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


posted by Gerry Kangalee

Image result for rafiki morrisIt sometimes pains me to see how much energy our people put into blaming others for our condition. By this i do not mean we blame white people or the system. What I am talking about here is we blame our leaders for our failures. We think we are still oppressed because Williams was to British, Mugabe failed us in Zimbabwe, Mandela negotiated badly, Obama did not represent, Martin King was non-violent, Malcolm, Qaddafi and Bishop died.

We seem to think that leaders are supposed to set us free. But this is really a dumb idea held by people who do not understand their own power or relationship to the struggle for their own liberty. Williams was a product of the colonialism he opposed.

Mugabe did not liberate Zimbabwe, this was done by a people's war involving the whole of the Zimbabwe population, no one man no matter how great can liberate a nation. Mandela did what the people of South African allowed him to do. Malcolm, Qaddafi and Bishop died because we the people were not organized enough to protect them. Even Obama lead us nowhere because, beyond the White House, we weren't going any place in particular. We were so happy that he was elected we forgot to demand freedom, justice and equality from him.

My point is leadership is only a reflection of the political organization and commitment of the people. When leaders fail it is because we have not demanded success of them, have not held them accountable to the will of the masses or been able to protect them when they did confront our enemies with a view to defeating them. When we look for someone to blame we should first cast our glance into the mirror and take a good long look at ourselves..

At a certain level we blame leadership to keep from accepting responsibility for our own failure to organize and educate ourselves. Even our activists see leading, being out front and getting noticed as semi-glamorous work done in the public eye. They seek the attention, influence and notoriety that come with leadership but have no stomach for the gruelling day to day work of organizing and empowering the people.

This, because the real work is not glamorous, not in the public eye, and not easy. This work, organizing the people, is done on the ground, in small groups, hiding from cameras, police and informers. This is the real base upon which African Unity must be built. What is important is unnoticed exchanges with people who are voiceless and faceless, everyday folks seeking to gain a measure of control over their lives and their future.

This is the work that only we, the people can do and we don't need leaders to do it. What we need is selfless commitment to the people and their needs. What we need the conscientious effort of the people themselves. What we need is you, without the active, conscious, organized participation of the people,

We cannot really blame anybody but ourselves for the state we continue to be in.


posted 11 Jan 2018, 09:25 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 11 Jan 2018, 10:04 ]

Dorbrene O'Marde
Chair, Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission
The concepts of nationhood and citizenship have been missing from the public debate about the
Image result for barbuda map trauma of Hurricane Irma. The debate has become vitriolic. Overtures are being made to the legal entanglement of the British Privy Council. The long wait for final decisions will give space for the acrimony to fester in perversion of the needed healing of the nation, Antigua and Barbuda. The main contention is about land - the lands of Barbuda island. (See here and here)

Between 1671 and 1901 Barbuda was British Crown territory leased to various members of the Codrington family and others. Persons living on Barbuda were considered tenants of the Crown – first living on leased lands as ‘enslaved persons’ and since 1834, doing so as ‘freed’ persons.

The British Emancipation Act of 1833 which mandated the abolition of slavery did not mention ‘Barbuda’, either because Barbuda was recognized as a part of Antigua and/or that Barbuda conceptualized as a leased estate, not an island.

The non-imposition in Antigua (to include Barbuda) of a mandatory apprenticeship system that resulted in immediate emancipation, created a unique problem for the estate lease owning Codringtons, whose new reality – since August 1st 1834 – was that over five hundred free persons were living on the ‘their’ island/estate, over whom they no longer had chattel control.

The pro-slavery Bethel Codrington lamented ..."Negro emancipation seems to have made the Proprietor the slave. The former will reside in my property and have daily wages whether I have work for them or not."

Codrington could not have sold to the free persons the lands they lived on - those lands were not his. He could not get them off his leased property – they resisted strongly in 1834/35. To the majority, Barbuda was home – the only land they knew. Colonial correspondence in 1871 describes the situation as follows: "The inhabitants of the island have always been the subjects of the Queen...the island belongs to the Queen, by whom it is leased to the worthy Codrington family under which the inhabitants enjoy their lands”. The lands referenced here which the inhabitants ‘enjoyed’ were all Crown lands..

The lease to the ‘worthy’ Codringtons ended in or before 1885, for that year, the Crown granted a lease to Robert Dougall. This lease was terminated in 1898 when the Crown repossessed the island and placed it under the laws of Antigua.

The Codringtons since 1885 therefore would have had no authority over Barbuda or its lands. The idea that they transferred the Queen’s lands to Barbudans as reparations for enslavement is preposterous. They had openly campaigned against abolition and pocketed £6286 18S 11d (of the British £20 million reparations to planters and enslavers) on the 2ndNov 1835 for ‘freeing’ four hundred and ninety two enslaved persons on Barbuda.

We find no evidence that the Queen/the Crown at any time since 1671 agreed to any transfer of British property to the inhabitants of Barbuda. The Codringtons could have willed the cash value of their estate and their property – to include enslaved Africans, animals and crops - but never the land. It is therefore difficult to conclude that persons born in Barbuda and their descendants owned the lands of Barbuda before the passage of the Barbuda Land Act of 2007 so proclaimed.
The Codrington family leased the island of Barbuda from the English crown for the nominal price of "one fat pig per year if asked".

There is no doubt however that since 1671 Barbudans have been virtually ‘left alone’ on Queen/Crown property exerting a nationalism and developing cultural traits based on their interpretation/assumption that they ‘owned’ the lands in common, a position they have steadfastly held even in the face of the rejection of higher courts and police and political aggression.

The Independence Act of 1981 transferred all British Crown lands to the Government of Antigua and Barbuda – a fact that never altered the relationship Barbudans had with the lands of Barbuda. Barbudans remained ‘left alone,’ this time on what are legally national lands.

The inference that Barbudans owned the lands of Barbuda was reinforced in 2007 when the Barbuda Land Act made legal the then existing system of land tenure in Barbuda, confirmed that all lands in Barbuda is vested in the Crown [Governor General] on behalf of the people of Barbuda, who own it in common!

The Act transferred approximately 36% of the lands of the nation to a select group of Antiguans and Barbudans, established a second land tenure system in the nation and delegated land control to a Barbuda Council, a rather unique local government institution that exists only in the north of Antigua and Barbuda.

The constitutionality of this Act must be questioned as must the amendments made under it in 2016 that gave the Barbuda Council power – for whatever reason or reason(s) - to grant leases of up to ninety nine years. I contend however that even if the Act and its enforcements that define our present position are repealed or found unconstitutional – as we think they are - this should not shape our final actions.

Barbudans have had their present relationship with land since Emancipation. It is a relationship that existed through all forms of colonial government, made legal in national government since 1981, and reconfirmed in 2007.

Barbudans therefore do hold some legitimate expectation that their ownership – in common - of the lands of Barbuda remains now and into the future - the destruction of Hurricane Irma notwithstanding. This expectation seems reasonable and valid and, although not a legal right, simply asks for constructive consultation and fairness in reviewing established 184+ year old practice.

There are two main proposals on the table. One – that we leave the status quo and allow it to govern our way forward, and two – that Crown lands in Barbuda be sold to resident Barbudans and their offspring for a commitment of a single dollar, allowing inhabitants a negotiable freehold title. 

This proposal eliminates the Barbudan legitimate expectation to own their lands in common into the future. The confusion that is sure to follow has not been properly assessed – and if so, it has not been properly communicated.

Does this dollar for a plot of Crown land apply to Barbudan descendants who have never seen/contributed to/cared about Barbuda? Does the same price apply to lands for business, for grazing, for cultivation? Are there performance clauses attached or I can simply find my four dollars and own acres of Crown land? 

Can the freehold be transferred, bartered, sold, willed? To whom? Barbudans only? Is this offer available to ‘foreigners’ or other citizens who have investment or retirement ideas? Can these decisions be fairly made in the prevailing political climate? Will it hasten and engender the will of Barbudans to return and participate fully in the rebuilding of Barbuda?

We propose a third alternative, one which has potential to produce a win-win situation, one that buries loose talk, unreasonable demands and importantly appreciates the reality of the psychological trauma of evacuation and material losses experienced by citizens on the island of Barbuda:

1) That based on the projected population growth and residential housing needs over the next fifty years, and taking into account the perceived impact of climate change, that an adequate portion of Barbuda lands be allocated to common ownership, the management of which continues as it exists today. This decision should at least satisfy the legitimate expectations of most Barbudans.

There are dangers here that we end up with an undesirable ‘Barbuda’ enclave, surrounded by lands owned or leased to both local and foreign interests – as the situation with the original peoples (Caribs/Kalinago) in Dominica. Further thought and discussion on this proposal is merited. In addition, who supports the development and infrastructural needs? What revenue will this common owned land generate? Will public services like education and health be established solely for common land residents or for every one? On and on...

2) The remaining lands in Barbuda – all Crown lands - be managed as all lands of Antigua and Barbuda are presently managed. Full stop. This promotes the constitutional right that citizens of Antigua and Barbuda should enjoy the same rights and ‘be one people.’

This proposal needs further deep thought and examination. It does not address the challenge of rebuilding Barbuda nor does it address a number of other issues. Do we continue to shape administrative and legal instruments that promote Barbuda as a state within the nation? Do we continue to support two systems of decision making in the nation – one by popular referendum in Barbuda and one by Cabinet rule in Antigua and Barbuda? Do we need an eleven man Council to run the affairs of a population of less than eighteen hundred people – a Council that employs over five hundred persons? Do we retain parallel systems of taxation and tax collection, of public utilities pricing?

The proposal is offered as the entry point to honest negotiations. It calls for constructive consultation. It recognizes the imperative of bringing the people of the nation together, engaged in a process to further a collective agenda. It moves to make citizenship more whole and the union more perfect.


posted 9 Jan 2018, 12:37 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 9 Jan 2018, 12:39 ]

Rae Samuel
I remember covering the funeral of one of the two secondary school students shot to death in Laventille around 3 o'clock an afternoon, on a school day, some 3 years ago.

It was a crowded little church in East Port-of-Spain. The road had been blocked off and there was a tent across the roadway. The mourners were children, yes, children who had to come to terms with the shooting death of fellow students who played, studied, possibly even fought and flirted with them. What one saw on these young faces was bewilderment mostly.

He was a talented young cricketer who had brought honour to his school and community. His gear was on display. All the talk about 'hotspots/single parent homes/juvenile delinquency' rings hollow at a time like this. They did not do this or create the conditions that lead/led to such occurrences. The teaching staff was there too, trying to be strong and courageous under terrifying circumstances, an incredibly difficult task.

The nightly news, one night after the Prime Minister addresses the nation and the Cabinet frontline storms the morning talk shows with three of their front line Ministers, shows a car carrying youngsters home from school is shot at, resulting in the fiery death of two persons, one a fifteen year old.

I do not know how many pre-teens and teens have been killed since that funeral. For far too many, it is a reason to quickly turn to the sports page or flip the channel. The carnage has become part of our lives just like potholes in the road, increased fuel prices, crime in the military and police service and deep seated corruption in the judiciary.

And those of us who imagine that the elements responsible will become exhausted, take a break for Carnival or engage in debate about the gender of the next President, who is the new Archbishop or who should really be the next Acting Police Commissioner: you too will end up spouting the latest inane rhetoric "Keep hope alive”.

Murder has now become the supreme expression of corruption in our culture. While it may be allied to other forms of illegal activity, it is said illegal activity which has facilitated and encouraged it. Franz Fanon in his classic work "Wretched of the Earth'' also explains what happens when the underclass are hemmed in poor social conditions and are made to feel dehumanised. They turn that fury inward. They live and die unnoticed until living and dying unnoticed becomes very, very noticeable.

Ministers, lay and cleric get headlines. No media house is willing to spend a week in these areas capturing daily life. Then here come the priests, lawyers, sociologists, teachers, pundits, criminologists with myriad analyses, theses, position papers, fulminations and arrant postulations.

The reality is that the current national leadership of our country has broken down and regardless of how much oil we drill or tourists we invite, we have collapsed. As I said earlier the persons stealing our oil, mismanaging our transportation systems, holding prisoners to ransom in Remand Yard, shooting/killing babies, teenagers and young women are organised and purposeful.

The old days are gone and what faces us has become so terrifying that we cringe into denial. But that won't work either


posted 9 Jan 2018, 10:10 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 9 Jan 2018, 10:11 ]

Keston K. Perry
The Prime Minister announced a National Investment Fund that will basically constitute the proceeds from the sale of CLICO assets. The approximate $23 Billion (though some analysts determine it is more) of public money that had been put into this Private Company will be akin to a holding company.

My understanding is that it will be where private investors, mainly high income and upper middle income earners, can buy units that would be denominated so that investors earn interest and other rewards on their investment. Contrary to the Prime Minister's statement, regular working people cannot afford to invest and do not have the surplus income so to do. So they will lose out and those with means and political connections will gain more wealth.

What the government has proposed (that I think should be resisted forcefully) is basically taking monies once owned collectively by all of us to be transferred to a few rich and upper middle income people who can afford and get rich on this fund. I think this is an obscene travesty.

Redirecting these funds in this manner is not a useful or long term approach to investment that has any chance to spur diversification. Public ownership of those funds is the ONLY guarantee that any redistribution of wealth will occur so that the labouring and working class people may benefit; even though I am skeptical, given the modus operandi and ethos of this government to be aligned closely to a few members of the upper class.

The government has also not outlined any transformative public investment strategy that will redound to citizens' collective benefit now and the future.

Some are engaging in certain bourgeois technical and procedural discussion that is of no use to the collective citizenry. They say that investing in state enterprises is wasteful, leads to corruption and ineffective decisions. This argument is flawed on many levels, not least of which it sets up state enterprises as a bogeyman without appropriate evaluation on their own terms of why they may perform poorly.

Many were happy with the de facto nationalisation of Clico with state agents effectively running it over 8 years, but now are saying the state should not hold it in trust or invest the monies on behalf of citizens in transformative diversification projects and collective public goods. This blatant hypocrisy has to be called out.

We should not hold out this fig leaf from an anti-democratic elite to decide that these public monies should be transferred to their party financiers. We should resist this action immediately and forcefully. While the people elected the PNM to address a challenging economic situation, we did not do so for them to transfer monies to party hacks and the 1 per cent. It is an undemocratic move that should be staunchly opposed.


posted 8 Jan 2018, 14:04 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 8 Jan 2018, 14:25 ]

Image result for bigwuThe Banking Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU) was granted recognition on behalf of employees of Royal Bank of Canada Image result for rbc(RBC) after seven years, only to have it taken away by the High Court. The Bank applied for Judicial Review because it did not agree with the decision of the Registration Recognition and Certification Board (RRCB).

It is well known in judicial circles that some members of the High Court have a very low opinion of the competence of the members of the RRCB. It is also well known that the High Court and the Court of Appeal has commented, in the past, about that section of the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) which appear to have granted immunity from adverse consequences which might arise from decisions of the Board.

Section 23 (6) says: “No decision, order, direction, declaration, ruling or other determination of the Board shall be challenged, appealed against, reviewed, quashed or called in question in any court on any account whatever; and no order shall be made or process entered or proceeding taken by or in any court, whether by way of injunction, declaratory injunction, declaratory judgement, certiorari, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto or otherwise to question, review, prohibit, restrain or otherwise interfere with the Board or any proceedings before it.”

That section seems to call into question the judgement of the High Court in the above matter. But on further examination, what the bank has done, with the support of the High Court, is to begin the process of demolishing that wall which was erected to shield the Tripartite Recognition Board because of its composition, from this very type of attack.

If section 32 (6) of the IRA is unconstitutional as the judgement of the High Court seems to imply, then the Recognition Board will be continuously looking over its shoulder, always expecting its decisions will be challenged in the High Court.

Proceeding from that premise that the view of the High Court is that it has Supervisory powers over the Board, and because some of its Judges seem to have an axe to grind on the question of jurisdiction, it agreed with the contention of the Bank that Tripartism as a mechanism for resolving recognition issues is not working.

While it may not have been spelt out in the submissions of the Bank, it is implied that the Union representatives on the Board seem to be dictating the outcome where applications for certification of recognition issues are concerned even when it is clear that a Union failed to satisfy the requirements of the law and its rules. What the Court ignored is the reality that the Board, like the Industrial Court, must also consider the following when an application for certification of recognition is received: the substantial merits of the case, the balance of probability, the environment in which the application is made, the question of good industrial relation practices as well as all the other issues which the law requires that it must consider. This is because by exercising its right to organise, the union is engaging in the practice of industrial relations which is covered by Conventions of the ILO.

It is necessary to be reminded that trade unions were not always in agreement with many decisions of the Board. In fact in the 1960s and 1970s, there were trade unions who were opposed to the passage of the Industrial Stabilisation Act and IRA into law and there were unions which were in support of the decision of the government to the extent that they mobilised their members to support legislation which as is demonstrated by the judgement of the High Court; is not in the interest of the working class.

While some members of trade unions may be too young to remember the international and national political climate in which these pieces of legislation became law, it is important to paint a picture of the period. There was a cold war raging between the Soviet Union which held up the dream of workers internationally of the possibility of workers taking state power on the one hand and the USA the leader of the capitalist world on the other. With the support of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions the USA was successful in dividing the World Federation of Trade Unions to which the Trinidad Labour Congress was affiliated.

This led to a split in the Labour Congress in the 1950s and to divisiveness which plagued the movement since then. It was against that background that these laws were imposed on the workers of this country. What we are witnessing today, in the trade union movement is even far worse than in the 60s and 70s, because there were trade union leaders on both sides of the divide who understood the importance of unity and solidarity on the job and among trade unions, even when they were using it to further the political interest of the pro-capitalist party in which they were members.

In the last few years, however, the leaders of the movement attempted to attach themselves to political parties in which they were not members, hoping to receive benefits from the false perception that they control or have influence in particular constituencies and as a result they control votes. This is not something that was given voice on platforms, but by their actions it was implied. Some people may be of the view that these things should not be pointed out. If we choose not to, we will be failing in our duty to expose for the scrutiny of the membership the mistakes we made, in order to allow them to review the performance of the movement.

It is the members who must have the final say about the direction which the movement must take. But because of the failure of the leadership to prepare the membership for struggle at the level of the branch, the ability of the movement to counter any attack from the capitalist class is questionable at this time. That is why Royal Bank of Canada chose to launch this attack at this time. It had already succeeded in dismantling the membership of the union in the bank without opposition from the movement. It knew that it could deliver the fatal blow.

The capitalist class understands the way institutions charged with the responsibility to dispense “justice”, behave when it comes down to the business of dispensing “justice” in the arena of the class struggle. The Referee, can be persuaded, if consideration is applied with the right amount of influence and political tactic.

What we must understand is that foreign and local capitalists understand the current political and industrial relations climate. They have taken the pulse of the current leadership and concluded that they are not prepared to take the fight to the employers, because they are not prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. Many of them, perhaps with a few exceptions, have come to the belief that all disputes between unions and employers should be settled in the Industrial Court. They are not prepared or willing to use the strength of the workers on the job to resolve disputes.

After the national strike in 1989, industrial action at the work site has been few in number. In the current situation, where the government as employer is going to step up the attacks on workers, in the public and state sector, private sector employers are going to seize the opportunity to join in the war against the unions. You see, they are already aware, of the fact that there is a war which is quietly being waged against the tripartite concept of the Court.

This war has taken the form of an influx of persons who are from the legal profession who have no interest in the concept of an Industrial Court that was established in accordance with ILO Conventions to which this country is a signatory. While there are a few Judges who came from the trade union movement there is still a serious imbalance with regard to the number of members who came from the trade unions.

This has occurred because the political directorate is very much aware of the interest which the current crop of leaders represents. However, even though the situation appears to be challenging, the potential danger which the High Court judgement seems to present needs to be discussed and analysed by all trade unions. A strategy has to be worked out and implemented. The leaders must come to the realisation that the movement has no choice but to resort to the fundamental strategies and tactics with the use of new technology in order to beat back the attacks which are coming thick and fast.


posted 4 Jan 2018, 12:34 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 4 Jan 2018, 12:35 ]

The United Progressive Party (UPP), in passing the Barbuda Land Act 2007, (The BLA) enshrined in the law something unique in the
Prime Minister Of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne.
practice of democracy in these former colonial territories (Antigua and Barbuda).

I am amazed that such a radical idea is missed or ignored, even by people who once called for communities to participate in the policy process before policies got implemented.

While Barbudans have the BLA, Europeans have their referendums and plebiscites which they can use to challenge decisions made by governments or before such decisions, they can insert themselves in the political process to procure certain outcomes that are just.

In some cases, the results are not binding. However, a government runs the risk of losing an election if it ignores the results of a referendum.

Within the framework of representative democracy, the citizens of Barbuda won a special right which gives them final say over what happens to lands in Barbuda. Before the vote, the law expects consultation and deliberation.

Neither the Council nor Cabinet can upend the process when they are operating within the framework of the BLA. Can you imagine if this democratic procedure became the norm in Antigua and Barbuda and a structure of government emerged which really gave power to the people?

People in Antigua have the vote, but their power does not flow automatically from voting. In representative democracy, citizens cede their power to parliamentary representatives. In doing so, voters’ interest seldom becomes the priority because competing interests and outcomes are determined by the interplay of wealth, personal or class interest and political expediency.

Demanding change is good but it requires, too, a change in the political institution to allow popular approval for policies that will alter or advance the life of the community.

As pertaining specifically to land use, Barbudans have this power because in the BLA, Section 6 (1), says that “The Council, with the approval and on the advice of Cabinet and having obtained the consent of a majority of the people of Barbuda, may grant lease of land for major development.” In Part V1 16 (2) it declares that “Major developments in Barbuda shall not take place without the agreement of the Cabinet and the Council and the consent of the people of Barbuda.” Who is it that would not die to protect this right?

This tripartite model guarantees Barbudans will always be in control of the land, and it is the land which is the foundation that supports the pursuit of the right to life, liberty, equality and human development. The BLA exists also to prevent a single person or persons acting in concert from concentrating too much land in their possession which they can use to create wealth.

With wealth, political influence and the vote can be purchased. Robert A. Dahl in Economic Democracy (p.54) says the following: “ownership and control (of wealth) contribute to the great differences among citizens in wealth, information, control over information and propaganda” and I will add income. Written in 1985, it has become a fact of life, particularly in the USA and Antigua is not too far behind. Barbudans don’t have to go down that road. They can and should come up with a new model of development.

When visions collide, Barbudan people have the last say. Their vote binds the Council and Cabinet, and neither can act contrary to the decision made by the people. The Antigua Cabinet and Barbuda’s Parliamentary representatives despise this democratic procedure. In the first place, they do not think ordinary Barbudans, referred to as “imbeciles’’ and “dunces” by the Prime Minister, are sufficiently intelligent to make good choices.

They have no respect for the wishes of Barbudans and Antiguans too. You can’t love one and despise the other. Secondly, what is good for the Barbudans is not good for Cabinet and big business.

Once the people maintain the power to make the final decision about land use Cabinet, rightly or wrongly, believes that it cannot overcome this conundrum unless it expunges the people from the BLA. They are now being obliterated.

The Barbuda Land Management (Amendment) Act, 2017 deletes all the clauses that say the decision to use land in Barbuda must be decided by the Barbudans by voting. Where it says the Crown owns the land in Barbuda on behalf of the people, all the words after Crown are deleted. And a full stop appears after Crown.

This means, Cabinet has no obligation to manage lands in Barbuda on behalf or in the interest of the Barbudan people. The Barbuda Council’s role is reduced to receiving applications but the decision about the use and distribution is the Cabinet’s.

Cabinet may or may not consult the Council. The question raised about the constitutionality of the BLA, 2007 was a hoax, a mere decoy to conceal the fact that the Brown administration is elitist, antidemocratic with dictatorial proclivities.

For once in Antigua and Barbuda, UPP’s Barbuda Land Act, 2007, quite unlike The Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party’s Land Management Act, 2017, (now before Parliament) gives the Barbudan people the power to prevent any government from doing whatever it likes with the land in Barbuda.

Antiguans waste a lot of time debating whether Barbudans should have that right. What they should be doing is demanding to have the same right and more, particularly when it comes to the use of finite resources. This absence of solidarity and empathy is going to be the bane of us all.


posted 3 Jan 2018, 04:48 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 3 Jan 2018, 05:13 ]

Comrade Dave Smith
The Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU) made a claim for recognition at the RBC Financial (Caribbean) Limited (RBC) on 16th February 2011 and was granted recognition by the Recognition, Registration and Certification Board (the Board) some six years later on 16th January 2017.

The RBC applied for a Judicial Review and there can be no doubt that the High Court decision, delivered on 14th December 2017, has fundamental implications for the trade union movement.

This 73 page judgement (
see judgement in three parts at the bottom of this page) was long because, in its desperation to deny workers their fundamental trade union rights, the RBC raised a scattergun of six issues on which to challenge the decision of the Board.

Putting to one side some of the peripheral arguments, the fact is, the RCB attack went to the very heart of the recognition process.


The normal practice for trade unions in organising is to get workers to complete an application form and pay an entrance fee and union dues for a three month period. This process continues until the Union is confident that it has more than 50% of the workers organised.

When the Union hits the 50% plus mark, the workers will be taken into membership, a receipt issued and the union dues banked.

This has been the practice for as long as anyone can remember and is accepted by the Board as meeting the requirements of the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) for workers to be “in good standing”.

What has been successfully challenged by the RBC is that this process is not consistent with section 34(3)(b)(i) of the IRA.


The actual words of section 34(3)(b)(i) are:

“The particular worker has … become a member of the Union after having paid a reasonable sum by way of entrance fee and has actually paid reasonable sums by way of contributions for a continuous period of eight weeks immediately before the application was made or deemed to have been made …” [our emphasis]

In interpreting this section of the IRA, the judgement says “... the objective of [this] section can be ascertained from the natural and ordinary meaning of the words.[1]” In other words, all the judge has said is that the words “immediately before” mean just that: “immediately before”.

Because the dues collected by the Union were not collected in the period “immediately before” the claim for recognition, but over a period of time leading up to the recognition claim, the judgment determined that the Union had not met the requirements of section 34 of the IRA.

According to the judgment:

“... the reason the legislature included the words “immediately before the application for recognition” in section 34(3)(b)(i) was to ensure that the trade union collected the contributions at a point in time when it's certification application is imminent. The intention of the framers of the section was to give workers, who apply to be members of a trade union for a proposed bargaining unit, a degree of protection by ensuring that a trade union diligently pursues the task of securing the requisite number of workers for the proposed bargaining unit.”

The RBC, for its part, argued that “all the Union was required to do was to implement an organisation tactic or system which complied with the statutory provision.[2]This helpful suggestion comes from an employer that has ferociously opposed union organisation at every turn.


Another area of criticism was that the workers had not been given an individual receipt for the union dues indicating the period that their union dues covered. Instead, a global receipt had been issued to the union collector when the dues of organised workers had been paid into the Union's head office.

BIGWU’s Rules specifically require Union dues to be receipted. It was the failure to issue individual receipts that led to the Judgment determining that the Union had not adhered to “sound accounting procedures and practices” as required by section 34(3)(a).

It is not clear from the Judgment whether this criticism was unique to BIGWU, because of its Rule requirement to issue receipts, or whether issuing individual receipts was going to be a general expectation imposed on all unions.


Rule 17 of the Board says:

“The records of a trade union relating to its membership and any records that may disclose whether a person is or is not a member of a trade union which are produced in a proceeding shall be for the exclusive use of the board and its officers and shall not, except with the consent of the board, be disclosed to any person.”

The requirement to keep trade union membership, or non-membership, confidential is well established as a means of avoiding victimisation of union members.

In challenging BIGWU's application, the RBC was consistently seeking access to the union’s records on which the Union based its claim for recognition. For its part, the Board had declined to provide this information except in respect of a small number of workers where the employer had provided letters of resignation from the union or who had never been members in the first place.

Whilst Rule 17 leaves the question of disclosure entirely in the hands of the Board, this judgement argued that, in this case, there were “exceptional circumstances to warrant the order for disclosure as requested [by the RBC] and such an order would not have breached the confidentiality of the Union's records.[3]

It remains to be seen how much this judgment opens the door to employers arguing for access to the union’s records in order to ascertain whether the Board has done a correct check of a member’s status. Lawyers are prone to see “exceptional circumstances” in every corner.


The most immediate consequence of this judgment is the likelihood that most, if not all, of the current recognition claims before the Board will be invalid. The practice adopted by BIGWU has been common throughout the trade union movement for decades and will no doubt have been the practice adopted in applications currently before the Board.

To meet the expectations set out in the judgment would require a union to recruit more than 50% of a workforce in the eight weeks immediately before an application for recognition can be made.

In this case, BIGWU had organised just over 1000 workers. To achieve this in an eight week period, particularly in the face of employer hostility, would be near impossible.

The alternative would be to take workers fully into membership until over 50% had joined. With no check-off, this would mean either manually collecting union dues (outside working hours of course) or payment through bankers standing orders.

For the employer to say “all the Union was required to do was to implement an organisation tactic or system …” is fine coming from an employer that has spent five years frustrating RBC workers’ right to trade union representation. We had an organisational tactic … and the High Court has just blown it apart!

Trade unions are not insurance companies. They are essentially voluntary organisations operating in a hostile environment. No employer is likely to provide check off without Union recognition and workers undertake recruitment activities on the employer's time at their peril.

The fact that it took several years for BIGWU to eventually recruit just over 1,000 workers is typical of the challenges faced by unions in organising workers.

We can also anticipate employers, using this judgment, to make requests to the Board for disclosure of Union records in individual trade disputes.

Trinidad and Tobago has ratified I
LO Convention 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining. If this is severely constrained by the legislative framework within which unions are required to operate, then we have rights on paper but not in practice. This could well put Trinidad and Tobago in breach of an ILO Convention that it has ratified unless the IRA is amended.


The decision of the High Court was not based on an interpretation of Board practice notes or procedures. It went right to the heart of the matter in interpreting the legislation which has been in existence in Trinidad and Tobago since 1972.

This judgment must be appealed!

But there has to be a more fundamental approach than relying on judges to interpret legislation in favour of unions.

For decades unions have been clamouring for a quick and easy way to process recognition claims. The IRA has been a major obstacle in this process.

The core issue is this: there has to be a better way of getting recognition.

Workers have a fundamental right to get organised and have their trade union recognised for collective bargaining purposes. For almost half a century unions have had to struggle through an obstacle course laced with ambushes in order to get recognition. It has been a financial happy hunting ground for lawyers to object, delay, appeal and frustrate the whole process.

If a mechanism could be established that enabled unions to trigger a ballot of workers in a workplace, then most workers instinctively know that their interests will rest in getting union recognition. The only issue that needs to be resolved is what process has to be established in order to trigger such a ballot.


This is essentially a political question.

The Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Joint Trade Union Movement and the People's National Movement before the last General Election made broad commitments that, if you believed it, a PNM Government would be nice to trade unions.

If we see no willingness on the part of the Minister of Labour to tackle what is nothing short of a crisis in the legal framework for union recognition, then those of us who saw the Memorandum of Understanding having little value for the trade union movement will have our cynicism confirmed.

Now is not the time for the far too numerous trade union federations to start competing on addressing this question. The meaningless divisions between the federations can only assist the employers in taking full advantage of this very damaging High Court decision.

Assessing where this judgment leaves us, subject to the outcome of any Appeal, is the easy part. What the trade union movement needs to start developing are practical solutions to what we want to see as a quick and easy path to union recognition.

Now is the time, if ever there was one, to overcome petty divisions and unite to fight for an effective mechanism for workers to win the most fundamental of workers’ rights, that of union recognition.

[1] Paragraph 87 of the judgment

[2] Paragraph 71 of the judgment

[3] Paragraph 170 of the judgment


posted 28 Dec 2017, 05:09 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 28 Dec 2017, 05:12 ]

"Left…right…government boots…left right…government boots.'' 

Massive Gosine, yuh geh way! If the Anti-gang legislation of 2017, (which does not cover Parliament, the Judiciary, the Police or local sporting administrations)...if that Bill had been passed you would have had the shit kicked out of you, using the sedition clause. By the way, Massive, all this talk about 'blackface' shows their inability to fault the song in calypso/picong terms. Maybe Shiraz of the Foodcrop Farmers Association could 'help she out'

Who else had the shit kicked out of them by the leading pair of government boots in the country? JTUM for one: in and out of tri-partite arrangements; clinging to false promises about postponed retrenchment (when is a good time to be retrenched anyway); calling for and holding fruitless meetings.

They get 'real leather' from government boots. And there is more to come in this coming LEAP year Yes, that is the document, which very few have seen, which Comrade Leader has submitted to government re the restructuring of Petrotrin. Did he write it while sitting in his X5 BMW which he bought from the 1%?

Who else got it right up the rear from patent leather shoes? The users of the sea bridge between our islands. It was left, right from Rohan, the Port Authority, Stuart Young, Bridgeman Consultants and finally the Cabinet appointed sub-committee. They kept stuffing it up the travellers' backsides for most of the year. They blew more smoke up our behinds than the Ocean Flower spewed from its funnels when it limped into Trinidad waters. But a comrade succinctly explained the real reason the Ocean Flower has hung around. Forget all this talk about contract and Lloyds of London stipulations…blah blah blah! As soon as the TnT Spirit goes into dry dock the Ocean Flower 'goin' and start pullin' bull.

We did kick the shit out of the U.S football team with the help of Honduras and Panama and in the process we saw them eliminated from World Cup 2018. But athletes and recreational walkers have been kicked out of the Ato Boldon Stadium, while the Sports Company investigates allegations of corruption at their offices located there.

Guess they plan to dig up the parking lot to find computers filled with compromising data. Meanwhile our athletes in Central have nowhere to train with Carifta Games three months away. But the Sports Minister is lauding the achievements of the 4x400 men's team at the Worlds Athletic championships this year.

Mariano Browne spent the year kicking the out at anybody who does not support privatisation of any and everything on the planet, including oxygen, green grass, floods and hurricanes. And Stuart Young got some real kicks from Mariano and Dumas up his pompous behind also and was also kicked out of his house…let’s not go there!

Chief Justice Archie promoted and then kicked Marcia Ayers-Caesar. Since then Martin Daly, the Law Association, Israel Khan, individually and collectively have been trying to kick the shit out of Archie, but with no success. Archie has given real meaning to the 
phrase 'a law unto himself.''

Finally I want commend my Catholic friends, all sixteen of them on the election/appointment/ordination of their new Archbishop wh
is truly a man of the cross: not sure if it is a left or right cross. Yes folks he was charged in Barbados for cuffing down somebody. We could not confirm if like Mariano he chose to leave Barbados thereafter. What we will monitor is if he has a hook or an uppercut to go with his cross.

A word to the local young bandits: Do not try to do a Father Harvey on this fellow. Sounds like he is very able to kick the shit out of y'all!

P.S. Folks, comrades, friends, well wishers. I have negotiations with my line manager/editor coming up in 2018. I hope he wears slippers during our meetings.

BEHIND THE CURTAIN by Cathal Healy-Singh

posted 19 Dec 2017, 03:23 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 19 Dec 2017, 03:26 ]

We publish, as a contribution to the intensifying environmental debate comments on the August 2017 draft of the National Environmental Policy (NEP) by Cathal Healy-Singh (Environmental Engineer, Public Interest Advocate, Advisor to Fishermen & Friends of the Sea, FFOS).

Click here


posted 18 Dec 2017, 02:58 by Gerry Kangalee

According to a report in the Sunday Guardian (12/3/2017), Ancel Roget, President-General of the OWTU and President of the JTUM, expressed his frustration with the PNM government and its inability to deliver good governance. His comment is just another case of a worshipper screaming at his idol for not doing favorable things for him. In terms of this essay, the Idol represents political parties, and the worshippers exemplify the "motley crew" of Trade Union leaders who worship at the feet of the idols (political parties).

This practice is not new; its trajectory can be traced to 1956 with the advent of the PNM and its High Priest, Eric Williams. From 1956 to 1981, Eric Williams and the PNM used the state to dispense political patronage to various groups in exchange for their political support.

One of those groups was the Trinidad and Tobago Labor Congress that included individuals such as Carl Tull, Nathaniel Critchlow, W.W. Sutton, Selwyn John, Vernon Glean, all members of the Trinidad and Tobago Labor Congress. These leaders ensured that their unions and membership fell in line and worshipped the idol. However, with the death of the High Priest, Eric Williams, in 1981, the subsequent collapse of the economy, and the rise of the ONR and then NAR, worshippers began looking towards another idol to worship.

In 1986, the NAR swept the PNM from office, ending some thirty years of PNM rule. With this victory, former PNM worshippers left the PNM "church" in droves and came to worship at the NAR shrine.

In addition to these new worshippers, the NAR also attracted some high profile Trade Union leaders such as Basdeo Panday and George Weekes. These two justified their positions by saying that labor has a seat at the table. By adopting this position, in effect, both Panday and Weekes became minor priests who served the new High Priest, A.N.R. Robinson.

From 1986 to the Coup in 1990, the idol attracted new worshippers who were now indoctrinated with the Gospel of Neo-liberalism. For that brief moment in 1990, it appeared that the idol worship came to an end. However, when the powers brought this under control, two new High Priests, Patrick Manning and Basdeo Panday emerged and attracted new worshippers to worship the idol.

From the 1990s to 2010, the worshippers divided their loyalties between two High priests: Manning and Panday, who preached the gospel of the "Washington Consensus." Some worshippers like Wade Mark, David Abdulah, Vincent Cabrera, Errol McLeod and others became willing followers as they jockeyed for senate positions, board appointments and other forms of government patronage. While they threatened "brimstone and fire," on both governments, they abandoned the working class and went after "filthy lucre." They continued to make the annual pilgrimage to Fyzabad, but in reality, they were "backsliders" waiting to serve another idol, that emerged in 2010.

By 2010, the Church of the UNC had been all but destroyed and worshippers left in droves to form the Church of the PP. In this new church a High Priestess emerged for the first time on the political landscape. Eager to worship at this new shrine, the worshippers, David Abdulah, Errol McLeod, Ancel Roget and Daaga signed their names on to the Fyzabad Accord and urged their members to worship the new idol. While they continued to talk radical, their eyes were set on the prize, government ministers, senators, board members. They worshipped this idol until it was defeated in 2015.

Since then, the worshippers have returned to worshipping at the PNM shrine but the backsliding continues. Today, Ancel Roget is threatening to stop worshipping the idol because it is not preaching the "gospel of good governance." Roget is so blind and does not understand that the "gospel of “good governance" comes directly from the cathedral of the IMF and World Bank. Good governance, Mr. Roget, will not save the trade union movement and the working class. It is a cover for the "boys and girls" to minimize their corruption, continue the patrimonial state, and preach the gospel of neoliberalism.

The idol and its worshippers have polluted the country for many decades and have destroyed the trade union movement and by extension the working class. The only way to change this is to "return to the source." Who will rise up? Who will be so bold to destroy the shrines, the groves and temples of the idol and its worshippers?

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