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CABRERA BLASTS INEQUALITY; CALLS FOR LABOUR LAW REFORM

posted by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated ]

Vincent Cabrera, President of the Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU) delivered the president’s address at the sixth biennial

conference of the union, on October 25th at the Standards Bureau Auditorium, Macoya. We publish below an edited excerpt from that address dealing with the questions of inequality and labour law reform. The entire address is available here

 

The history of Caribbean society has been a history characterized by extreme oppression and inequality. The obvious question here is why does the society behave as though inequality has never existed? What have we done since independence to reverse or decrease the level of societal inequality? Have our political parties properly analysed this matter of inherent inequality? Have the various religions deliberately ignored that matter? Does the political and the judicial system buttress inequality in our society?

 

And what of the trade union movement itself? Do all trade unions see the battle against inequality as necessary or valid? Are the policies of trade unions designed to combat inequality or are we unconsciously promoting inequality?   There are many types of inequality, inclusive of inequality among countries and social inequality.

 

In a 2007 Global report titled “Equality at Work: Tackling the Challenge”, the ILO comments, and I quote “… significant and persistent inequalities in income, assets and opportunities dilute the effectiveness of any action aimed at combating discrimination. This may lead to political instability and social upheaval, which upsets investment and economic growth.” 

The labour market generates unacceptable levels of inequality. Income inequality is perhaps the most immediate and the most relevant form of inequality for workers in general and for trade unions and their members in particular. I submit that there is a definite correlation between levels of inequality and the relative power of trade unions.

Where the employers are stronger the level of inequality is increased. This balance of power is largely determined by government policy, legislation and the extent of unionisation existing within the labour market.

Nowhere is income inequality as extreme as in the finance sector which is the very engine of the capitalist system. As traditional industries are converted into sunset industries and as more emphasis is placed on the invisible economy as distinct from the real economy, more workers are being employed within the finance sector which includes banks, insurance companies, credit unions, mutual funds, etc. 

In dealing with the trade union response to inequality, the first challenge is the extremely great difficulty which researchers face in the Caribbean as a whole in collecting or sourcing reliable data. While in developed jurisdictions compensation rates for CEO’s are known, in Trinidad and Tobago such data is not easily available.

Finance managers have ensured that the disparity in salary income within financial organizations remains a glaring example of income inequality. Remember that the CEO has access to stock options and golden handshakes. Clearly, financial institutions value the CEO more than the worker. Yet the CEO by himself can do precious little without workers by way of implementation of policy.

No one will argue against wage differentials but we estimate that the capitalist system places a value of one CEO being worth two hundred times more than the average worker. A recently published TUC report coming out of the United Kingdom and titled “Executive Excess” provided a snap shot of top company directors pay and showed that the salary gap can be as much as sixteen hundred to one.

This report provides a variety of data tables, presenting information on top directors’ total earnings and basic salary alongside average employee pay. In Trinidad and Tobago, in the area of income inequality, a 2007 – 2008 report illustrates that CEO pay increased by more than fifty percent over a five year period. Executive pay is cited as having more than doubling over the period to an annual average of $963,234.00.

The comparison between this and general wage increases strongly suggests that the share of national income allocated to wage earners in contrast to executive compensation earners and others in the professional management stream is grossly unequal, corroborating the observation that that growing income inequality is one of the negative features of globalization.

In a recent statement, Professor Emeritus Dr. James Millette said and I quote “Banks, insurance companies and other financial companies have become major players in the fields of industry and commerce, in high stakes speculation and leveraging in the world’s most important commodities, and the world’s most valuable assets. For many of them it is an all or nothing game, facilitated by the generosity of the world’s largest central banks and the world’s most powerful countries. Many of them are now considered ‘too big to fail’ and in the final analysis extraordinary measures to save them from liquidation and bankruptcy’ at the tax payer’s expense, have become common place.”

The module used by Howai at CLICO is beyond logic. The state used taxpayers’ money to bail out CLICO, only to announce his government’s intention to abandon the much heralded ATRIUS, and surrender the company to the private sector. When we compare this with the treatment meted out to the retrenched workers of CLICO, CIB and British American Company that comparison would show a total disrespect for ethics and industrial relations principle on the part of the Central Bank and the Minister of Finance. State funding made TTMF a giant in housing finance; it is a pity to see the economic arrangement turned around in favour of the private sector and to the detriment of aspiring homeowners.

A few days ago the Business Guardian sought to give the impression that bank workers had been gaining wage increases at a faster rate than the rate of increase in shareholder value. This of course is a total fabrication. We did the maths. Profits and increase in shareholder value far outstrip increases in wages at every turn. For every three year period, the rate of increase in profits posted by the finance houses far outweighs the rate of increase in workers’ wages. During the period referred to by the BG, out of the eight banks mentioned, the union negotiated collective agreements for workers at Republic Bank and First Citizens.

Analysis would show that salaries increased at Republic Bank by fifty-one percent over a ten year period or by an average of ten percent an annum. This is far less than the 144 percent increase falsely and inaccurately printed by the BG.

The article forgot to deal with accumulated inflation of 76 percent which severely eroded purchasing power of workers. If we look at our patterns of application of wage increases, we will see that application of strict percentage wage increases, to which we have become accustomed, serves to provide for an ever increasing wage differential between jobs. The concept of equality within a bargaining unit seems to have disappeared. 

Every additional dollar gained through collective bargaining is another step in decreasing income inequality. Government will do well in internalizing this concept and stop being an aggressor to trade unions in their efforts to improve the standard of living of working people who are the people that really run this economy minute by minute every minute of the day.

LABOUR LAW REFORM

Various governments since Independence have chosen to introduce labour legislation which regulates and limits trade union activity thus tilting the balance of power in favour of employers. Employment law has always been based on regulations. Let me say for the umpteenth time; our labour laws do not meet the established international labour standards. When will we get a government that will be conscious enough to put an end to the embarrassment faced by Trinidad and Tobago every June, when the Standards Committee releases its report in Geneva?

We have the worst employment laws in the Caribbean and the absolute worst laws for granting workers the right to collective bargaining. Just imagine it took the RRCB (editor’s note: Registration Recognition and Certification Board) five years to process BIGWU’s claim for recognition at the Central Bank and already our application for certification at the Royal Bank have been postponed for four years. Royal Bank, the most viciously anti union bank in our country, has retrenched over three hundred workers and is now forcing workers to work on Saturdays.

Perhaps the greatest scandal pertaining to the State’s administration of labour matters lies in the fact that after almost a year the Government has failed to reconstitute the Registration, Recognition and Certification Board. While the Hon. Errol McLeod was a trade union leader, he like other trade union leaders condemned the then government over the same matter. It is ironic now that McLeod the Minister has an opportunity to fix things he has not done so.


Worst Labour Minister ever
Indeed there are many in the labour fraternity who say that he has performed worse than any of his predecessors. Thousands of workers in this country are being denied the right to collective bargaining because of an archaic system of certifying trade unions exacerbated by the non-appointment of a new Board after the expiry of the life of the old Board on 10th January 2014. This is a national scandal!
 

Workers rights to collective bargaining are being denied and this matter affects all trade unions.  I wish to use this occasion of our Conference of Delegates to call for a rights based system of industrial relations in Trinidad and Tobago. Our society is based on denial of rights to the majority. Today our trade union rights have been denied. This must stop! We demand that workers rights be appropriately protected. The law must be clear on workers’ rights.

Panday’s UNC introduced the concept of a universal minimum wage. That regime chose not to amend the nefarious Industrial Relations Act. Manning’s PNM passed a watered down Occupational Safety and Health Act. Persad-Bissessar’s Partnership legislated Maternity Leave of fourteen weeks but it must be noted that a few trade unions including BIGWU had already achieved that standard in some collective agreements.

Failing in its undertaking to amend the IRA, despite the Industrial Relations Advisory Committee (IRAC), having already submitted its report to the cabinet, this government has displayed a most disgraceful performance as far as reform of Labour legislation is concerned. I understand that a consultancy has been awarded to have the matter forwarded. It is almost certain that given the several layers of bureaucracy to which legislation is subjected before assent and proclamation, that we will not see any new law to amend or replace the IRA before the upcoming elections.

Labour legislation will not be pursued with the same vigour and energy as say, the constitutional amendment to introduce run off. Research has shown that the IRA itself was passed within a period of twenty four hours. Legislation can be rushed through both houses of parliament when the ruling class sees the need to repress the working class or to give a legislative pass out of jail to their friends and financiers. Section 34 and the Run Off law were treated with an urgency that the PP government has not attached to labour legislation.

Precarious work has exploded exponentially in this country. Manning entrenched contract labour in the public sector and Persad-Bissessar ensured its proliferation. Labour officers at the Ministry of Labour are all employed on very short term contracts. Not one is a public servant employed within the public service. Imagine we have to appear before contracted labour to grieve contract labour issues. BIGWU supports the ratification of ILO Convention 189 and the inclusion of domestic workers within the definition of workers in the legislation.

SHOOTING ANYONE WITH A BAD COLD by Rae Samuel

posted 27 Oct 2014 09:11 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 27 Oct 2014 09:12 ]

Sierra Leone's government welcomes the first batch of Cuban health-care workers who came to fight Ebola
"Cuba leads the way in Ebola response'' was the lead story on the BBC Latin American segment on Thursday "Divali' October 23, even as the head of the Red Cross/Red Crescent condemned the idea of banning flights and visitors from countries affected by the disease as panicky and non-productive. Cuba has sent in over four hundred and fifty health workers, not soldiers like Britain and the USA, soldiers who have medical training and can set up field hospitals.

The Cuban attitude is based on a principle of "we cannot see our sisters and brothers in Africa suffer and stand by with our arms folded'', a re-affirmation of their established policy of extending international solidarity from an earthquake stricken Pakistan to earthquake and cholera ravaged Haiti, where they succeeded in bringing that U.N. 'gift' under control. It is interesting to note that their President saw them off and none have been reported as asking for $million dollar insurances.

The U.N and other Western agencies have been forced to concede that the Cuban response supersedes that of other countries with much greater resources whose responses have been generally to sew panic and keep the Africans out in the hope that in a few months a vaccine can be found and sold at exorbitant profit to the affected countries..

Why has Ebola in its 38th year of discovery taken off like this? The areas primarily affected have been opened up through investments by Western capital. Go look at the movie "Blood diamond' to understand how these countries 'develop'. It is not about infrastructural development but rather 'extractive mining' something which does not require much investment in health care and other forms of social development; nor do the attendant wars help.

Note also Liberia is the original client state of the USA in Africa and seems to be the hardest hit.

Reading all this has cleared up for me what the Trinidad /Tobago response will be. As in Sierra Leone, the police and army will be sent in to lock down the area. Then, for a price, some privatised medical agency will go in accompanied by a choir of media induced panic: assuming by then we have not begun to shoot Nigerians or anybody with a bad cold. Entering West Shore or St. Clair Medical will prove more difficult than obtaining a U.S. visa.

On the other hand one has no doubt if the relative of a government minister or party financier fell ill that person will be sent to Cuba, or Liberia to find a Cuban doctor.

The ultimate truth is that the population does not trust Minister "Mr Kublalsingh is in perfect health'' Fuad Khan. It is a legacy of their political practices and the way they have run the country. There is a flabbiness in their responses which seem to be led by travel bans rather than visible moves which will re-assure the public.

Are we to hope, again, that God is a Trini and this will pass and let us have Carnival? We may need more, a lot more, than that this time around.

ANOTHER LOOK AT THE HIGHWAY By Eugene Reynald

posted 25 Oct 2014 11:42 by Gerry Kangalee

The entire planning process for the highway including the Request For Proposals (RFP) and the bid invitation was done by then-Minister Imbert and approved by the PNM Cabinet. The UNC came to power and met responses to the RFP already in hand and almost certainly opened.

The entire project was severely criticised by the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) who in refusing to fund it also advised against it. It is also important to mention that they were specifically critical and suspicious of the RFP process, the project justification and the project cost.

It was a particularly humiliating experience for Dookeran and the other three Ministers and Public Servants, who were at that fateful meeting. Of course the IDB has been proven right.

The UNC Government rejected the recommendations of the IDB experts and unable to get funding elsewhere they decided to fund the project from recurrent expenditure. This project and others that were hastily planned and implemented in the same ad hoc manner explain why so many necessary projects have been non starters or starved of funds over the last four years – and why there has been such a massive drain on our foreign earnings and repeated budget deficits.

Immediately after the UNC took power and before work started on site, the project moved from about $5b dollars which it was under the PNM to $7.2b under the UNC. It is certainly well over that figure today and climbing.

I should mention, in passing, that the famous Point Lisas Estate Development was rationalised as being feasible based on false inputs and omissions from the concept as put to the public. Expenditures from the public purse on the Caroni Arena Dam and its transmission lines, T&TEC and several other infrastructural costs were later discovered to be unaccounted for in what was called a “feasibility study or business plan”.

Their inclusion later on by UWI-based economists in a review of the project’s feasibility raised serious questions about the integrity and competence of those who took the decision to go ahead with the development most of which had to be sold off in a fire sale not many years later. There is learning here on how Governments cook the books and fool the public while their eyes are open; even though they might just as well be closed.

Back to the Point Fortin Highway and enter Kublalsingh and the Highway Re-route Movement who like the IDB criticised the project and asked for it to be stopped based on, inter alia, deficiencies in the Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC). Some of his reasons for doing so echoed those of the IDB and were agreed to by many, particularly the reasons that pointed out the many flaws in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)/CEC related to the project’s environmental and social impacts.

The input of the Courts did not help because they rationalised their decision to not stop or suspend the project by arguing that to do so would have resulted in greater losses than to let it proceed – and they were right. They however erred in refusing to consider and recommend alternative solutions that were within their power so to do. These could have included negotiation/mediation that would have served to address/resolve some of the concerns raised by Kublalsingh and the IDB on terms and conditions acceptable to both parties (like the Armstrong Committee did much later on).

This could have been done in a process that included a risk assessment/management input for measuring, negotiating and mitigating any negative impacts on the contract as identified by the IDB and Kublalsingh. Of course the contract was also indecently and hastily entered into by the State against the advice of the IDB and after such advice was received, in order to “say” that a contract was let and force the decision they got from the Court.

I am sure that no one not even the Courts or even the Armstrong Committee have asked for a copy of the IDB recommendations – and the public needs and deserves an explanation for this. And by the way the Law is not an ass – it has fairly unlimited powers including the power to make Law – it is simply administered by asses.

The Courts decided in favour of the State and this led to Kublalsingh having to put his life on the line during his first fast and in so doing gathering enough support to have Kamla agree to the appointment of a Committee of experts – the Armstrong Committee, to look into the matter and make its recommendations. The State paid for all of this and Kamla agreed to abide by the decision of the Committee.

All of this became necessary to correct the failures of the Court – which could have suggested such a course of action some time before even if it didn’t support the position of Kublalsingh in the matter. The Law effectively failed the citizens and Kublalsingh and put the matter on the road that has led to where it is today.

The committee findings were different to those of the Courts – even though it favoured neither the HRM nor the State. Their recommendations were practical and implementable and were accepted by the HRM.

They proved unacceptable to Kamla who reneged on her commitment to abide by the recommendations of the Committee. We expect politicians to lie to us but not so glaringly, unconscionably and without compunction or rationalisation. This was not Kamla’s first act of treachery and deception on this matter. She and her Team, when in opposition, were ardent supporters of the HRM and in taking office turned completely around. There is a total lack of respect for citizens that is unmistakable in all the aforementioned and what it portends for the country is frightening.

Kublalsingh, after much wasted effort at rational persuasion and failure in the Courts, initiates another bout of fasting and Anand enters the fray with the clear intention of using the Courts to have it validate Kamla’s efforts to keep the Highway Project going.

The questions regarding morality and ethics, as these relate to the Armstrong Committee Report, and Kamla’s role in that process, Anand refuses to address and indeed cannot address. In Anand not doing so Kamla’s record in the matter remains an indelible, undefended, indefensible one. Kublalsingh is clearly on the high ground in this matter and although the end game is still at large, Kamla certainly has lost the key players of integrity and honesty. In another cultural reality the loss of such key players would have forced her to fold and/or run but in this one it is when you get an Anand and go to Court.

The Law got us into this mess and to quote Einstein “No problem can be solved by the same consciousness that caused it” and we all know that most of the problems we have in this country are caused directly or indirectly by the Law. Indeed the Courts are theatre where self styled appointees of the Legal fraternity sit and argue among themselves as to what is right in Law and even after that, many decisions (if the party who has lost is still alive and has any money and energy left) are appealed and often ruled against. Of course the entire theatrical farce is paid for by the public.

Kamla cannot afford to let Kublalsingh live and she cannot afford to let him die. If either event takes place he will become a symbol and icon unlike any in our history. If he dies the chronicles on this chapter in our history will have to recall the deceit that led to his demise, and most importantly, the part Kamla played in it all.

The truth is Kamla, like Macbeth, is already so far steeped in blood that for her to return from where she is now would be as tedious as it is for her to go on. She is racing to get certain things done and Anand with the help of the Judiciary are clearing the way for her to achieve her ends. This approach, including manipulating the Law, is also being used to get the Invaders Bay project going as well as various ones in Chaguaramas. In all instances breaches of the Law have taken place in which, yes you guessed it, the Environmental Management Authority was complicit.

With regard to the part being played by the Law it is one in which the Judiciary, notwithstanding the unclean hands of the State (including its agencies) in its breaches of the Law, in most instances finds in favour of the State - once the State says it has already committed itself to contracts which carry penalties if they are stopped. I have seen the Judiciary follow such a procedure without the supposed contracts being tendered in evidence or placed before the Court.

Kublalsingh and the HRM stand no chance against such an unholy alliance – unless the Privy Council takes it upon itself to bring justice to the matter - but that will also depend on what is put before them.

The possibilities for corruption are evident and actual in all of this and the irony of it all is that the function and privilege of the Courts, the Law Association and the Press are there for them to act as a bulwark of citizens against such abuse and tyranny and corruption by the State. Questions necessarily arise when instead their action or inaction facilitates such.

The PNM is doing what it can and should in this matter which is to stay out of it. Any intervention on their part in defence of Kublalsingh or the HRM, given their role in the history of the project, would only do damage to the cause. This is one of the People vs. Kamla and the Law.

What Kublalsingh is about is saving the society and its citizens from the Philistines that have taken occupancy of our high places. Few in the history of the world have had the courage to do as he is doing and none in this country. What he represents is hope and intelligence amidst the darkness and senselessness we see around us in the wanton and mindless destruction of the environment which gives to us the life that we enjoy and cherish - for as brief a time as that may be.

His is a selfless and solitary sacrifice and a peaceful struggle against an establishment that is intent on obliterating him and what he represents. There is much more but for this alone he deserves respect and support from all citizens because far more so than the charlatans who drove him to this and are still actively trying to use, destroy and/or discredit him, he is about matters that will ensure a better quality of life for us - and indeed all life.

COME ON NAH! by Rae Samuel

posted 24 Oct 2014 20:46 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 24 Oct 2014 20:47 ]

If I were President Come-on-nah and not the Monarch of all I survey although this is a republic, I would immediately divorce my present wife, dress her in a chadoor and a full length dress just to spite that ole cougar Rachel. All yuh could call me jihadist if yuh want and even ban me from Palo Seco, my home town if all yuh want but nobody will ever make fun of my new wife's apparel again.

Will my new wife be pretty? That will be a state secret, since no one, except me, will be seeing her face. She however will not have to run the risk of having foul mouthed cougars who cuss out school Principals make fun of her.

I mean where do these calypsonians, comedians and talk show hosts get off? Making fun of my soon to be ex. Yes I will be requesting her resignation now that she seems to have misbehaved in 'public dress'. She could go back down Palo Seco and lime with fellow public retiree Chandresh which is close to Fyzabad.

I was once a calypsonian and should know that picong and ribald comment are the life blood of the art form of the nation which I lead? Lemme tell all yuh. That was yesterday and today is today to hi-Jack a statement frrrr...ffrr...ffrr..ooom a former football jefe. Nobody will turn my wife into Madame Dracula or Belmont Jackass. I am much better looking than Lord Melody although immensely less talented.

Don't forget I recently mobilised the Reserve Army Corps for no good reason and a chocolate soldier is now in the Ministry of National Security waging wars he never fought while in Teteron.

Thank you for allowing me to address you all on this significant matter of my wife's dress code. Y'all know now I have powers to defend her clothes! Did I help her choose them. None of your damn business!

Steups! All yuh going too far! What? All yuh think this is Calypso History month where you could sing and revive the spirit of calypso as the supreme form of satire and political commentary? Come-on-nah- man!

SINGING THE SONGS OF REVOLUTION by Sai Madivala

posted 23 Oct 2014 08:59 by Gerry Kangalee

A fairly odd event took place this past Saturday evening at the National Library of Trinidad and Tobago. It was a gathering of seasoned labour organizers to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the National Workers Union (NWU).  

Although the union is relatively young, the bulk of the organizers were a blast from the past. They milled about with humble exuberance, referring to each other as ‘comrades’ and listened intently as the leaders of the NWU called for the socialist transformation of society.

In an era dominated by finance capital and widespread corruption, it is understandably difficult to find value in a declining labour movement. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 effectively marked the triumph of Western (neo) liberalism over State socialism. Workers were left to fend for themselves, as capitalism spread its tentacles to every corner of the globe and unions succumbed to the logic of corporate bureaucracy.  

The wealth gap between the ruling elites and the working poor continues to widen exponentially. It is not even clear who constitutes a worker, as millions around the world are resigned to temporary work and only a step away from joining the reserve army of the unemployed.

The dedicated members of the NWU do not seem deterred by the failures of the past nor the contradictions of the present. Their vision is set on the future. The NWU is the most progressive and radical labour union operating in Trinidad and Tobago today, with an insistence on organizing the unorganized in diverse sectors and a stubborn focus on union democracy.  

The NWU is the only union in Trinidad and Tobago that allows for other unions to affiliate with it, fostering a broad coalition of trade unions and a united front. Individual employees, who may not have prior union affiliation, are also encouraged to bring their grievances to the union to find resolutions. The members of the NWU are at the heart of its organizational structure. According to the organization’s Deputy President, Cecil Paul, the NWU is opposed to any form of authoritarian leadership.

What is to be done? The NWU offers a sobering programme for taking charge of the present and shaping the future. It is a programme that calls for us to recognize Imperialism as a fundamental category for understanding modern society.  

The state has become a revolving door for corporate vultures and their political vampires. As billions are looted by white-collar criminals, the black-collar poor are confined to ghettos monitored by highly militarized police forces.  

Everything is being privatized -- land, housing, healthcare, education. All that is solid is melting into air before our eyes. This is true in the United States as much as it is true is Trinidad and Tobago.  

It is incorrect to claim that Trinidad and Tobago is fractured by issues of race rather than class. The success of the NWU proves that unions are anything but a relic of the 20th century. The strength of our unions reflects the strength of our society. With their hard work, commitment, patience, diligence, and fortitude, the comrades at NWU are charting the course for a more egalitarian future where those who toil have the right to dictate the terms of social production and distribution.

Every empire feels it is unique and exceptional. Comrades, let us keep strong during the dark times of the current empire. As reactionary storms gather around us, let us continue to sing the songs of revolution and forge ahead in unison.

NWU CHESS TOURNAMENT BEGINS

posted 23 Oct 2014 06:49 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 23 Oct 2014 06:51 ]


Comrade Frank Sears
As part of its Tenth Anniversary Celebrations, the National Workers Union (NWU) is sponsoring the first San Fernando Open Chess Tournament which is due to start on Friday 24th October and run until Sunday 2nd November at the District Scout Headquarters Embacadere, San Fernando.

NWU President, Frank Sears, conceptualised the tournament and persuaded the NWU Executive to donate a cash prize and a Challenge trophy.

Originally, the tournament was meant to be part of this year’s San Fernando City Week celebrations but even though the Mayor was approached and verbal assistance was given, the only connection now is that the tournament is coincidentally held during the city’s celebrations.

The Union is partnered by the local Chess Association and the actual host of the tournament - the Southern Chess Club. It has attracted players from nearby countries and top local players since it is conducted according to the world body (FIDE) guidelines with the winner receiving a $3000 prize and his name engraved on the NWU Challenge trophy.

Comrade Sears is a practicing FIDE Candidate Master and, in 1972, was the Caribbean Chess Champion. He also represented Trinidad and Tobago at Chess Olympiads in the 1980s. He is cited as saying it was his announcement last year at a tournament named after him that he would strive to bring a major tournament to the southern city.

As the event draws near players from all over the country will be journeying to San Fernando over the next ten days, vying for prizes. Incredibly the tournament has attracted Primary school children and veterans in their seventh decade of life.

When asked why Chess and not a more popular sport, (like swimming, with which he had been involved for years), Comrade Sears said succinctly, “Chess does not make you smart it makes you smarter. Our society needs as many disciplined, focused, creative people as possible and the NWU is here to foster these attributes.”

Comrade Sears has organised numerous annual Chess tournaments held by the OWTU as part of their June 19th celebrations, so this latest manifestation is nothing new for the comrade

TAKE CHARGE OF THE PRESENT! SHAPE THE FUTURE!

posted 21 Oct 2014 18:24 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 21 Oct 2014 19:47 ]

To commemorate the tenth anniversary of its registration as a union (October 14th 2004), the National Workers Union (NWU) held a function at the audio visual room of the National Library of Trinidad and Tobago (NALIS), Hart and Abercromby Streets, Port of Spain, on Friday October 18th 2014.


Comrade Frank Sears

The theme of the function as was displayed on an impressive banner dominating the stage area was: Take charge of the Present! Shape the Future! After the national anthem was played on
tenor pan by Makesi Joseph, President of NWU Comrade Frank Sears
opened the proceedings which he chaired for the duration of the function.

The chairman introduced Comrade Dave Smith, the General Secretary of NWU who spoke of how the NWU came into being and how it developed over the period. In speaking of the early discussions that led to the formation of the NWU he said: “The discussion amongst those founding comrades of the NWU was really how best a small group of committed and experienced comrades could best impact the labour movement with the limited resources at our disposal."

He stressed that in order to get around the prohibition of a union that represents one group of workers in an “essential industry” from representing another such group, the NWU developed the concept of affiliated unions.
 
Comrade Dave Smith
He stated: "The NWU is, as far as we know, the only union in T&T that has the provision for unions to affiliate to the NWU…By giving the NWU the ability to have new unions affiliated to it and integrated into its ranks, we are hoping we have devised a mechanism to manoeuvre around this piece of anti-union legislation…we are pleased to see the National Health Workers Union and the National Aviation Workers Union in the ranks of the NWU through the affiliation process. 

This is our contribution to building solidarity, organising the unorganised and strengthening the broader trade union movement…By sharing limited resources, the NWU structure opens up the possibility of small and struggling unions having core administrative and organisational services provided for them through affiliation. 

Not only office facilities, but education and research, access to organising and negotiating skills, a central facility for shared office space, membership records systems and accounting. All functions vital to a trade union, but exceptionally difficult for small unions to acquire.”

The feature address was delivered by Comrade Cecil Paul, Deputy President of the National Workers Union (NWU). It dealt with the theme of the anniversary celebration: Take charge of the present! Shape the Future!
 
In introducing the feature speaker, the Chairman noted that he was: “a comrade who reflects in his persona an amalgam of his contemporaries. He is a comrade who progressed through the ranks as a shop-steward, branch officer, and President of the National Petroleum Branch of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union.
 
Comrade Cecil Paul
He went on to become the chairman of the north co-ordinating council which comprised all the branches of the OWTU in the north of the country, chief labour relations officer and First Vice President of the OWTU...was central to the development of the Social Wage policy of the union and was a former general secretary of the Council of Progressive Trade Unions…born and bred in the San Juan area…has always been involved in sport (San Juan Jabloteh), culture (various steelbands) and other social organizations.”
 

Comrade Paul made a detailed analysis of the national situation and the situation in the trade union movement and within the wider working class. He laid out the tasks that had to be carried out so that the labour movement could “take charge of the present” 

He made a cold-eyed analysis of the deficiencies within the trade union movement and stated “We are not armed with the necessary perspective, the overall vision, the requisite strategies, the trained human resources, to beat back the assault from the state, the big capitalists and the employers on the entitlements, rights and benefits of unionised workers. 

The trade union movement must embark on an intensive and extensive education, training and communication drive. Our foot soldiers, the shop stewards and branch officers must be trained to handle whatever is thrown at them from the shop floor to the Industrial Court to the picket line and the strike camp.

But this vision can only work and we can only move forward when we abandon the culture of authoritarianism and embrace a culture of participation and democracy for the rank and file.”
 
He concluded by making a clarion call to the Labour Movement “to return to the days of struggle, vigilance, strategic planning and direct action in defence of the country and of working people. We must be self-reliant and fierce defenders of working class democracy. We must be tribunes of the people. Our unions must be schools of revolution, both practical and theoretical. It is time we accept responsibility for shaping the future…”
 
From left: Comrades Winston Edward, Alva Allen, Ramdeo Boodram
The next phase of the function involved the presentation of awards to three trade unionists, none of them members of the NWU. Comrade Sears introduced this phase of the function by saying: “this segment of our programme was the most challenging and fulfilling in bringing it into fruition. Challenging in the sense that when we decided to choose some awardees, the rich history of struggle and perseverance of our eighty year old labour movement had, then and now, unsung heroes who simply worked in the trenches so to speak for future generations to benefit. 

Dozens of names and personalities were listed but our resources did not
Comrade Kathleen Davis
match the numbers who deserved some form of recognition for their sacrifices, sometimes to the detriment of their health and family relations. 

Needless to say how the process enriched us all on hearing anecdotes of past encounters some of which we have started to document in video format by our media savvy Executive Officer, who as a former teacher was a member of TTUTA: Comrade Rae Samuel

This evening we have three comrades who allowed us the privilege of identifying them to receive an award from the National Workers Union..."
 
The biographies of Comrades Alva Allen, Ramdeo Boodram and Winston ’Man Man’ Edward were read out by NWU official Comrade Kathleen Davis and the awards were presented by Comrade
Carla Walcott of both the National Union of Domestic Employees and the NWU.
 
The last segment of the evening saw the launching of the booklet Out of Pain. It was published by the Labour Advisory Bureau
(LAB), a non-profit
company owned by the NWU and the author Comrade Gerry Kangalee, Education and Research Officer of the NWU, said a few words about the relationship between the cultural movement
and the labour movement.
 
Comrade Michael ‘Brother Scobie’ Joseph, former political detainee, former trade unionist, President of
the Southern Marines Steelband Foundation and Chairman of the South/Central region of Pan Trinbago rounded off the proceedings by pointing out the potential economic value of the Pan in a scenario against which our almost total dependence on the hydrocarbon industry was leading us to almost-certain disaster.

The first ten years has been an exciting period of building; will the next ten years be one of entrenchment and consolidation? It could very well be, if we accept the responsibility of assisting the labour movement in taking charge of the present in order to shape the future.

NWU TENTH ANNIVERSARY

posted 14 Oct 2014 19:13 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 14 Oct 2014 19:14 ]

The National Workers Union (NWU) was registered as a trade union on October 14th 2004. To honour its tenth anniversary a function will be held at the National Library (NALIS), Abercromby Street, Port of Spain, on Saturday 18th October 2014, beginning at 7:00 pm.

 

The function will include a presentation on the origin and history of the National Workers Union by General Secretary, Dave Smith; a feature address by Deputy President of the National Workers Union, Cecil Paul, which will examine the state of the trade union movement and point the direction forward for the strengthening of the movement.

 

The tenth anniversary function will also involve presentation of awards to three trade union activists who have dedicated their lives to the advancement of the interests of the working class and the launching of a booklet dealing with Canboulay, class struggle, and the steelband written by NWU Education and Research Officer Gerry Kangalee.

EBOLA, CARNIVAL AND HEALTH WORKERS PROTECTION by Gerry Kangalee

posted 10 Oct 2014 21:57 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 10 Oct 2014 21:59 ]

Well, in typical Trini style it’s the cart before the horse again! Stop the carnival, we shout, Ebola is on the march and it takes only one person to slip through, just imagine with thousands flooding in for carnival what could happen. 

It’s as if Ebola was just lurking around somewhere just waiting for carnival to come so that it could plunge in and do what it does or, as some would have it, what it is programmed to do.

The point is every day people are flying in and out of the country and the risk of someone infected with this virus coming through Piarco is ever present. Stopping the carnival is not going to reduce that risk.

Instead of focusing on the carnival what we should focus on is how prepared are we to deal with this Ebola virus. You will only

US CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION GUIDELINES


If a patient in a U.S. hospital is suspected or known to have Ebola virus disease, healthcare teams should follow standard, contact, and droplet precautions, including the following recommendations:

Isolate the patient: Patients should be isolated in a single patient room (containing a private bathroom) with the door closed.

Wear appropriate PPE: Healthcare providers entering the patients room should wear: gloves, gown (fluid resistant or impermeable), eye protection (goggles or face shield), and a facemask. Additional protective equipment might be required in certain situations (e.g., copious amounts of blood, other body fluids, vomit, or feces present in the environment), including but not limited to double gloving, disposable shoe covers, and leg coverings.

Restrict visitors: Avoid entry of visitors into the patient's room. Exceptions may be considered on a case by case basis for those who are essential for the patient's wellbeing. A logbook should be kept to document all persons entering the patient's room. See CDC's infection control guidance(http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/hcp/infection-prevention-and-control-recommendations.html) on procedures for monitoring, managing, and training of visitors.

Avoid aerosol-generating procedures: Avoid aerosol-generating procedures. If performing these procedures, PPE should include respiratory protection (N95 or higher filtering facepiece respirator) and the procedure should be performed in an airborne infection isolation room.

Implement environmental infection control measures: Diligent environmental cleaning and disinfection and safe handling of potentially contaminated materials is of paramount importance, as blood, sweat, vomit, feces, urine and other body secretions represent potentially infectious materials should be done following hospital protocols.
know if a person is infected when that person is tested. For that person to be tested contact would have had to be made with her prior to being tested. The critical issue, therefore, is that health care workers who make first contact with the person to be tested are those most at risk of becoming infected.

But they are not the only persons at risk. Those who take patients to the isolation wards and those who care for persons in those wards are also at grave risk as are laboratory workers who have to handle samples. Then there is the risk to those who have to dispose of the waste which must be handled in special packaging by people with hazardous materials training. Some of the waste matter to be disposed of may include soiled sheets and virus-spattered protective equipment. Faulty disposal puts the community at risk.

Ebola symptoms include large amounts of vomit and diarrhoea. Emory University Hospital in Atlanta Georgia, USA treated two Ebola evacuees from West Africa and at peak they were producing forty bags of waste per day.

Interestingly, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Transportation have significant differences as to how Ebola waste should be handled and disposed of, this being new and uncharted territory.

The virus has killed 10 percent of the medical staff in Kenema District hospital in Sierra Leone. In Liberia, 15% of those who have died from the virus were doctors or nurses who contracted it at work. It is not always possible to identify Ebola infection early because initial symptoms are non-specific. It is important, therefore, that health-care workers apply standard precautions consistently with all patients, regardless of their diagnosis, at all times.

To deal with the Ebola virus, health care workers must be rigorously trained in best practices and protocols that apply internationally. The training must not be restricted to a few medical bureaucrats who seize the opportunity to go on trips to observe what applies abroad.

Workers must be provided with the best personal protective equipment and intensive training in how to use the equipment particularly in relation to disrobing. Even in the countries that have developed rigorous protocols there are serious problems with the types of personal protective equipment to employ and how they are utilised, because of the lack of experience in dealing with Ebola. The equipment used to test the suspected cases must be top of the line and functioning properly and there should be clear protocols dealing with cleaning infected areas, waste handling and disposal.

When it comes to Ebola, carnival is the least of our problems. The protection of health care workers is critical and the training of these workers in the protocols of dealing with Ebola are vital.

 

 



 


THE BALISIER ACCORD? by Rae Samuel

posted 10 Oct 2014 05:24 by Gerry Kangalee

The news trailer of one of the television stations stated that the Joint Trade Union Movement was interested in talks with the now Opposition re labour relations, post May 25th 2015.

In other words, comrades, (or if you are a TTUTA leader, colleagues) we may be witnessing the birth of the "Balisier Accord'' since the Fyzabad Accord crafted by labour leaders who ended up as Acting Prime Ministers and ex-Senators suffered infanticide.

A bit of recap here: When love was warm and general secretaries went to Couva to praise Kamla and Ministers sat on their Dicks rather than help workers, the accord was alive and well for some. Others held that it was a non-starter given that labour and capital in a society such as ours have an antagonistic relationship and such agreements maintain and ultimately re-enforce the status quo.

The Fyzabad Accord died on the night of the 25th May 2010, regardless of who was welcomed into the celebrations on the following Labour Day. Well, we have come to see that love died and some labour leaders like ‘vulgar slatterns' now seek the love of Jack, Ramesh, Keith on the Farris wheel

What will the Balisier Accord produce that the Fyzabad did not? That's an easy one. Mark will be no longer Wading in the Senate water; Errol will no longer be Minister of Labour, Rudy, the Smoothie, the smartest of the lot, will return to his Caroni lands; Obika will be hauled back from Ghana and De Coteau's wig will remain in place.

They will all join the passing parade with Mary King, Verna St. Rose and Merle Hodge to the chorus of cries of domestic workers falling on deaf ears of the Minister of Labour. Bwai, all he missin' is hearin' aid to be the new Eric Williams…check out the tonal inflection!

Will doing the same thing the same way produce different results? Of course, these "Joiners'' are not mad. Who says doing the same thing the same way produces the same results? Einstein? Steups! What did he know?

Of course there is the late lamented "Workers' Agenda'', a simple document which sought to establish basic human/constitutional workers’ rights as freedom to chose one's own union, to democratise the workplace, to restore meaningful collective bargaining, to establish acceptable standards of health and safety in the work place and to guarantee minimum workers rights to health care and paid vacation.

The problem with the "Workers' Agenda'' was twofold. One was that it took the struggle away from terrain favourable to the ruling class, namely the Senate and Cabinet and the High Court of Injunctions and put it back on terrain more favourable to workers: the workplace and the communities where people suffer for and lack proper roads, adequate health care, water, lights and meaningful education.

The other was that such an approach did not require lackeys and opportunists to be in Parliament and on state boards. Or that partners thrown off the ship should seek to return home to cuss their former sailing partners, form a rump movement and stymie the growth and development of genuine leadership.

So go ahead and shake yuh ‘Balisier Accord' if that is your new plan, comrade leaders. Others know that even after 58 years the leopard remains spotted

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