The Union frequently comments on events or receives news of general interest and these are documented on this page.
News & Comment
The Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) has vowed to mount a campaign to beat back the government’s policy of privatisation. This vow was made at the JTUM-organised Conference of Shop Stewards and Branch Officers (COSSABO) held at the Cipriani Labour College on Saturday 4th March 2013.
The COSSABO, which is to resume on Saturday 23rd March at a venue to be announced, heard two presentations from the head table. The first was by Joseph Remy, President of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) who dealt with the telecommunications sector and Vincent Cabrera, President of the Banking Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU) who dealt with the financial sector.
While the turnout at the COSSABO was below par, reflecting the continuing non-participation in the JTUM by some unions, the quality of the contributions from the floor was excellent.
The rest of the session was devoted to contributions from the floor dealing with the threat of privatisation in different sectors of the economy and with ideas on strategy and tactics to defeat the neo-liberal policy adopted by the PP government.
There was broad consensus that the campaign against privatisation must involve mobilising at the workplace and in the community and must involve a wide spectrum of communication media to inform and educate the workers at the workplace and the broader community and the development of mechanisms to resist and defeat this assault on the working class.
There were calls for a unified campaign including FITUN and NATUC and for the establishment of a war council/co-ordinating committee to supervise and monitor the campaign. It is expected that the details of the campaign will be finalised on March 23rd when the COSSABO resumes.
Comrades Dave Smith, General Secretary and Gerry Kangalee, National Education and Research Officer of the National Workers Union presented the views of the NWU .
Once upon a time drive-bys, those shootings/killings where a vehicle would drive by and target rivals, would occur in the streets and we would read of them in the headlines. Well, we in the West Indies have always been a creative people so the drive-bys now take place on the cricket pitches or at WICB offices.
The hit men more often than not are former legends of the game who seem to imagine running the game is the same as running between wickets at Lord's or the Kensington Oval. Or the assassin maybe a 'suit'. This is a term used by policemen on the beat to describe those who have graduated from academies and try to run the show 'by the book'. Trinidad and Tobago say "Amen''.
So we now seem to have as much 'blood' on the sport pages as we are used to having on the front pages. The latest "kill' is Phil Simmons, former mediocre Test player and very successful coach of the Ireland cricket team, who for reasons best known to himself chose to return home to West Indies cricket, apparently to "die'.
Seems that Phil went to a meeting with the selectors to pick a team to tour Sri Lanka and decided to 'play with a straight bat', something he did not do very often in his playing days; but according to reports the 'pitch' at that meeting was turning all how and the result was less than pleasing to Phil who o
penly questioned the panel's call. There is no 3rd umpire in games like these so that's it for Phil, alongside Bravo and Pollard and soon too, it seems, Denesh Ramdin.
Short of public demonstrations from Kingston to Georgetown it is hard to imagine West Indian cricket as we have come to know it surviving this and not going the way of the manual scoreboard. Will there be cricket in the West Indies? Of course! There will be endless T-20's and other flying attractions. We have the grounds and the climate and Digicel. It's called sports tourism. Test cricket? We could 'buy' players. Offer them citizenship. Isn't that modern sport? Cricketers are already raffled in the Indian Premier League or we could bring back Tony Gray and Bryan Davis.
In the meanwhile look for statements, calls, recriminations, appeals and calls for good sense to prevail from the impotent and 'important' statesmen, elders and administrators in region. And I say this fully aware of the tragedy that this represents so soon after the Jack Warner/FIFA debacle. Once again I am reminded of something C.L.R James, servant and savant of West Indian cricket wrote in one of his essays.
He stated that Kwame Nkrumah wrote to each of the heads of the islands, when the West Indian Federation was about to collapse, reminding them that the former territories were on the march towards independence and the colonial masters would see the collapse of the Federation as proof that we could not manage our own affairs. He also pointed out that not one of them dared make the letter public. Well the federation did collapse but West Indian cricket remained the only Caribbean institution for every calypsonian from Kitchener to Rudder, to Gabby, All Rounder and Rootsman to celebrate in song.
I wonder if any bard in the region feeling to write or sing now, or if the colonial masters really knew our ruling classes better than we are willing to admit.
"Without this struggle, without this praxis, there is nothing but a carnival parade and a lot of hot air. All that is left is a slight re-adaptation, a few reforms at the top, a flag and down at the bottom a shapeless, writhing mass still mired in the Dark Ages’'
Frantz Fanon. The Wretched of the Earth. 1962
Let me begin by saying that even if workers may or may not have read the above they are certainly aware of the need for continuing struggle. NWU media have covered two ongoing worker manifestations, one at the National Insurance Board Head Office and the other at OAS Construtora head office at Golconda.
Undoubtedly objective conditions in the workplace and in communities will continue to compel more as the 'new' government takes its ceremonial time against a backdrop of daily murders and incomplete schools, installing of candidates rejected at the polls. Even the police acknowledge that 85% of murders have gone unsolved or without arrests.
But the Carnival parade as Fanon put it, the political Dimanche Gras, did take place the day before our 39th anniversary of Republicanism. Suitably attired the Queens of the Upper and Lower Houses, called Speakers/Presidents, were sworn in by Carmona, the Parade Marshall, who did a "Rodney King', thus stealing the show and showing what great powers of sarcasm indeed he does have…rent and house allowances included.
In 1991 Rodney King, some may re-call, was trotted out on television to tearfully plead “Why can't we get along” Watts, a suburb of Los Angeles, went up in flames to protest the merciless assault inflicted on him by Los Angeles Police and for which they were exonerated.
King’s plea was ludicrous, pathetic and duly ignored. How does the working poor 'get along' with this new group of political hucksters who supported Section 34 and voted for pensions for ''Par-liar-mentarians'' and are now asking to be seen as a new government? Bet your Porsche Cayenne that is not going to happen. PNM remains ideologically rooted to the economic and political system handed to them at Marlborough House by Sir Iain Macleod in 1962 as the 2015 Budget will further reveal.
C'mon comrades: What do you mean a McLeod is a Macleod then and now? We have a new government!
We must mention the "Best supporting actor' role played by Wade who has re-appeared to make his Mark. Was he on study leave up by Arthur Lok Jack? Maybe, but his performance showed how identical the political entities are. One minute or one election ago he was Speaker of the House, now he is the leader of the Opposition bench.
Which proves that election is really 'half-time' and the thieves…oops…sorry...the teams take the field again after campaigning. They may or may not switch sides and are allowed substitutes, even those 'banned' by the electorate in Mayaro. But let us remember CLR James noting in Black Jacobins that significant decisions are often not made in Parliament but merely recorded there. Hot air and all!
The incursion of Colombian paramilitary groups into Venezuela has been a silent and dangerous invasion. It cannot allow under any circumstance that paramilitary groups be established in the country. Admittedly Colombian brothers have come to work with dignity, but others have come to commit crimes.
The paramilitary groups act as mercenaries’ cells, paid by landowners or governments that promote terrorism and paramilitarism in Venezuela began acting at the frontier of Tachira, Apure and Zulia cattle rustling, kidnapping, extortion and killings. Proof of this has been the number of peasants killed by hired killers over the issue of land by paramilitary groups.
All these events are not accidental. Behind these events is the hand of Santander Uribe Velez and his family, one of the creators of such mercenaries or paramilitaries in his country. There are also the seven US bases, besides US embassies in Colombia, in Venezuela there is the fascist bourgeoisie that just want a jackboot to be installed here. They are using the paramilitaries to destabilize the country, the electricity service, the university and economic sectors not to mention convulsing large cities with guarimbas and killings of leaders.
Venezuela has denounced the presence of paramilitary groups of the extreme right in its territory. These groups, coming from Colombia, pursue well-defined political and economic objectives. Three cases of murder with extreme violence committed recently caused fear and outrage in the Venezuelan population. Despite the fact that it was intended to link those crimes to common criminals, Bolivarian government research found links with paramilitarism.
There is evidence of the Colombian Government hiring professional killers in the border area as well as using internal political criminal elements linked to the killing of the youngest elected member of Parliament Robert Serra and his fiancé and the murder of Eliezer Otaiza who was alderman in the municipality of Libertador in Caracas. At the same time it has become clear that through these crimes what is sought was the weakening of the Bolivarian Revolution.
Exactly two years ago the report on the conspiratorial acts against the welfare of the country executed by three diplomats from the US government in Caracas was revealed. In this report it was explained that Kelly Keiderling, Elizabeth Hunderland and David Mutt held meetings with opposition sectors of Amazonas and Bolivar linked to destabilization plans put in place both in the basic industries of the region, including the promotion of street protests and the promotion of indigenous rebellions. This fact merited the expulsion of three officials of the US embassy in Caracas.
These actions are connected to the collapse of Total Plan, denounced in recent days by President Nicolas Maduro and providing for the destabilization of the Bolivarian Revolution and the Venezuelan democracy. It's a great psychological operation with concrete expressions taken directly by these officials of the US Embassy. President Nicolas Maduro has put an iron hand to defend the homeland at whatever expense.
Venezuela and Colombia share 2,219 kilometres of land border, one of the longest and most densely populated of South America. The daily crossing from side to side, through the legal procedures, and dozens of trails, is intense. This situation has led, for the lack of control of both Colombian and Venezuelan authorities, to an environment conducive to illegality, which imperialism takes advantages of in order to defeat the Bolivarian revolution.
''Who cares about the babies that are dying
Who cares about the mothers that are crying''
A little room behind the big house in Hope Road: a friend comes and tells us Bob is rehearsing and we leave the Turntable nightclub and pile into a 1600 box Datsun 1976 style. Bob Marley has just 'broken' internationally as they say in show business and the ''Natty Dread'' album is gold. The Federal Palm and the Federal Maple, gift boats from the Canadian government, sail from Trinidad to Jamaica so one can island hop for a small fee. And dread locks now start to spread!
Bob barebacked, tiny, with his 'tam' covering his soon to be legendary locks, is seated with his guitar next to a cigar box amp as they called it in those days. Legendary Jamaican footballer Alan "Skill' Cole is in the room and sharing out spliff if one so wants. Several large ones, the size of one's middle finger, sit atop the amp. Bob does not stop but continues poignantly: "Who cares about the babies that are dying/Who cares about the mothers that are crying/Hey Mr. Business man you worried about your dollar/Do you know where the sun went last night?” And is a positive vibration .and is a positive vibration.
That rough cut would end up on the "War' album as "Rastaman Vibration”. But even now, especially now, it is easy to recall that cameo. I never got to talk to Bob. Something in the air…a 'crime' for which a son has never forgiven.
But it was a period when Michael Manley was experimenting with his version of socialism and young Jamaicans, many of them teenagers, were dropping by the score as “political voyolence filled ya city'' Gang warfare in Jamaica is highly politicised. Kissinger, it is said, in the U.S State Dep't dreaded another Cuba in the Caribbean and Kingston became a Wild West frontier town.
What brought this on this time? The shooting death of a 12 year old in broad daylight in the capital city on an open street… and the response of some teachers and their trade union. We all will and must mourn and it will be lead alas by some of the newly politically anointed who will bare and beat their chests because they have no other adequate response. But a special word to the teachers who mean well and are responding, incorrectly in my view, because of how the 'media', that 'objective protector' of our interests, has spun the story.
The issue is NOT whether he was going to or from school or not going to school at all, if his pants were too tight, if his parents could have been contacted, if the rules allow for him to remain in school until such time someone responsible could be found, how he behaved himself, what kind of friends he had. That is media spin and we must not continue to fall for it.
The issue screaming for our attention is how do we ordinary people, in the face of indifference and apathy or rote response by those in authority, secluded and insulated behind increased defence spending, how do we begin to fend for ourselves? This young man by this time next week would have become nameless and faceless for far too many of us.
"And if not now… when/ And if not you and me…who?"
Funny thing about the new PNM administration is how quietly they seem to have settled down or how quickly attention seemed to have turned elsewhere; as if persons are not expecting too much too soon. History is a wise teacher seems to be the national watchword these days. Do we imagine that we can hold them to anything?
But otherwise it seems to be business as usual on all too many fronts. The roads continue to be needlessly and hopelessly overcrowded. I have developed a theory that our roads are littered not overcrowded. What is the difference? One can manage overcrowding by using space in different ways or removing items. Litter is a condition of being overtaken by too large a volume that has become unmanageable.
Crime, led by homicide, is no longer a lead story, unless it is a 13 year old on the way home from school or a 19 year old out in the street in a non 'hot-spot' area. But we have to secure our borders not our streets or homes. That is why another Brigadier is now the Minister of National Security. The military from the late Colonel Joseph Theodore through John Sandy, Carl Alfonso to newly crowned Edmund Dillon will make feel us safe. Was going to say yeah right!... but then it’s a step up on Black Boat Chin Lee… or is it?
One of the greatest ironies in our approach to the homicide epidemic is how blasé those in and those recently out of power have become. If this number of people were dying from cholera, AIDS or food poisoning there would be an adequate response. But apparently gunshots are more acceptable than viruses.Who told you to 'screw' naked and unprotected rather than find yourself in 'the wrong place at the wrong time'. We would have forgiven and forgotten you for the latter or to ply your P.H taxi in an effort to stave off the austerity that is already here for so many working people?
Will there be a political honeymoon? Seems unlikely. The old issues that characterise the social order remain and the vanguard of the new politics is the same old veteran political clique. Youth and the new found eloquent Tobagonian 'breath of fresh air’? Well the poor dear has already been laid to rest in a Ministry. How much weight does a nephew or niece have in a house full of aunties anyway?
Summary? Those of us who can must hold our position that the election ritual is a struggle between contenders for office and the opportunity to manage power on behalf of the ruling class. It is our day to day fight in this class struggle that will keep us from going further under in these conditions.
It is no secret that Venezuela has been a generous country with all its neighbors; all the time: receiving refugees due to the conflict which has been going on in Colombia for more than fifty years and which has not yet been resolved. The Colombian government has tended to turn "a blind eye" to thousands of illegal immigrants and allowed them to settle on the Venezuelan side of the border to merge with nationals.
None of it would be bad if it had not reached the limits of unimaginable abuse and the mess we see today and that we know is not a new reality, only that it touched the bottom in a context of absence of the law that allowed smuggling, the economic bleeding, violence and absolute disrespect to the people of Venezuela something that no government can tolerate.
This is the time where we have to look inward a good time in our country to examine the historical political errors, debug corruption that allowed this state of things to happen and recover governance and sovereignty in this age where the country begins (not where it ends).
The responsibility for what happens there is shared, by action or omission, by the two sides of the border. Colombia enjoyed and abused this state of affairs because we were not able to put territorial order for many decades. And this is not an issue of xenophobia as the Colombian government intends to make it look, but a matter of justice and governance, and ending criminality in the border areas to destabilise Venezuela.
The Colombian government wants to cover up its misconduct because it is the only one in the world that protects smuggling and money laundering. In addition, there are those who have been leading this state and have persecuted their own people. The Colombian oligarchy mounted a crime industry in that area that lives off drug trafficking, smuggling of gasoline and food extraction and extortion.
That a Venezuelan cannot get soap to wash himself or a food package and sees how those domestic products are smuggled and sold by kilos in the neighbouring country is outrageous. That our gasoline is being taken away, as if it were water, is inadmissible. That we have subjected our whole border towns to gangster (paraco) fear and terror is unprecedented. That our paper money is carried away to bankrupt the economy generating an inflationary spiral is immoral.
And to be questioned for closing the border to end this is an act of profound hypocrisy and cynicism. We care nothing if Santos was caught in the problem in Colombia, if they are going to denounce us in the OAS, the UN or the Heavenly Court. VENEZUELA MUST BE RESPECTED. We support President Maduro with these measures.
Even as Smiley Fwankie introduced our 7th Prime Minister Keith 'Wowley' one had to concede that the outgoing political leader of the country had the second to last laugh on election night. Rowley emerging victorious had the first and Jack, claiming Kamla's scalp as he went down in political flames, had the 3rd to last.
You see, there were lots of run offs on election night. The first was around 7 p.m. when never again acting Prime Minister Errol ran off when asked to comment on the upcoming results. Who would have thought it? McLeod turning down yet another chance to play to the crowd? And hastening onto the dust heap of history, though it would surprise no one if he found 'rehab' in Paramount building. After all, Agreement has been signed with Rowley.. as was signed with Kamla 5 years ago..
Then for the whole night Moonie could not be found or heard from. Moonie who sateth at the right hand of Kamla and on her left hip for 5 years and 3 Parliament-dissolved months also seemed to have run off. Up to this time, one night after the election results, he has not been heard . The last loudmouth so silenced was Anil of 2 pull fame
Of course the run off of the night was Ms. Persad-Bissessar who, rather than face the tassa music at Rienzi complex, ran off to her home base in Siparia. Can't blame the lady either, after all she was no longer one of the best dressed or most powerful 100 women in the world .It must have been a sobering thought..shhh! No snide remarks please.
But as required she soldiered on. Debe/Penal was not invited to 'lift every voice and sing' like the last time she lost. But she was inflicted enough to raise the non-issue of who got the most votes. Where did she get that from? Brent Sancho of course! In football they sometimes display charts showing who had possession of the ball most of the game..Which means nothing since goals win matches and seats win elections.
Another significant run off was Prakash. He was running off at the mouth seeking to give support to Keithos with his one man/one seat Party. ”If Mr. Rowley is true to his word....blah blah''. As one radio talk show host put it the Congress of the People is now the Congress of the Person.
I want to suggest that Prakash is the first candidate in Trinidad history to go up on a Party ticket and emerge as an independent. He alone won for the COP and there is no longer any Partnership. Sorry Errol Fabien. He beat you to it.
The last run off came late in the race when the election result had already been determined. It looked like we would have been seeing Cliff Couteau's Pirelli tyre hair hairpiece in Parliament for another 5 years. Alas the majority of voters opted for a different hairstyle in 2015 and his opponent ran off with his political wig. One is tempted to call it a close shave.
Your success in having the 14% salary adjustment effected at August month’s end instead of the promised September date is testimony to what can be achieved via unity and militancy.
Monthly paid health care workers were able to rise above the hate and venom of the worst Minister of Health in the history of Trinidad and Tobago and also the absence of a union with Recognised Majority Union (RMU) status and a collective agreement. Instead workers responded to calls on the shop floor for a united response to issues which affected them across all categories and in each of the RHAs.
The NHWU is pleased with the leading role played by our officers, activists and members in all of these initiatives. We were prominent at all demonstrations, our flags, banners and placards were held high in Port of Spain, San Fernando, Couva (Children’s Hospital) and Point Fortin. Our public relations were professionally handled by activists and officers of the “parent body” NWU; our social media visibility peaked as thousands of hits were recorded on our Face Book page and website. Also hundreds of “lights” also went out or were dimmed significantly during the period of the struggle.
It was this coming together of Health Care Professionals across ALL categories of staff that forced the Minister of Finance to find money one month earlier. There are many lessons to be learned from this recent experience;
1) Unity is strength. Most of the problems in the health care sector affect all workers across all classifications. Indeed they also affect all patients too. It makes little sense to try to address these problems in a piecemeal manner which will allow management to play one group against the other.
2) Recognised Majority Union (RMU) status is your life blood. Its absence is the reason that that there is no negotiation on your behalf for salaries, pensions, medical, etc. This is the reason that the RHA’s are able to unilaterally reduce your benefits.
3) Collective Agreement. This is the document which your RMU with the management will put in place. This will secure all your terms and conditions of employment and can only be changed via negotiations.
Comrades do not allow your next negotiation to follow this and all your previous salary adjustments whereby you are given just a tiny part of a negotiation process which is specific for Public Officers. You need your own negotiation which will address your specific needs. Your own union, representing all health workers is your best bet.
Going forward the NHWU intends to demand that your back pay must be paid at September month’s end. This is our position regardless of who won the general election. A debt is a debt and must be paid. We want we money…RIGHT NOW!
GOING TO WORK WITHOUT A RECOGNISED MAJORITY UNION IS DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH.
JOIN NHWU NOW!