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THE CCJ CANNOT LIBERATE US By Alvette Ellorton Jeffers

posted 16 Nov 2018, 05:34 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 16 Nov 2018, 06:11 ]


(Note. Antigua and Barbuda and the island of Grenada both held Referendums to approve or disapprove the changing of their respective Constitution to allow for the Caribbean Court of Justice to replace the Privy Council as its apex court on the same day. The No votes won. This article was penned days before the November 6th Referendum and the ideas contained in the article below may still have currency.)

In an address made in 2016 to a Trinidadian audience made up primarily of lawyers and intellectuals, Professor Richard Drayton posed several questions to his audience, which have not been repeated by Antiguans who are advocating for the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

Antigua’s intellectuals wax eloquently on ancillary matters, like cost and the qualification of judges. Not Professor Drayton. He realizes the issues are more complex and deserve serious contemplation. Pay attention to the questions he raises in a speech entitled, “Whose Constitution? Law Justice and History In The Caribbean.”

Image result for TRINIDAD hall of justice“…to what extent should Caribbean judges guide the interpretation of statutes towards the needs of present and future justice? How far, more generally, should the judge view her or himself as a maker of history? …How can we preserve the authority of the law while turning consent into the centre of our jurisprudence?" 

It is obvious that the good Professor is deeply worried and for good reasons. There are two considerations here. One is subjective. The other is the law. Do the justices think of themselves as makers of history or enforcers of orthodoxy? And does the law allow for interpretations despite the law’s specific intentions?

By extension: Does the law even permit the justices to be makers of history or the enforcers of orthodoxy? Is there a midpoint between the two extremes? And should we bet our future on this legal and philosophical quandary? I don’t think so and neither does Chief Justice Archie who attended the lecture given by Professor Drayton. Pay close attention to what he says. He is no ordinary bystander. He is a Chief Justice in Trinidad. Listen to him.

“…until we have a constitutional and legislative framework that empowers us, then it is very difficult for judiciaries on their own to shoulder that burden of transformation.” Read it again.

Now what is the Chief Justice saying? I think he is saying that he is not willing to take undue liberties. He is not arrogant at all. He needs the assistance of the people and their representatives to guide him. They must present to him the legal authority so that he can feel safe to venture into new fields where hitherto, he did not belong.

Everyone should know, especially the “anti-colonialist,” that our jurisprudence does not encourage laws that advance, unambiguously, international standards of human rights. Our idea of justice has never been clearly defined and decided upon collectively. We have been hobbling along. Our law does not encourage the people to demand, independent of Parliament, new expressions of democratic practices.

I will contend that the Antigua Constitution is more protective of the State than it is of the people because it wants no uncertainty as to
Image result for TRINIDAD OPENING LAW TERM where power is concentrated. It is the only body permitted to be violent. In truth and in fact, the Constitution allows the State very wide latitude when it has need to intervene in our lives. And when policies are implemented that are disadvantageous to sections of the society no immediate relief is possible. Litigation takes time and the competition is stiff especially when you are battling a government whose ministers do not have to pay to litigate.

I know some of you do not have the patience for this type of discourse because you are still in an imaginary fight with “colonialism.” You are in a hurry to make history. But you will be making an unpardonable error if you do not take into consideration both the legal and social milieu into which the CCJ will be plunged. You will do the justices no favor if you set them adrift. They need and are asking for a compass.

As Chief Justice Archie says they need guidance because the law is never neutral. Take it from Justice Holmes. He knows about this stuff because he sat on the U.S. Supreme Court between 1920-30s. You must be patient. Take your time and read slowly because he is telling us about the influences that go into making the law and if I may add also, interpreting the law. I read it several times. Here goes Justice Holmes, quoted from the book: ‘The Value of Justice’ page 89-90.

“The felt necessities of the time, the prevalent moral and political theories, intuitions of public policy, avowed or unconscious, even the prejudices which judges share with their fellow men, have had a good more to do than the syllogism (deductible reasoning) in determining the rules by which men should be governed. The law embodies the story of a nation through many centuries.” This is crucial and must be part of any discussion about the CCJ

What is put into the law is what we are going to get out it. Not much more. For as Justice Holmes noted, judges are not free of the class conflicts going on around them and even though they may try to insulate themselves against the encircling cultural wars, the law may not save them because it may just be the law that is the source of those wars. For the justices to survive, they may have to rely on an ingenuity that borders too close to a violation of their juridical responsibilities which would be any attempt at rewriting the law.

What do I draw from Justice Archie and Justice Holmes? The CCJ cannot liberate us. It is the Caribbean islands individually and collectively, which must invent new notions of jurisprudence out of which the law will flow to cement the system of justice by which we agree to live. But that system of justice cannot be in tension with the way we cultivate our social and cultural life. Justice, ultimately, is a lived experience and if the foundation of society is formed on accepted assumptions of inequality, exploitation, lack of empathy and authoritarianism, the justice we expect to have will be stillborn.

Know one thing for sure; the CCJ is not the beginning of a new society. With or without it, ours will remain a society waiting to experience a rebirth. Ours is the task to make that a reality and only then will "justice roll down like mighty waters.”

TSTT WORKERS FACE RETRENCHMENT

posted 13 Nov 2018, 18:32 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 13 Nov 2018, 19:02 ]

Clyde Elder
As was widely anticipated the management of TSTT has begun to implement its retrenchment plan. On November 12th 2018, Senior Manager Industrial Relations, Arlene Arthur, wrote to Clyde Elder, Secretary General of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), the recognised majority union for both Junior and Senior Staff at the state-owned telecommunication company. 

Attached was a list of existing positions the company proposes to make redundant as part of what it deems its new business model.

The list comprises ninety nine existing positions, but does not include numbers of workers filling those positions. These numbers would probably run into the hundreds. It is believed by those in the loop that the workers of Amplia, who are not unionised and who work for inferior wages and conditions will be slotted in to do residential connecting of fibre as part of TSTT’s much propagandised new business model.

. The CWU has filed an Industrial Relations Offence (IRO) against TSTT and has sought and won injunctive relief from the Industrial Court pending the determination of the IRO which is to be heard on November 28th.

The IRO argues “for all residential fibre operations to be performed by Amplia, was in violation of the Collective Agreement between TSTT and the Union, namely Article 12 of the Junior and Senior Staff Collective Agreement, which forbids the contracting out of work normally performed by the Company’s employees.”

The Communication Workers Union is holding mass meetings in North and South on Wednesday 14th and Thursday 15th 2018 respectively to seek guidance from its members as to the way forward. The Wednesday meeting is at CWU head office on Henry Street, Port of Spain at 5:00pm and the Thursday mass meeting in South will be at OWTU headquarters, Circular Road, San Fernando.

IRON SHARPENS IRON by Michael "Bro. Scobie" Joseph

posted 13 Nov 2018, 09:42 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 13 Nov 2018, 09:48 ]

The politicians we elect to the seat of governance of this blessed and beautiful twin Island country are, over the years, searching high and low for new ways to squander our hard earned Tax Dollars, while failing to properly govern and maintain the basic facilities and institutions that were inherited from colonialism. Not one is working to near its capacity, so that our citizens can live a fairly comfortable life. Why?

Let us take a look at the condition of our Roads. Are we not blessed with a wonder of the world called the Pitch Lake? Our national Transportation system, Water, Health, Education, Communication, Sports and Culture, National Security you name it, they are all in shambles, but our national budget is billions every year.

Agriculture should be of paramount importance, so we would be able to feed ourselves, but the politicians are putting us on a fragile economy of imports, which is undermining our independence. Why are we not enjoying the fruits of our labour?

For a number of years, this country has been spending more than Fifty Billion dollars a year domestically, with nothing of substance to show. Even our Independence and Republican status is now being devalued and diluted with citizens losing that sense of national pride, only because they don't feel a sense of belonging, and a sense of empowerment. And while we are going through this disenchantment and delusion, our politicians are hell bent on selling us right back into colonialism.

Too many of our politicians cannot resist the temptation of living the Massa lifestyle in the mansion on the hill with our Tax Dollars, while telling us that they meet an empty treasury that we will have to work harder to refill. They make deals and gamble away the people's patrimony, and to justify their dishonesty, they lay blame at the feet of the masses for being non productive and under productive.

Then half way in their term of office, suddenly, there is light at the end of the tunnel, things are slowly turning around. With a little effort, we will be out of the darkness that the previous regime left us in. Why should they change that mantra, when it seems to be working nearly all the time?

And some keep asking, what is wrong with the youths today? The youths today are seeing the struggles of their parents to survive, while big businesses are sucking the blood of the sufferers and the politicians bleeding the treasury to their own ends. Misappropriation of our revenue and resources are part of the reason for most of them leaving school and facing lack of opportunities. With no sign of a better life on the horizon for them and their offspring, they become disenchanted and rebellious. They see the uneven distribution of our wealth, and decide to get theirs by any means necessary.

We allocate the most money to National Security, yet citizens continue to live in fear of each other, while our newly minted Commissioner of Police believes that if he can kill all the "cockroaches" (rebellious black youths), life will be nice in sweet TnT.

What about the flies and the mosquitoes and rats and mongoose and all the other vermin and creatures that create a disease in the minds of citizens? What about the corrupt politicians and cheating corporate and public officials, Mr. Commissioner, are they not part of the problem, a scourge on our society? Or did you get a special assignment to exterminate cockroaches? Once there remains an uneven distribution of wealth in our society, more come!

There is an age old saying that, “the countenance of one man brightens up another, but iron sharpens iron”. “Beware the Ides of March.” A word to the wise!

TOBAGO HEALTH CARE WORKERS SAY ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

posted 12 Nov 2018, 07:12 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 12 Nov 2018, 09:28 ]

Image result for tobago rha logoFollowing a directive from the World Bank in 1994 the Public health care service was reformed creating the Regional Health Authorities (RHAs); with the Trinidad RHAs falling under the control of the Ministry of Health and the Tobago RHA (TRHA) under the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).

This move, it was stated, was intended to improve the delivery of national public health care services in both islands, through greater efficiency, transparency and accountability by reducing wastage and corruption.

Separate boards were appointed for each RHA to ensure the implementation of the national health care policy. Unfortunately the various boards never functioned in accordance with their mandate and instead got involved in the everyday operations of the institutions; undermining the role of executive management resulting in poor governance with nepotism, wastage of public funds and abuse of power.

They knew that there would be no consequence for their actions as most of the individuals appointed to these boards are there based on political affiliation and not on merit and competence.

Take the TRHA as an example of the crisis of the national health care system. During the last eight years over four boards were appointed and over nine Chief Executive Officers (CEOs). No serious organisation, especially in public health care, can survive and effectively function in such a disorganised environment, where there is no continuity of programmes for the improvement in the delivery of public health care services to the people of Tobago.

To compound this crisis, Ms. Agatha Carrington who, it is claimed, had to run from the Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA) where

Ingrid Melville and Kelvin Charles
she faced mass revolt from the workers who were forced to take action over what they saw as abuse of power and authority; was imposed by the Kelvin Charles THA administration on the people of Tobago by appointing her Secretary of Health.

Health care workers in Tobago claim that since her appointment she has, on many occasions, overstepped her authority by getting directly involved in the daily operations of the TRHA, undermining General Managers, Managers and Supervisors with no regard for the policies which govern the operations of the RHAs.

Members of the current Board seem impotent and only concerned with maintaining office at any cost only to protect their perks and other benefits. Rather than focus on the critical issues concerning health care in the country, the Board is on a campaign of attacking and harassing hard working employees, who have told the NWU website that they are no longer willing to put up with it.

Some employees who have effectively functioned in vacant positions for over five years have been informed that they will be reverted to their substantive positions. No self respecting individuals would subject themselves to such wicked and malicious action, therefore, these workers have no choice but to challenge such poor industrial relations practices.

Here again is another example of this and previous boards overseeing and supervising reckless actions which will result in very costly litigation as they will have to pay their employees and high legal fees to their attorneys.

Word is that arrangements are being made with Mr. Lennox Marcelle for advice on industrial relations related issues. If this is true there may be some improvement in employee relations as Mr. Marcelle is highly respected in the field of industrial relations and is not expected to support unethical conduct from anyone.

In light of all the despair described above some hope exists. Recently two top officers of the TRHA have resigned. The first instance involves the Acting CEO, a very knowledgeable and experienced professional, refusing to compromise his integrity by refusing to implement improper instructions.

The second instance involves a young, vibrant attorney at law who refused to engage in or support actions that would have brought her reputation into public disrepute.

The current CEO of the TRHA is regarded as someone who has placed a huge value on her integrity by demonstrating in the past competence, adherence to policy, the rule of law and good employee relations. With such credentials how long will she survive in the toxic TRHA environment?

The only guarantee that the people of Tobago have in receiving the quality public health care services they are entitled to rests on the shoulders of the employees of the TRHA as those in charge have grievously neglected their responsibilities.

From general manager, managers, supervisors, administrative staff, health care professionals and other health care providers have a duty to themselves and to the people of Tobago. That duty is to come together to save the TRHA from wasting public funds and ensuring that they are respected and allowed to perform their duties as they have been trained to do.

Most of all they must reject all political interference in all its different forms and prevent the Authority from engaging in rash and oppressive industrial relations practices
.

THE TRIUMPH OF DIRECT DEMOCRACY by V Cabrera

posted 9 Nov 2018, 14:16 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 9 Nov 2018, 14:19 ]

THE TRIUMPH OF DIRECT DEMOCRACY 
by V Cabrera
(Community Activist Guayaguayare)


With few exceptions, our post-independence politicians have proven themselves to be a special class of demons! In our constituency, Councillor Kyron James qualifies as head of this class for his intemperate, idiotic and uninformed statements concerning the admittedly disruptive but, justified protest in Guayaguayare. 

It seems to me that Beaumont, Plaisance and Panhandle represents Kyron’s world and he is totally unaware and uninterested in the true concerns and aspirations of the people of Guayaguayare. 

So with the traditional Mayaro elitist arrogance he attempts to articulate on issues of which he is ignorant or wilfully blind! 

Politicians such as Kyron are indifferent and, do not realise that representative or parliamentary democracy as practiced by them have failed to bring redress to the ordinary man. These walking dead view street protests as an affront to their imagined authority. They fail to realize that this phenomenon of street protest is really a tentative wave of direct democracy struggling to find articulation through indigenous institutions. 

So Kyron’s asinine attempt to sound intellectual is definitely unintelligible. This protest clearly demonstrates the abject failure of Kyron and others of his ilk to curb the democratic instincts of the ordinary man! 

P.S. Remember, my brother, the spirit of the people is greater than all technology.

GUARDIAN HITMAN INTENSIFIES ANTI–UNION PROPAGANDA by Ken Howell

posted 7 Nov 2018, 08:31 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 7 Nov 2018, 09:13 ]

The articles under the rubric Industrial Relations published in the Guardian Newspaper every Sunday support the contention that the Joint Chambers meeting in March was called to plan and launch a political and economic offensive against the workers of this country.

It is reasonable to also conclude that the employers knew in advance of the decision of the government to close the Petrotrin Refinery. They knew that the leader of the OWTU had more bark than bite. And so the time was right to make their move. They had good intelligence from their two men who are in the know about the thinking of the leader. That was how their man in government was able to win him over. So that when Wilfred Espinet announced the decision to shut down Petrotrin, they knew that they had delivered a death blow.

The Union countered by filing an industrial relations offence against the company, charging that the company violated an agreement reached between the parties in April 2018, in which it was agreed that a committee would be set up, and over an eighteen month period, discuss ways in which they were to go about resolving the problems facing the company.

This action on the part of the union provoked Espinet, causing him to attack the Industrial Court after the company failed to get a stay of the injunction which was granted by the Court. In order to get the stay of the injunction, the company had to go to the Court of Appeal. But the company did not stop at that; they even attempted through a failed judicial review application, filed in the High Court on or about the 24th October 2018, seeking to derail the Industrial Offence before the Industrial Court.

Their contention was that the Minister of Labour’s office and the Registrar of the Industrial Court were wrong to send and receive the agreement reached between the OWTU and Petrotrin to the Industrial Court to be registered. The fact of the matter is the Industrial Relations Act says at Part V Disputes Procedure Section 51(1) that “Subject to this section, any trade dispute, not otherwise determined or resolved” may be reported to the Minister.

The matter which formed the subject of an Industrial Relations Offence was a collective agreement signed by the parties in which they had agreed to pursue a certain course of action in order to resolve a problem which the company claimed to have had. The Judge, upon hearing the premise from which the application was proceeding, decided to disallow the application, because Sections 44 and 45 of Part IV, which deals with collective agreements, places an obligation on the Minister to register a collective agreement, upon receipt, within fourteen days, whether or not he has concerns, relative to any article(s) in the said agreement.

What the leaders of the trade union movement must get into their heads is that the shutting down of Petrotrin is one of two fronts in
Image result for petrotrin the war which the employers have launched against the workers of this country. The other front which they have opened up is their attacks in the print and electronic media. When they turn their attention to the other important state entities the psychological attacks in the media will continue. Their intention is to win the non-unionised and unionised workers as well, over to their reactionary and backward way of thinking about unions.

This is because some trade union leaders have demonstrated that they are just as corrupt as the members of the employer class, which a few of them strive to emulate. This is a major weakness which is negatively impacting on the confidence of the members in their unions. And the employers have already homed in on that. As a result they have decided to milk that for all it is worth. That is what the hitman who writes in the Trinidad Guardian Newspaper every Sunday is aware of. He realises that there is a body of negative public opinion floating about in the consciousness of some members of the working class and he intends to make maximum use of that information by testing its reliability.

That is why he is in the Sunday Guardian of 5th November 2018 in an article entitled Of unions and dinosaurs, once again peddling his poison. The truth is that while he purports to be interested in having a frank, open and constructive discussion about industrial relations, the type of industrial relations which he wants to talk about, is not the type in which the rights of workers are currently covered by Conventions of the ILO. Not at all!

What he wants is a law which gives a false sense of equality to the individual employee, thereby misleading him/her into believing that as an individual he/she can negotiate a fixed term contract to his/her satisfaction with any employer. This may be only possible where the individual is a highly skilled professional. To say that the non-unionised worker does not have access to representation, in the event of the existence of a trade dispute, arising out of a dismissal or suspension, or any other matter, affecting their terms and conditions of employment, is furthest from the truth.

But what is even more cynical, is the pretence that the employers have no problems with trade unions because: “all successful economies in the Western world have highly active trade union movements and robust laws designed to protect workers” What he omitted to mention is the fact that, were it not for the bitter struggle waged by the workers and their trade unions, these robust laws would never have been enacted. In fact in France, Spain, Germany and other countries that are members of the European Union, those very robust laws, as he described them, are currently under attack.

German industrial workers on strike last January
That is why the workers and their unions had to go on the war path, in order to defend and protect their hard won rights. And this is because the workers learned from the experiences of workers in the USA and the UK during the tenure of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher when a vicious attack was launched against trade unions in both countries in the period of the 1980s to the 1990s.

That was the period when Mr. Emile De La Grenade of the Employers Consultative Association (ECA), a functionary of the employers, declared that the employers must take the fight to the workers. There is no safe haven for the workers, he said, the battlefield is everywhere.

As it turned out the unions and the workers fought them every step of the

VAMPIRE DOH EAT RICE!

Hiding behind the occasion of a natural disaster pretending that employers care about workers in their time of need, is the most cynical and pretentious display that one can inflict on workers. Because, as part of their accounting practice, all companies have at their disposal, the tax allowance which they can claim for such charitable gestures. The claim by these companies goes into the column on their tax return form as a claim for tax reduction.

So while they normally get a nice write up in the newspaper which they own and the public is misled into believing that they are concerned about the welfare of the affected communities, in fact they only see the disaster which has befallen the various communities as an opportunity to engage in public relations stunts.

The employer’s hitman attempted to take the moral high ground by boasting about the good work which the named companies and prominent individuals of the employer class have done, by providing relief to the flood victims. While I commend them for their display of charity, my advice to them is that such displays of charity would have found greater appreciation if it was done quietly and if that was the usual practice of the employer class.

But what was most despicable was the pretense that the interests of the workers and those of the employers are one and the same. The fact of the matter is that in the process of production, the conflict between labour and capital is ever present. This is a natural law of the production process. Just as it is a natural law of the jungle that vampire doh eat rice!

The objective reality is that employers are in business to make profits and in order to achieve that objective; they must employ and exploit labour, at the cheapest price possible. That is how the process of the exploitation of the labour power of the working class begins in order for the employers to make their profits. What the workers were being paid for, were it not for the formation and intervention of unions, was for the necessary labour time it took to produce the particular items. With the ability to mass produce, the workers’ labour power was producing far in excess of what they were being paid for.

What the employers would like to achieve, is the complete emasculation of the trade union movement and also to be able to dictate to the Industrial Court how it should treat with matters involving companies belonging to certain conglomerates.

The attempt to pretend that employers are capable of good deeds and can be trusted rings hollow especially when they choose to do so in a time of crisis. Please do your hollow good deed and shut up. You can afford it. Pass the kakada!
way, so it would appear that they have decided to launch their attacks under the different conditions that exist today. And so they have embarked on a two pronged offensive: claiming that trade unions are like dinosaurs and, like them, they too will become extinct.

Suddenly, they are now championing the cause of women as if it was because of the generosity of employers why some women have been able to break the glass ceiling. In fact it was because of the relentless struggles waged by the women’s movement, supported by the international movement of trade unions, which led to the break through, which allows this cynical individual to pretend that he is now rooting for women, to become leaders of trade unions in this country, as if women never held senior positions in the trade union movement in this country.

The current Minister of Labour was the President General of the Public Services Association and the President of the National Union of
Ida Le Blanc, General Secretary of the National Union of Domestic Employees
Domestic Employees is Ida LeBlanc. Clotil Walcott was the founder of that union. Even in the early days of the formative years of the trade union movement of this country women were in the forefront of the movement. 

Some of these women have since found their way into the history books of this
country: names such as Elma Francois, Christina King and the un-named woman who doused Inspector Charlie King with oil in that junction in Fyzabad and set him on fire. It became known as “Charlie King Junction” following the anti-colonial uprising of 1937.

These women were all leaders of the workers movement in their own right. This cynically; pretentious individual wants to compare matters which violate the rights of an individual to equality of treatment, with disputes arising out of an employee’s terms and condition of employment; whether those terms and conditions, are contained in a collective agreement or in a fixed term contract. This is because he is advancing the view that the trade union leaders are defending the current status of the Industrial Court, where individual employees, who have disputes with their employers, can only have access to the Court through a trade union of which they are members.

But the reality is that the Industrial Court is not the friend of the workers and their unions and one should not confuse the tripartite structure of the Court with the fact that because former Trade Unionists are members (four out of twenty one), this is an indication of a relationship which is prejudicial to the equality of treatment of the matters that are being laid before the Court for adjudication.

In the recent past trade unions have received judgements favouring the workers, whom they represented, was not because the Court was biased in favour of the Unions. On the contrary, it was largely because of the failure or refusal of the employers to follow good industrial relations practices; when they choose not to adhere to natural justice and instead to adopt the attitude that they are the owners of the business, and nobody, but no body, can tell them what to do in their place.

Some employers sometimes take the position that they have deep pockets and if they want to get rid of a worker, it does not matter what it will cost them. The truth about the Steel Mill is that Arcelor Mittal robbed the country of revenue. They left this country owing for natural gas and electricity supplied to them by this country.

That matter is a classic example of how foreign companies have treated with workers in the past. Trinidata, an American company which set up shop in this country, produced computer components and enjoyed the tax holiday which was in effect at the time. When the tax holiday expired, in 1979 the company pulled up roots and left the country. The workers, who were members of the Communication Workers Union at the time, only discovered that they had no jobs when they turned up for work on the Monday January 15th. The workers occupied the factory for six months and eventually forced the payment of severance, but that is another story.

This call for unions and their leaders to be less suspicious of the motives of employers is really a sick joke, one which it is difficult to laugh about, but it is much easier to laugh at the joker; especially since it is precisely because of the treacherous behaviour of the employer, which led to the Industrial Relations Offence matter currently before the Court.

The objective reality in this country today is that employers are not and have never been and will never be accommodating of trade unions. The fact of the matter is that the class interest of the employer class and those of the workers are irreconcilable. The lion and the lamb will never be friends. Like the lion, the employer always tries to cut away an individual worker from the pack in order to feed on that worker. That is the divide and rule tactics. That was what led to the formation of combinations of workers in the first place. Workers recognised that they were weak when, as individuals, they chose to negotiate terms and conditions of employment with their employers. And so, they realised that there was strength in numbers. They recognised that when they stood united they always won. And so the trade union movement was born and even in its weakest moments, it continues to be a thorn in the side of the employers. That is why the hitman is trying everything in the book to pull the thorn from the employers’ backside.

A GRAVE DECEPTION ON THE EVE OF INDEPENDENCE By Alvette Ellorton Jeffers

posted 2 Nov 2018, 13:06 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 2 Nov 2018, 13:08 ]

Image result for antigua and barbuda
At this moment, in 2018, ours is not an “anticolonial’ struggle. Our enemy is not some alien force that has invaded Antigua and Barbuda to impose ways of living and thinking inimical to our collective aspirations. This is not the 19th century or pre-1967.

People who were born a few months before 1967 and those born in 1981 have never experienced white, political rule in Antigua or Barbuda. They have never lived under a plantocracy or know what it means not to vote or denied the right to choose which trade union to belong to. They grew up knowing the Antigua government owned all the lands in Antigua

Since 1962, Caribbean people have gown up with, in the main, a black professional and political elite charged with administering the islands of the Caribbean. One could say, a reactionary Black Power, interpreted as blacks replacing whites as ministers, managers and administrators and advisors, have been quite successful. For most people living today, their only knowledge of colonialism is what they read in books or from stories told by their great grandparents.

It, therefore, confuses a lot of Antiguans and Barbudans when they are told that they are still engaged in an “anticolonial” struggle in this the 21st century when all they see are black and brown faces in high places making a lot of mischief. They are acutely aware that the “anticolonial” banner is a ruse specifically intended to obfuscate the real agents responsible for their social problems.

To dig now for reasons to raise high the “anticolonial” banner after fifty six years of independence in the English, speaking Caribbean is proof that the political leaders with the willing connivance of the professional elite have betrayed the mission of independence or independence as conceived by the leaders of the independence movement was bound to end in disappointment for the people. It is an admission of colossal failure on their part.

On the eve of Independence, CLR James in “Party Politics In The West Indies’ (1958), described the problem the new nations had to solve. “The difference between the mentality, the desires, the needs, which are the result of the kind of life the people live, and the limited resources of the economy is a very serious one. It is not only an economics question” and “…in a few years (it) can become the source of the greatest political disorders.” (p.89) Take note!

CLR James articulated the view that the people of the Caribbean were historically prepared to face the difficulties associated with economic reorganization; and in 1986, he stated in an interview carried in ‘Plantation Society’ that “…economic development must be 
Image result for antigua and barbuda mapdecided by the mass of people and its representatives. And that, in the Caribbean islands, might not be happening, but it can.”

It has not yet happened. Instead, what has emerged is a degenerative form of politics which preclude any discussion of peoples’ participation or management of the economy as a prerequisite for economic transformation and development. And the political parties are seeing to it that this kind of politics never happens.

As a consequence, “Politics,” notes Norman Girvan in 2013 speech entitled ‘Assessing Westminster in the Caribbean: then and now’ “has become “…a perpetual game of alternating ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ and Winner Takes All. It is characterized mainly by mudslinging, sensationalism and pursuit of trivia. Every five years, a cornucopia of election campaign promises is routinely made. Few are kept. People participation is limited to cheering at election rallies and a ten-second act of voting every five years. Government is reduced to Prime Ministerial dictatorship. Long term issues of development are hardly ever on the agenda of popular discourse.” Antiguans and Barbudans are quite familiar with this pappy show.

Since independence, nevertheless, the Caribbean people have continued to demonstrate their displeasure with the restrictive conditions into which they have been forced. On every occasion, except for 1968 when a mass movement and a general strike in Antigua brought down the Bird government and the 1979 triumph of the Grenadian revolution ended the rule of Eric Gairy, governments were successful in temporarily halting popular rebellions in places like Guyana under Forbes Burnham, Trinidad under Eric Williams and Jamaica under Hugh Shearer.

In Guyana, under Forbes Burnham, Walter Rodney, leader of the Working Peoples Alliance was murdered in 1980 for his politics and Maurice Bishop’s father was also murdered by agents of the Gairy government and Black Power and union activists were rounded up and imprisoned in Trinidad in the 1970s. The same in Antigua and Barbuda! The truth of the matter is that State sanctioned violence and murder was significant in the arsenal of State repression. Nothing prevents its reoccurrence.

Today, 2018, as in 1962 and in 1981, we still have to ask what does independence require of us? The economic problems and the attendant social problems have multiplied. Here are a few mentioned in the speech by Norman Girvan referred to above. “First the plunder of state resources by politicians and their cronies. Second, the insidious and largely invisible influences of money in politics and the determination of state policy. (Lack of transparency and accountability); Third, the problem of unchecked executive power. Fourth, emasculation of the legislative branch.”

All the above takes place while our Black leaders are selling off our resources to foreign investors; and when that does not help to mitigate the financial crises and recurring unemployment problem, they choose to run to foreign entities, the IMF and the World Bank, to tell them how to fix things on the backs of the masses of people. And in the meantime, they, the professional and political elites, turn the great masses of people into spectators of history unfolding in front of them but of which they are not its makers.

Ours is not a fight with the colonialists long removed from Antigua, Barbuda and the Caribbean. Antiguans and Barbudans are clear about that. They see the enemies of progress. They know them. They grew up with them. They haunt their dreams. Whoever tells the people that the enemy is “colonialism” is engaging in a grave deception. Antiguans, Barbudans and the people of the Caribbean know they are not fighting ghosts.

Their fight is against the very “anti-colonialists” who are quite eager to encourage Chinese, Russians and people from the United Arab Emirates to own and manage Antigua’s and Barbuda’s limited resources. The professional elites don’t mind this at all because something is in it for them. They have always been duplicitous with no real interest in the liberation and empowerment of workers, peasants, women and the unemployed. To guarantee this, “we have to become the change we want to see.”

CHAMBER SHOWS HAND WITH ATTACK ON INDUSTRIAL COURT by Timothy Bailey

posted 30 Oct 2018, 17:26 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 30 Oct 2018, 17:36 ]

Timothy Bailey: Industrial Relations Specialist, Chief Labour Relations Officer Steel Workers Union of Trinidad & Tobago.

I write this article with deep concern about the agenda of various individuals and groups with regards to the Industrial Court of Trinidad and Tobago (“the Court”). Behind the guise of genuine concern about the local industrial relations culture, climate and the role of the Court, we observe a frontal and strategic attack on the Industrial Court.

Numerous columns, opinions and even a video have been circulated recently via traditional and social media attacking the integrity of the Court. On the heels of the granted injunction by the Honourable Court against Petrotrin, the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce (“the Chamber”) sought to immediately challenge the applicability of the labour and industrial relations laws.

The Chamber has further attempted to confuse the public claiming that it had evidence to prove that the actions of the Court and trade unions did not improve the employment environment and quality of life.

In this article, I will focus on Item 3 of the Chamber’s circulated document and also in columns circulated via local print media.

Item 3 reads: The Industrial Court’s ruling in favour of the Steel Workers’ Union of Trinidad and Tobago resulted in the shutdown of the ArcelorMittal operations in Trinidad. The company was put into liquidation and – since the company was insolvent – the employees received no severance pay.

The above statement that the ruling in favour of the Steel Workers’ Union of Trinidad and Tobago (“the Union”) resulted in the shutdown of ArcelorMittal (“the Company”) is erroneous to say the least. What it shows is a lack of research of the facts surrounding the actual closure.

The facts on the closure of Arcelor Mittal are as follows:

In Q4 of 2013, a new Managing Director - Canadian citizen Mr. Robert Bellisle - was appointed by the ArcelorMittal Group. Mr. Bellisle specialized in mergers and acquisitions and was hired to renegotiate contracts with national utility companies like T&TEC and NGC whose contracts were approaching expiration.

In Q1 of 2014, ArcelorMittal Chairman and CEO Mr. Lakshmi Mittal paid a visit to Trinidad. Some weeks later, ArcelorMittal global
Lakshmi Mittal
management Directors Mr. Jeferson de Paula and Mr. Louis Schorsch paid visits to Trinidad as well. Both individuals met with the management and executive of the Union and stated that Mr. Mittal wanted the profit margin for the Trinidad segment to increase.

The local company had made a profit of US$40 million in the previous financial year and Mr. Mittal wanted to increase profit to US$120 million which would allow for greater capital investment into the facility. Both individuals left and a few months later the dumping of Turkish and Chinese steel had climaxed and affected the global market tremendously. At the same time, negotiations with T&TEC and NGC were failing due mainly to Mr. Bellisle’s attitude. This was compounded by his statements that Trinidad and Tobago was a “banana republic” and that the General Manager of T&TEC thought he was chief negotiator when he proposed a new rate of $110 per kwh which did not previously exist in T&TEC’s rate chart.

He threatened to bring the government of this country “to its knees” then proceeded to operate the various plants at half or less than their respective capacities resulting in an immediate split in the utility bills, due to huge reductions in the usage of electricity and natural gas. He also ordered new machinery, equipment, plant parts and spares for a proposed overhaul and a large shutdown of various plants without paying the parent company, thus incurring a large amount of debt with the parent company and various subsidiary companies.

As a result, the Mittal group became the largest creditor on the current creditors listing with its parent and other subsidiary companies being owed approximately 90% of the liabilities listed as owed to creditors.

From 2014 until November 2015, the Company and the Union met and executed numerous agreements to ensure that the Company remained operational to the extent that the Union’s loyalty began to be questioned by its membership. In December 2015, the Company proposed that the Union agree to its membership being forced on vacation while management personnel remained on the job. The Union responded that it needed to meet with its members.

At a meeting with its general council, Union officials/members unanimously rejected the proposal. The Union then informed the Company that it was free to engage its workers individually but the Union would not make the proposal to its members. Immediately following this, the Company laid off all unionized employees for three months which were divided into two six-week periods at the instruction of Mr. Bellisle who was recorded verbally stating the company’s plan.

During those three months, approximately 110 ArcelorMittal management personnel, whose remuneration packages exceeded the combined total package of the 500 laid-off unionised workers, were all retained with full salaries while unionized workers went home empty-handed for Christmas. It is worth noting that Mr. Bellisle’s salary was said to be US$93,000 per month and while in Trinidad, he opted to live in a gated community in Westmoorings and not in one of the four company houses built as accommodations for the Chairman and CEO and Managing Director in Central Park, Valsayn and Goodwood Park.

Under these circumstances, the Union was forced to seek relief for its members and on March 10 2016, the Court ruled that the company had undertaken illegal industrial actions against the workers. It is now recorded in history that the very next day the Company terminated every single employee and went into voluntary liquidation. The reasons given to the media by Mr. De Paula were poor market conditions and uncompetitive conditions due to increases in utility prices.

What Mr.De Paula did not admit, however, is that this action was well-orchestrated. The intercompany debt was deliberately created prior to and during the three-month lay-off of workers. Every loose inventory item of value was shipped and relocated to a sister company. On average the Company held between US$55-80 million in product, material and spares in its inventory. Once every movable asset was removed by trucking and shipping, the Company engaged the services of a reputable international auditing firm (PWC) to evaluate the company and it has been in a state of voluntary liquidation ever since.

Image result for trinidad steelworkers industrial courtThe statements published and circulated by the Chamber are erroneous. It is ironic that when ArcelorMittal took its planned actions against nationals of this country, this Chamber and these popular columnists did not care to speak out against them. Rather, the Chamber chose to remain silent. No time or resources were made available to challenge the injustices against the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago perpetrated by this Company. Today, however, the Chamber is leading the charge to discredit the Industrial Court.

To the Chamber I ask: What is your objective? To destabilize one of our few remaining sovereign institutions and disenfranchise our national labour force? Should the Steel Workers’ Union have allowed ArcelorMittal to lay off its 500 employees without pay while 110 management personnel remained employed with full salaries? Should the Industrial Court have dismissed the Union’s case and ignored the right of every worker to natural justice even with the evidence presented before it?

To the Chamber: silence is consent and by your actions (and selective inaction), you have already shown the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago your hand.

THE DAGGER IS DRAWN; WORKERS UNDER ATTACK By Ken Howell

posted 30 Oct 2018, 09:01 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 30 Oct 2018, 12:41 ]

A hatchet man of the ruling class, for the past two weeks, has been on the attack making all kinds of vacuous statements about trade union rights and false claims suggesting that the trade unions are more favoured under the IRA than employers.

This of course is farthest from the truth. When the Industrial Stabilisation Act became law in 1965 it was because trade unions were regarded as having too much power over the production processes in the country at the time. It succeeded because the movement was divided, because of the opportunistic behaviour of some of the trade union leaders, who went over to the side of the PNM, while the OWTU and TIWU along with some smaller unions opposed the passage of the ISA into law.

Between 1965 and 1972 the anti-worker stance of the government did not change largely because of the division in the trade union movement. This was because of the strong support which the reactionary leaders of the unions gave to the government against the progressive unions.

So when workers in WASA and West Indian Tobacco decided to leave NUGFW and SWWTU the government in support of those anti-worker leaders amended the IRA to disqualify Unions from representing workers in an essential industry if it is already recognised in such an industry. In addition, sympathy strikes were deemed to be illegal. The Recognition, Registration and Certification Board’s procedures and practice notes, are not union friendly.

The fact that trade unions have been able to win cases in the Industrial Court in the recent past is no indication that the Court is favouring the union over employers. What it speaks to is the vicious and arrogant nature of employers who have adopted the attitude that they can fire their employees as and when they choose and for any ridiculous reason, because it is their place and they can do whatever they want.

What is true is that employers often for the above reasons, failed to follow “natural justice” and refused to adopt “good industrial relations practices.” So the view that he /she is peddling that the Court is favouring trade unions is farthest from the truth.

What the author of the article entitled “TIME FOR WORKERS TO BE TREATED AS ADULTS” has done, is to resort to the reactionary
Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher
extreme right wing position of the Ronald Reagan/Margaret Thatcher era, when trade unions were deemed to be “opportunistic elements in the labour market” because they want to be able to have the unfettered rights to negotiate individual fixed term contracts with individual workers.

If they are allowed to have their way, they will demand that the government must repeal the Trade Union Act; they will demand that the Maternity Act should also be repealed and so on. And that is because they are certain that their man in government, when they say jump, he will not even ask how high.

The employers are clear in their minds that the quality of the trade union leadership at this time leaves a lot to be desired. And even if we attempt to sweep that under the carpet, it will not change the reality that it is precisely why the henchmen of the one percent are on the attack. If we allow them, they will destroy all the hard work and sacrifices that our forefathers made to form the trade unions in 1937. They will try to undo all the hard work and struggles of the workers who, as far back as the 1600s and 1800s in the vicious anti-worker era of the industrial revolution, had to wage guerrilla war, to win the right to form combinations/trade unions. At a time when anti-combination laws existed on the law books in England.

The author of that article has no regard for the fact that the government is the signatory to a number of Conventions governing labour relations and, as a result, in accordance with international standards had to enact the relevant pieces of legislation to give effect to those relevant Conventions.

Clearly, the author is from the most backward group of employers in the country. Those who believe that the Laws – the few- which guarantee some rights for workers along with the Industrial Court, should be assigned to the waste paper basket. They seem to be obsessed with the OWTU and the CWU because these Unions represent workers in two areas of the economy in which the companies are major revenue earners for the country. And they want to get their hands on the money which once belonged to the citizens.

These people are so brazen in their greed, that they are not afraid to expose their true intention: that they don’t want any laws on the books which restrict their ability to exploit workers with impunity! Therefore, the leaders of the trade unions must recognise the fact that the ruling class ha declared war on the workers of this country and must take a stand.

We must be prepared to meet fire with more fire. If is war they want well is war they must get. The working class must stand united. A blow to one is a blow to all! We must begin to sing the International. Arise ye toilers of the nation condemned to misery and woe. To hell with humbleness and patience, give deadly battle to the foe. Forward ever backward never!

UNAWARE THAT WE ARE NAKED By Tony Bedassie

posted 27 Oct 2018, 05:55 by Gerry Kangalee

My disgust with this country really knows no bounds. It's not that I don't love it; god knows I'm a patriot. Yet it's a place divided within itself and to its detriment, a place where a right thinking and logical person finds it difficult to function.

When you listen to the government speak, in most cases it becomes visibly clear that they are as disconnected from the people and their reality as chalk is from cheese. The insensitivity of their words, the arrogance and callousness meted out to the general population is nothing short of contempt.

We as citizens are just numbers to them. So, 5000 Petrotrin workers losing their jobs is no biggy. We will treat them well. Enhanced severance packages, early retirement etc. Yeah right!

Don't worry: their pension plan has lots of money - money which, without anyone contributing to it, will dry up in a short space of time. What then of the thousands of retirees who depend upon it and who, because of their membership in such a plan, cannot gain access to old age pension? It's no biggy. By the time that happens we will be out of office, one way or another. We would either have been voted out or simply retired from active politics, sitting back and enjoying the fruits of our misdeeds.

What about the domino effect on the large section of the community who depend upon this sector for their livelihood? It's no biggy. We will build a dry docking facility where we will bake pies in the skies.

What about their mortgages? Well it's no biggy. Take the little chump change you are getting in terms of severance and pay it off, if you can that is. Nah, you know you can't. Let the bank take it and then apply for an HDC house somewhere along the flood plains. Yeah man, join the thousands who are already on the waiting list.

What about our children's education, our sons and daughters who are at school and university? Well it's no biggy. After settling your mortgage you can choose to either continue with their schooling or let them drop out. It's really up to you to choose. Remember you still have to live.

What about the increase in the price of fuel? Well that's no biggy either. Do like me and service your bicycles and hope that you don't get your ass knocked down by these crazy drivers.

What about the flooding and the people affected? Again, I tell you it's no biggy. It's only 130,000; they'll recover. It's only ten percent of the population. So what? We don't have time to receive and distribute relief supplies to them. Let the national community deal with that. I mean, we could give some priority to containers bringing relief supplies. We could use the scanners at the port to ensure that nothing unwelcome comes in.

Scanners you say? What scanners? The same scanners we bought but won't use because it may reveal what's really inside some of our
Image result for trinidad and tobago cocaine on the port containers. Then again, that shouldn't be no biggy either. Remember, hundreds of millions of dollars worth in cocaine can leave this port and make it to a foreign country without any kind of paper trail. We just can't figure out where such a shipment could have originated. Of course, we can also find Hundreds of thousands of $US between ply-boards and not know to whom it was shipped.

You people know that the real biggy is in following simple paper trails. The problem is that if we follow the bread crumbs like Hansel and Gretel did, we might really end up at the witches’ door. For us though, there will be no escape. We'll end up in the oven much like that reporter who exposed the Panama papers did recently. Or, we might end up like Mr. Bourdain, dying of "SUICIDE"

What then are our options? Well I think you are asking a foolish question. Needless to say, it's no biggy either. We have another party waiting on the sidelines. They will use all the negative impacts from the actions of this government; they will sell you some kinda pipe dream that all will be well if they're elected come 2020.

They will ask you to forget that simple lawyers turned politicians became real estate magnates under their tenure. They will tell you that Life is a Sport and it never happened. That two pull is good because we have legalised it. Don't worry about that; don't worry about the $US40, 000 bribes which a famous football man had brought in to bribe other officials. Nah, forget that! Forget about Range Rovers and breast squeezers, blow jobs for houses, a secretary being put in charge of a major national security agency. Man, I could go on and on.

Image result for haves and have nots cartoonsYou see, we don't live in a real country. We live in a society of African and Indian, PNM and UNC; the haves and the have-nots. Yet these haves are a very few who are in most cases, neither PNM nor UNC. They are just chess players, pushing us the pawns and knights in order to save their kings and queens.

We live in a country where we will sit back and laugh at another's misfortune simply because he lives in another area; simply because what affects him, in our opinion, won't affect us.

The most humorous part of all this to me is what happens around election time. The mad scramble to align ourselves proudly behind our parties. We don't care what they have done or what they intend to do. We listen to their words dropping like honey from their lips. We gravitate to that honey like ants, not realising that what sweet in goat mouth sour…

For all the wealth generated in this economy over the last decades, we should all be living comfortably. The resources of the state should trickle down to every citizen of this nation, and it does. It's just that any money allocated for anything may start of as a gush but, by the time it reaches the intended targets, it's really reduced to a trickle. Again, that's no biggy. All the big wigs have to "eat ah food”: kickbacks and bribes, money diverted to private accounts. Meanwhile, the hierarchy sit in their tall towers and houses on the hills, and look down and laugh at us. They don't know what it's like to be poor, to wonder what you will eat today or if your children will go to school.

For that matter, the houses which they live in, high above the flood plains, were built by clearing down the vegetation on those slopes: allowing for the water to run off freely into the flood plains. Well, that's no biggy either. The people living down there are just numbers; subjects whom are to be treated with scant courtesy. After all, they have absolutely no say in this "democracy". They gave up that right when they voted.

Their responsibility is to put their red and yellow glasses on every five years and rally behind their rulers and monarchs. I understand. Every successful king throughout history has used his army to conquer his enemies, to build their empires. It's no different here and now. These armies may not use guns, swords, spears or shield, yet they are an army all the same. They use hate, race, fear, threats and intimidation to win their wars.

There is no justice in this land, no equality, no fairness, even through the legal system; unless you can afford to pay for it. The recent occurrences with the OWTU's injunction in the various courts, proves just that. After that fiasco, do you still think that justice can be had here? Do you still believe that those put to adjudicate on such matters are themselves, devoid of affiliation? Think again!

I remember a story about a foolish emperor who walked naked in front his people thinking that he had on the most beautiful robes. Here it's the opposite. Here, we are the ones walking naked in front our kings unaware that we are in fact naked.

We are powerless as a people living in this land, nah, scratch that. We have power, we are just too divided to realise where it lies.

Say what, IT’'S NO BIGGY! 

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