise that the alienation and anti-social displays are occurring also in the 'prestigious, denominational schools'. It is interesting to note how it is being under reported. No calls for transfers to 'training centres'. But these are the schools where the children of the 1% attend. Besides, the present Minister of Education was a principal at the school for years. So maybe that is why the incident at a Roman Catholic prestige school, Fatima, is being treated as a 'small thing'.

Never mind on Radio 102, psychologist Anna Maria Mora stated that there cannot be anything prankish about that kind of behaviour; that in her experience teachers and administrators have/had to be patrolling corridors and class rooms consistently.

Next move? The teachers' union must take a lead, organise a campaign nationwide for educational change that is fundamental, even though its present leadership sounds as if they were in over their heads. The teachers are in the eye of the social hurricane. Such a process must involve parents, students, educational professionals and community representatives. If any of these is left out the problems will persist.

Can it be done? Next year marks the 40th anniversary of the foundation COMFUT, the steering committee that guided teachers towards the formation of TTUTA, and they face incomparable odds.

Can teachers today assume the courage of their responsibilities?

SANDALS DOES NOT DESERVE TOBAGO By David Walker

posted 27 Oct 2017, 05:47 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 27 Oct 2017, 06:08 ]

Image result for Sandals st lucia
So the Minister of Tourism Shamfa Cudjoe thinks that we deserve Sandals. This is the lady upon whose expertise our tourism thrust depends. She tells us that she has enjoyed their luxuries on a few occasions and has decided that we should invest billions of dollars and place all Tobago’s tourism eggs in an allegedly gilded Sandals basket.

I don’t care whether the Minister or anyone else thinks we deserve Sandals. We’re paying for it and will be paying for decades to come. We’ll be tying our hands with respect to receipt of taxation on what is promised to be the largest economic activity on the island for the next twenty years. 

We’re accepting the employment and business practices of Sandals blindly. We will see all its foreign exchange earnings parked outside of Trinidad and Tobago. No my friends, the question is not whether we deserve Sandals and what they bring. The real question is whether Sandals deserves Tobago and what Tobago is offering them. Yet we do not know what Tobago gets in return.

The rush to Sandals breaks every tenet of good procurement practice as articulated in our recently passed legislation. Our esteemed
Prime Minister Rowley has chosen to ignore his excellent advice in this case in favour of an opaque and unseemly deal displaying utter contempt for the legal custodians of Tobago tourism at the THA. 
Prime Minister Rowley was clear about the benefits of the legislation. He told us how badly it was needed in the fight against corruption and bid rigging. Yet he has chosen to ignore his excellent advice in this case in favour of an opaque and unseemly deal displaying utter contempt for the legal custodians of Tobago tourism at the THA.

We are told that Sandals is good for us, not that a specific plan is good, or any details of the plan. We keep hearing what a great company Sandals is and that we should be proud that they want to come to Tobago. But without figures or details of the type of “deal” that is being done why should we accept the nebulous claims being made on its behalf? They don’t even bother to tell us what the expected benefits will be in numbers.

Since our money is being spent why are we being told that we should not ask for Value for Money? Sandals is not the only provider of this type of all inclusive hotel in the Caribbean. The highly regarded website hotels.com did a survey last year of all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean. Sandals was not in the top three. There are several other operators with reputations in the same league as Sandals.

If we wanted the best value for money, the way that is achieved is clear. With or without external advice, we would have examined the market, evaluated what Tobago had to offer, considered the existing tourism policy and plan for Tobago in order to determine exactly what we wanted. Procurement practice would then have kicked in and a Request for Proposal (RFP) prepared which would have gone out to prospective bidders. All the steps of best procurement practice could then have followed with the prospect of excellent value for money coupled with maximum transparency and accountability.

Instead, we have procurement practice Trinidad and Tobago style courtesy of the current administration.

Supplier (Sandals) and future Prime Minister meet socially and promises made
Prime Minister assumes power
Prime Minister takes over control of Tobago tourism contrary to THA Act (no protest from THA)
PM appointed committee “negotiates” with Sandals for hotel of unknown specification
No details shared with public about the arrangement e.g.

◦ What will the development cost Tobago and Trinidad

◦ What taxes will be paid/not paid by Sandals and for what period

◦ What other costs will we bear (desalination plant, etc.)

◦ What will be the Foreign Exchange footprint during development and operations, positive or negative


Shamfa Cudjoe, Minister of Tourism and Butch Stewart, founder and bossman of Sandals

We now have a deal engineered by the Prime Minister of which we know nothing other than the fact that the Tourism Minister spent some quality time at Sandals and thoroughly enjoyed it. No comparison is made with other providers who have similar reputations. No information is shared about the costly and decades long impact on the Tobago economy. This is what our leaders encourage us to accept. Why bother with Procurement Legislation and Procurement Best Practice when our leaders “like it so”?

For Tobago this is a defining moment that will be remembered for decades to come, as the cost of this folly is borne by our children. We seem fond of rushing to decisions without the benefit of data and information. We’re prepared to accept that this unknown arrangement is good for us simply because it comes from the Prime Minister and is supported by the Tourism Minister. I doubt whether any of the persons promoting or supporting this farce would invest their own money in such a cavalier manner.

Let me close by inviting you to reconsider this arrangement with a few name changes. Imagine that Kamla Persad Bissessar, Watson Duke or Jack Warner had come to Parliament and said that as a result of a private meeting with a supplier, they would be issuing a billion dollar contract to a well known builder for an unspecified project. Public and Parliament could not be told any details until said agreement was finalized and commitments made. I wonder how people would have reacted? How do we tackle Corruption and Waste when the Prime Minister is the loudest advocate for driving a coach and horses through the legislation?

Sandals does not deserve Tobago while it operates outside of our Procurement Legislation and is encouraged to ignore key aspects of procurement best practice like transparency.


d.walker@alcindorwalker.com

WHAT IF...? By Joanne Viechweg

posted 27 Oct 2017, 02:20 by Gerry Kangalee

Just this once, just for this Christmas, seeing that we are still in the season of One-Off holidays; what if we were to change our spending patterns to benefit those who are striving to BE-COME.

What if…instead of being fooled by the illusion of the Mall Experience, making us feel that we are one with the Big Boys/Girls we were to keep it real and opt for the experience of helping to build others at or below our own socioeconomic level.

What if…all lives really mattered.

What if….we became conscious of the fact that by shopping with (giving more financial strength) those whose pockets are already very deep we continue to widen the gap between the haves and the have nots and…

What if….simultaneously it began to become clear to us the side of the divide on which we reside.

What if….we began to see that we don’t need the government to make it a law in order for us to support one another.

What if…we began to band together in support of one another just as we do with the occurrence of a natural disaster.

What if….we understood that the human-engineered economic disaster that we are experiencing is many times worse than the effects of anything that nature metes out to humanity. Nature gives us time to recover between strikes/attacks but the human-engineered disaster fuelled by greed and power over the masses never lets up. The majority of us just struggling to stay afloat.

What if…we understood that the power in the people could build the power of the people and that we too could rise.

What if…we decided to embody the ‘true spirit of Christmas’ and be kind and compassionate to those in need instead of continually strengthening our oppressors.

What if……what if……….what if...?

Ase

WHAT A MESS! by Rae Samuel

posted 24 Oct 2017, 06:55 by Gerry Kangalee

What a mess! And here I am not referring to the state in which the ongoing rains and flooding have left communities and roadways, 
from Piarco to Mafeking and throughout South and Central.

That damaging weather occurrence has been followed by a freak storm named Dave Williams. Said to be acting head of the Office of Disaster Preparedness Management has turned out to be a Category 6 public relations disaster.

Floods that almost took the lives of a family including a pregnant woman; that have damaged hundreds of homes and destroyed livestock is described as a 'small thing'. Even his line Minister, whose ministry is an all weather, year round malfunctioning disaster, guardedly criticised him..

The said official sounded unconcerned that it took three days for the agency to get the communication network going. One would imagine that the operations are designed to respond immediately in a situation like this - much like a backup generator at a hospital. This guy could get a job working for Donald Trump in Puerto Rico with a resume like the one he has just created. What is interesting is that in a critical post such as this he is acting.

Then there are the responses. The Army was deployed late but they can only respond as directed. As if the head of the ODPM was not enough, the Minister of Local Government advised that we should turn to God'. I do not know if this was a tongue in cheek reference to the Noah Chronicles in the Bible, where a chosen few rode out the storm in an Ocean Flower II and the rest perished. Tongue in cheek? Nah, he is a PNM!

What is emerging is a Katrina story. The local government agencies are indicating that they are under resourced. Councillors speak of poorly serviced pumps and sluice gates that are not maintained; of not enough funding to clear drains and water courses.

Katrina turned into the nightmare after the storm because the levees were poorly maintained. We also have to recognise that 
Related imagedevelopers have had a free hand, skirting regulations and building codes, if there are any. When environmentalist Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh bore witness to impending ecological disaster occasioned by the construction of the Debe-Mon Desir Highway, he was mocked by the same politicians who are now grabbing every photo op they can.

As ever, it is up to the local communities to salvage as best they can. Where was the Prime Minister? He was at the command post at another disaster prone area, managing another ongoing crisis. He was in Parliament, discussing the budget. Yet he says ministers like Rohan Sinanan were in the lakes overseeing operations. Come on, sir..''Yuh go sen’ Rohan to manage a situation involving water?'' Where have you been over the last 6 months?

The floods will subside eventually.The state agencies will move in and provide a modicum of relief. Individual households will to try to recover. One does not know if God will respond to minister Kazim Hosein's request and show up, or if Dave will keep his 'small thing' job.

What all this further proves is, the late Lloyd Best's dictum, that administrations come into office 'pre-collapsed' is correct. In this instance it is merely occurring on another front.

HORACE SCOTT FOUGHT FOR HEALTH AND SAFETY OF WORKERS By Frank Sears

posted 20 Oct 2017, 06:19 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 20 Oct 2017, 06:35 ]

As far as I am concerned Comrade Horace Scott (1933 - 2017) was the only executive officer during the 
George Weekes era who exhibited a natural and enduring affinity for safety towards workers who were in the vast majority, OWTU members. 
Comrade Frank Sears was the first full time Health and Safety Officer in the trade union movement.

As a worker and branch officer at Pointe a Pierre and he at Barrackpore with Texaco in the late 60s, his influence was a key factor in the Union forming a centralized safety committee to monitor accidents and incidents wherever the OWTU had a presence.

This culminated in the establishment of a safety desk and my involvement as a full time safety officer in the mid-seventies always with the motivating force of Comrade Scott.

An era has come and gone, so too men and their mission in life, but I am sure Comrade Horace Scott will be remembered by those who benefitted from his energy and forceful articulation on matters involving occupational health and safety.

In fact, so pervasive was the thrust towards health and safety, the OWTU became the national benchmark that other unions and non-unionised workers relied upon for advice and collective action.

Comrade Horace Scott led that charge from an executive level. A working class hero to me and countless thousands and if ever I had the opportunity I would dedicate in memory of comrade Scott. “Fanfare for the common man” composed by Aaron Copland and played by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by James Lawrence Levine.

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