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News & Comment
JTUM-PNM MOU NOT IN THE INTEREST OF WORKING PEOPLE
In 2015, under the guise of representing the Joint Trade Union Movement, an ad hoc grouping of a few trade union leaders, Ancel Roget signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOU) with the PNM which MOU speaks of bringing an end to the “cycle of confrontation” and calls on business, labour and government to operate within a framework of “mutual respect and collaboration.”
The MOU is actually just a pious pie in the sky wish list which does not have a snowcone’s chance in the hot sun of bearing fruit. The tragedy of the Workers Agenda has now degenerated into the farce of the PNM/JTUM MOU.
In 2010 the National Workers Union (NWU) supported the Workers Agenda, but did not support the position that the MSJ represented the labour movement in government. In 2015 the National Workers Union views the MOU as a symbol of the continuing surrender by many trade union leaders of the vital interests of the working class in the hope of advancing their personal interests in this eat a food, crony capitalist system that passes for a political system in T&T. Those who shout “good governance” the loudest are the very ones who dribble and drool at the prospects of feeding at the trough.
The NWU congratulates the Communication Workers Union (CWU) for its principled stand on the issue of the MOU and points out that for the PNM to address in the workers interests those vital issues spelt out in the Workers Agenda, it would have to be born again and contradict its history as the chief architect of the anti-worker repressive legislation that has hobbled and bedevilled the trade union movement since the 1960s.
The National Workers Union respects the right of all citizens to vote for whatever individual or party they deem fit, but we also point out that to expect that a change of government is going to result in a new dawn for the trade union movement is either naivety at best or a con game of gigantic proportions at worst.
It is clear why some trade union leaders insist on hitching their star to the wagons of the political parties that represent the interests of the employers, the contractors, party financiers, banksters and boardroom big shots in the conglomerates. They relish feeding from the scraps of Massa’s table. They want to hobnob with who Errol McLeod calls “real people” and do not want to be considered “non-entities”.
But why would the PNM sign this MOU? What is in it for them? Whichever party wins the general elections is going to be faced with an economy which is already in free fall. T&T’s economy is totally dependent on the fortunes of the hydrocarbon industry over which as a country we have no control. Government revenue and, critically, our ability to earn foreign exchange are totally dependent on the fortunes of the hydrocarbon industry.
If the PNM wins the general election, given their acceptance, like the UNC, of the neo-liberal agenda of wage suppression, privatisation, de-regulation, repression of union activity, widespread use of contract labour, transfer of income from working people to the pockets of the capitalists, their mantra is going to be austerity, austerity, austerity!
The MOU with the JTUM provides the PNM with political cover when they impose their inevitable austerity programme on the working people. The trade union leaders who support the MOU will provide that cover which will keep the trade union movement divided in the face of the austerity programme. The irony is that some of these very trade union leaders gave the People’s Partnership the very same political cover for two and one half years until the wheels fell off.
The National Workers Union warns honest trade unionists not to be conned into confusing the personal and political interests of certain trade union leaders with the interests of the working people as a whole and not to allow themselves to be used as watchmen for the government and the employers.
The National Workers Union calls on all working people to band their bellies and prepare for the imminent assault on their standard of living as the economy continues its race to the bottom and to be very clear that none of the political parties in the election race are going to defend the interests of workers and the trade union movement when the mess hits the fan.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Gerry Kangalee (National Education and Research Officer. Cell: (785-7637)
There are two letters in the Newsday of the 29th August that both in one way or the other take Mr. Frank Mouttet to task. In one, Mr. Errol Cupid comments that "whites” should become involved in politics. Mr. Cupid should be reminded that the right honourable Eric Williams in one of his infamous comments said "Massa day done".
This, as all of us know, was directed to the white population and was generally meant that they have no business in contributing to this country. Many emigrated and some stayed, but the ones that stayed knew fully well "our place". Now we have Mr. Cupid suggesting that we should get involved again. I wonder why? Who, in their right mind would want to become involved in that nastiness that passes for politics?
In the other letter Mr. Cecil Paul writes what i would consider "drivel", and yes Mr. Paul we are 4th world, a totally corrupt society from top to bottom, so don't come and tell me some nonsense about slavery; that is just a smoke screen for incompetence and by the way my ancestors came here running from a previous Venezuelan dictator just in case you want to accuse my ancestors of being slave owners.
Cecil Paul, Deputy President of the National Workers Union (NWU), delves into the history of the labour movement from the early eighties, a period in which he played a significant part.(see THE FORMATION OF NATUC). He focuses HERE on the question of labour unity and the destruction of the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC).
That was the era of the book fairs, visits from revolutionaries from Liberia, South Africa, Guyana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Grenada. The O.W.T.U was the headquarters of the anti- apartheid struggle in the region. Free zones, privatisation and wage cuts were the order of the day and would have succeeded completely but for the progressive unions led by the OWTU.
Donna Coombs had built up a first class library and students and researchers were common place. You could walk into the library and meet Ron Ramdin, a well know British based local author or the great Jamaican economist, George Beckford, or the revolutionary Walter Rodney. The feature address on Labour Day was a significant media event. Even George's defection to the other side did not stop the work for which he had laid the foundations.
Sydney "Bullmoose" Knox, king of Neal and Massy and the right wing which Basdeo Panday warned of was on the warpath. Cecil Paul would tell of battles he fought sometimes with Ken Gordon who was in the cabinet helping to run Napoleon Robinson in their direction
The message, then duly recorded not on Facebook or You Tube but laboriously by hand or on tape to be transcribed then was different. It was 'war, war, war’. This writer remembers in his first interview, McLeod saying "They have pacified George Weekes''. More experienced field commanders would advise “General Strike”, as Jimmy Singh labelled him, to pick battles and not threaten to 'shut down the kiss me…. place' every Monday morning. But with Errol Kelvin lyrics were plentiful, but action sparse.
Alas this was smoke and mirrors as this Pee Gee had a clearly different agenda and was indeed uncomfortable with radical, progressive trade unionism. Those closer to him saw and knew it earlier but it became more apparent as his term in office went on. Here was someone who earned the total contempt of that working class icon Joe Young whom he felt he could compromise..
That is why he probably never heard Joe Young's absolutely scornful response to the same offer to which he has succumbed. His response to the criticisms of his former colleagues is instructive. Real people, gave him this award, he said. He had no time with non-entities (including those from the political party of which he was once the leader).
Power in the OWTU was consolidated by compromise agreements, isolation and/or removal of the militants in the Union, promotion of sycophants and persistent talk of reported election fraud. By the time he left on a high note, which included high end car, house and marvellous retirement benefits, the Union had in many ways become its opposite, almost a bureaucracy.
The transition to UNC government and Cabinet therefore was seamless. Freed of the need to appear to be defending workers' interest he assumed what seemed to be his natural self and has spent a quiet five years on the other side. Oh, there were the usual and anticipated anti-worker outbursts or frustrations. After all the promises, domestic workers are still not recognised as workers; contract labour continues to infest the public sector; the Recognition Board, which had no Board for a year, continues to chug along at pedestrian pace;; the Industrial Relations Act still denies basic worker rights, there is no basic conditions of work legislation. His greatest achievement: he increased maternity leave by one week!
After all, the real power lay with Jack and Moonie and Suruj. He was easily placated with gestures, like being made acting Prime Minister more than anyone else.
So as he received his distinguished award from a government often referred to as most corrupt, the other cronies must be crying or cussing or sucking their teeth. He was 'sent to do a job' on the working class and in doing so has done very well for himself. Was the medal offered to him? I think not! Why give it to him? The strong suspicion is that he pleaded for it…to go along with his other accolades.
Is that the end of the story? No! Part two was written at the Hyatt last Wednesday when the 'leader' of the JTUM signed an MOU with the PNM. The ‘leader’ of the JTUM happens to be Errol's successor in the union and lives a similar ‘C.E.O lifestyle' with a significantly depleted membership base.
Are we seeing the rise of Ancel McLeod?
To say that the JTUM surrendered is to be generous. Surrender suggests a form of struggle/effort to affect an outcome. Capitulation may be a better word. Or as Amilcar Cabral suggested in his eulogy "The Cancer of Betrayal'' at Kwame Nkrumah's funeral the workers of Trinidad and Tobago ''are being scoffed at in their most legitimate aspirations''.
The meeting was portrayed as unity against a common enemy; of old friends who saw the
So the CWU was absent, as was TIWU, PSA, Postal Workers. Several joints of the trade union movement were missing. Non aligned TTUTA has suddenly moved to the front line. Some units sent one delegate. One sent as much as four and of the four none were front line leaders.
Of course the document is a joke. The JTUM was a forum conceived and developed to deal with the People's Partnership wage offer/cap of 5% in 2010/2011. It served to bridge the gap between the two federations NATUC and FITUN none of which were functioning in the interests of workers. It allowed for democratic participation without any of the leaders of the federations having to surrender their hubris and talk to each other and it worked. The 5% became 9% with benefits that actually raised earnings to around 14%.
The MOU carries one signature from the trade union movement. Previous positions were endorsed by all representatives signing or all going to visit the Prime Minister. But the CWU’s subsequent press release showed how disjointed the JTUM really ended up and how few signatories were available.
The JTUM forum became the home of one particular political organisation to whose politics all units should subscribe. The forum suddenly found itself with a President and a General Secretary/Education Officer. To this day no one can show when this duly constituted body was formed and authorised to sell out workers at the Hyatt Accord. It was left to a reporter from the Express to ask how this situation would differ from 2010's Workers Agenda and what if the PNM did not win. This left the room silent because this was not supposed to be asked obviously.
So the new Castara Kid mealy mouthed about “principles which would guide any administration''. Once again here was law without any means of law enforcement. How is/was labour going to hold the new administration to any promises then or now?
No joy cometh in the morning for the working class on September 8th. One cancerous political growth may well be replaced by a malignancy. The task of the workers remains to reclaim their unions by re-building from below regardless of what accords are signed in the Hyatt or in Fyzabad by clueless leaders who spin their personal ambitions as being synonymous with the interests of the working class
One thing I do know is that the PNM is not going to bury capitalism. From its founding in 1956 to the present, the party has always championed capitalism. From 1956 to 1986, especially during the height of the Oil Boom of the 1970s, the party promoted State capitalism which was part of the global social settlement implemented by the World Bank and IMF whereby the State became the engine of development.
In the 1990s the PNM championed neo-liberal capitalism which is a part of the Washington Consensus that was imposed on the world from 1979. Calling itself the “new” PNM, under the leadership of Patrick Manning, the party continued and deepened IMF-imposed policies that began under the NAR regime (the same people now in power).
These policies include privatization, wage cuts and freezes, contract labor, decertification of trade unions, and cuts in Public expenditure that severely impact the working poor. Knowing all this, it was folly of the JTUM to sign a memorandum with a party which from the inception was always the enemy of the trade union movement and the working class. How easily is history forgotten! And they are doing the same thing again as when they signed the Fyzabad Accord with the PP. Doing the same thing and getting the same results is insanity. And insanity it will be when the economy collapses given the price of oil and the state of the economy.
Will the PNM make a social settlement with the working class and working poor? Will the party continue the tradition of making a social settlement with the capitalist class and its allies? A very large segment of the population will be elated if the PNM wins the 2015 general elections. The question each individual has to ask himself/herself is whether the party will bury capitalism.
After all, the PP and other parties in the race are all upholders of capitalism. The parties are not the essential problem. It is the system and the type of democracy that is being practiced. If we don’t change it and keep electing and changing parties there will be more disillusionment, cynicism, heart break, disappointment and more signing of MOUs for generations to come.
Godfrey Vincent, Ph.D
Monday August 24, by F. Mouttet of Westmoorings.
I am greatly annoyed at Mr. Mouttet describing the country of his birth as “ We have become a Fourth World country masquerading as developed as well as Haiti on steroids” He goes on “Being the first to arrive after the Caribs, the whites continue to be fiercely resilient and proud of their heritage, and in their small way continue to contribute”.
Mr. F. Mouttet either does not know the history of his country or he conveniently chose to forget that his ancestors who were slave owners arrived during the Cedula de población of 1783 and were given free lands by the Spaniards based on the amount of enslaved Africans they brought with them from the French colonial Caribbean Islands.
It was these enslaved Africans from Haiti, Grenada, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and other islands who developed Trinidad. Mr. Mouttet your ancestors were parasitic and got rich from free labour provided by brutally oppressed Africans. Many of these enslaved Africans were forced into ships by your descendants running from the Slave Rebellion (Haitian Revolution) in Saint Dominigue and forcibly came to Trinidad to slave on the free lands given to your ancestors by the Spanish government.
So brutal was your French Government that “Haiti is now on steroids” because of the billions of today dollars Haiti had to pay the French for the loss of slave labour and the effects this had on the French economy. Haiti has never recovered up to today as only a few years ago reparations were still being paid by Haiti to France.
Mr. Mouttet your ancestors became rich from free labour supplied by my ancestors. You can never become poor, so valuable was our free labour which allowed you and your kind to diversify from enslaved labour to other areas of the economy. You wrote that you the whites are proud of your heritage. Really Mr. Mouttet! You are proud of having enslaved people and brutalised them to provide free labour while up to today their descendants are still scarred by the historical physical and mental torture as well as economically deprived.
Finally Mr. Mouttet you called your and our country “Fourth World” which betrays your lack of patriotism and disrespect for the great people this country produced in Medicine, Academics, Music, Literature, Sports, Economic Policy and Culture.
The NHWU was starting from scratch and as we have explained repeatedly had signed an affiliation agreement with the National Workers Union (NWU) who would provide the initial resources to tackle the tremendous task of building a health workers union from the ground up. (See affiliation agreement here).
As we stated in one of our bulletins: “ It must be borne in mind that the National Health Workers Union is not a previously existing organisation that health workers are joining, but a union that has to be built by the health workers themselves in their own image and likeness.
To build a union from scratch is a humongous task. A new union would have little in the way of resources. It would have no office, no fulltime staff, no ability to employ lawyers or other advisers or to undertake research." It is extremely difficult to start a union from scratch, but for health workers to survive the difficult times lying ahead it has to be done.
This is where the National Workers Union comes in. The National Workers Union provides human, financial and material resources, technical expertise in terms of organising, industrial relations (grievance handling; collective bargaining), training, education, research, printing and publications to its affiliates, including the NHWU.
The NWU provides office facilities, secretarial and administrative support, maintains membership records data base, which is very important when the application for recognised majority union status is made to the Recognition Board. The NWU also maintains the union accounts.
From the beginning it was quite clear that the strategic objective of the NHWU is to gain recognised majority union status in each RHA and in private sector facilities in order that a collective agreement covering health workers could be negotiated with the managements of the RHAs. It is only when health care workers have a collective agreement that the chaos that passes for industrial relations in the health sector will be brought under the control. The single most important task of the NHWU at this moment is the task of organising the thousands of monthly paid health care workers into the union so that in each RHA when we have the majority as membership we can apply for recognition.
In order to register as a union rules must be provided to the registrar of trade unions, even though the rules of necessity had to be crafted by a handful of people and it had to be recognised that when the task of organising really took off the rules would have to be reviewed, amended, repealed or otherwise (see union rules here).
In the stage of building a union from scratch, organisational structures and practices have to facilitate the main task which is attaining the goal of recognised majority union status.
The NHWU, therefore, is chanting two mantras: recognised majority union status and building from the ground up and not from the top down. Health workers, given the experience with other organisations have to build their union on the workplace and not in the union office; to serve their interests and not the interests of those who see the union as an opportunity to acquire position and status.
Health workers have rejected the top down approach that is making some unions impotent. The most important organisational task therefore is to build the structure of representation so that the chaos that exists in the worker-employer relationship can be regulated properly.
When the organising work took off in SWRHA, the situation began to change rapidly: activists were coming forward, workers were being communicated with through flyers and on the Facebook, grievances were being handled, training programmes were being organised, hundreds of workers began to join the union, direct action activities were organised.. We could therefore get a wider input into the building process and put into practice the concept of building from the ground up.
When it was realised that the majority of the medical orderlies were members of the union, election for shop stewards were held. This was a step forward and provides a template for choosing representatives in other areas as we grow.
If we are to build a union in the image and likeness of health workers, members must step forward to take up the historic responsibility of building a union that is not a one person show, a union where the most important people would not be the “union man” in an office somewhere, but the driving force would be the members acting through their shop stewards.
Members must attend branch and other meetings, as far as possible. They must actively participate in union activities. Members must be vigilant about the violation of their rights and entitlements as workers and not allow management to get away with poor industrial relations practices. Members must see their union as their shield and armour and to file grievances when it is the right thing to do, so that the master-servant culture in the RHAs can be wiped out.
Over the recent period the NHWU’s banner has been fluttering high in the breeze as we step up the struggle for justice and equity for RHA workers. Workers who have not yet been organised have begun to turn to the NHWU publications (on and off line) for information and the politicians and the general public have begun to take notice.
We are at the stage where the issue of structuring the branches becomes important. We have reached the stage where we must hold more shop steward elections and train them to serve the interests of the members. This is the dominant discussion among the activists and those who have a good idea of where the union stands on issues.
On Saturday 29th August at 11:30 am, the SWRHA branch of the NHWU will be holding a branch meeting at 4 Hart Street, San Fernando, the office of the NWU. The meeting will deal with: report on finance and administration, structuring of SWRHA branch, choosing union reps: from the ground up.
If you intend to attend please indicate: On NHWU WHATSAPP or Sending PM on NHWU Facebook page or Emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or Contacting Arlene Bynoe-Maillard # 725 8950.
Cecil Paul, Deputy President of the National Workers Union (NWU), delves into the history of the labour movement from the early eighties, a period in which he played a significant part. He focuses on the question of labour unity and the formation of the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC).
She alludes to shocking behaviour from a 'political leader, husband father and grandfather’ and he is just the Opposition leader. We must all therefore be grateful that she did not see the Prime Minister (who is a 'mother, wife, grandmother and a political leader’) bareback.
Might her editor be partly to blame, sending her where she might see half naked people? Is there a case for applying OSHA legislation here?
Am reading this and looking to see if I wrote this kind of rubbish in one of my more enlightened moments. It certainly is an unusual way to leave your job. As the Mighty Joe Young said to me once "Short of standing and peein' on the boss's desk, I would probably serve in the Court for a long while." Our reporter seems to have chosen another route.
And to protect the integrity of the newspaper? How does resigning help? A lot more would be needed to bring that about.
But Ms. reporter does help me to understand my own longevity in this business. I consider myself very, very fortunate to have learned and practised journalism in the most distinguished media academy in Trinidad and Tobago, the working class movement.
I was enrolled at O.W.T.U/Vanguard campus. I did a "Mass. Comm” diploma at UWI but Paramount Building (OWTU HQ) was the real deal. The list of respected personalities I interviewed include Mungal Patassar, Winsford 'Joker' Devine, Bertrand Kelman, our own Raffique Shah - to name a few.
Now that I am reading our reporter’s piece I understand why I lasted so long. All the people I met KEPT THEIR CLOTHES ON. I did visit "Joker' subsequently a Carnival Tuesday and he was bareback. No; he did not touch me but still nobody told me to resign and I still dress the same way.
Truth is I should have succumbed a long time ago, given the number of marathons and track and field events I have covered with athletes wearing the bare minimum, sometimes less, and a couple Panoramas among some scantily clad flag women. Damn! If only a couple of them had stripped I could be drawing a disability pension.
You know I have a tag line I use to the male comrades when I am in the field. I say to them "Ah tired takin' out all yuh hard face man. Let me take out the ladies." Little did I know that they were saving me and my job from 'touchy feely' sisters