The Union frequently comments on events or receives news of general interest and these are documented on this page.
News & Comment
According to a report carried in the Newsday of January 20th 2017, Petrotrin's President, Fitzroy
Harewood, has signalled the need for restructuring of this state enterprise. Among other problems, he cited rising operating costs and lower world oil prices together with declining production of indigenous crude as having had a negative impact on the company. He has also asked that workers increase production in order to save the company. Mariano Browne in the Express of January 17th 2017 also highlighted the problems facing the company and spoke of the need for change within the enterprise.
The word restructuring is being bandied about in all quarters and what comes to mind immediately is job cuts. Something which the labour movement will resist with all it's might. Indeed, the OWTU has already shown its willingness to stand up for temporary workers at T&TEC who received letters of termination last week.
As workers we cannot simply bury our heads in the sand and pretend that everything is alright. We recently celebrated the victory of a 5% wage increase. One must wonder, though, at what cost. Historically Petrotrin has been the victim of poor management decisions and political interference.
Indeed the enterprise now resembles another well known failed company. Caroni Ltd. becoming a part of government's social wage package rather than a net earner of revenues. Fingers are pointed back and forth daily. Yet doing so in no way has had any positive net effect on the position we find ourselves in.
At Trinmar, our liabilities continue to increase. The age of our infrastructure and our numerous oil spills which are partly as a result of this, must be of concern to all. Remember, we had another one just two days ago.
Increasing production of indigenous crude is entirely possible. Yet we as workers can only do so much. The mere fact that we have been able to maintain our levels of production from this old field is testament to our ability and performance. Yet today, we have production capacity sitting idle at South West Soldado, while we hear that realising this production is being put on hold simply to facilitate the introduction of private entities and capital within this area.
The union has a huge fight on its hands. They must step up the game in order to force the company into doing everything in its power to bring this field up to full production capacity in as short a time as possible; thereby strengthening our ability to lay counter arguments when the time of restructuring comes.
The pressure to clean up the company is coming from all quarters. It will not be ignored. We must also take notice.
The death of Dr. Fidel Castro, el comandante, has brought the Cuban revolutionary process to a very interesting place. On this, all commentators seem to agree. What they disagree on is exactly what that place is.
Some say it is the end of an era. Some say it is the beginning of the end of an era. Some say it is the end of the "dictatorship" of the Castro brothers, Fidel and Raul. And others believe that it is the beginning of a reverse migration from Miami to Havana. Optimistic promoters of those views, especially by those whose ancestors fled the island in 1959, expect a spectacular resurgence of the social, economic and political leadership that prevailed in pre-revolutionary Cuba.
All of these theories, at best, are only partly true and are likely to be all put in the discarded bin when the real story is told. They rely on the prioritization of the Cuban process as a recent phenomenon mainly involving Cold War antagonisms and ideological competition between capitalism and an increasingly vibrant world socialist movement.
This is perhaps part of the truth, but certainly it is not the whole truth. Part of the reason is that the revolutionary crisis in Cuba occurred, and is continuing at a unique time in world history. The existence of a Cuban state which not only dared to be different but also successfully to defend itself against reaction and aggression is one of the entities that distinguishes it from, say the Haitian experience, and many other engagements with colonialism and imperialism.
The other part has to do with the fact that there was a Cuban revolutionary process going all the way back to the colonial period back to the earliest of so-called “discovery”. In the late nineteenth century the process was further radicalized as Cuba tried to realize the dream of national independence, and to abolish slavery for good. The fact that it co-existed with the struggles taking place in the wider Caribbean only deepened its significance.
In Caribbean historical time episodes of resistance go back to the indigenous peoples who preceded the Maroons who preceded Saint Domingue which preceded Jamaica which preceded Guyana and Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada and St. Vincent and others. Seen in that light, the Cuban revolution is but a phase in the development of Caribbean progress which has been underway long before 1959.
It has also been a vital part of the autonomous, anti-colonial, decolonization and independence movements that flourished throughout the region and the world since 1945. It is not an exaggeration to say that there would have been no independence at the time that it occurred in South Africa, Namibia, Angola and Mozambique without the unstinting sacrifice of the Cuban people and the leadership of the Cuban revolution. And Fidel Castro was a major contributor to that process.
In this context his name is to be remembered not only in relation to his contemporaries - Marcus Garvey, Norman and Michael Manley, Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler, Luis Muñoz Marin, Eric Williams, Errol Barrow, C.L.R. James, Cheddi and Janet Jagan, Walter Rodney,
Maurice Bishop, Nelson Mandela, Amilcar Cabral and the like- but also in relation to his historical predecessors, towering figures like Cudjoe and Nanny, Cuffy,Toussaint L’Ouverture, Henri Christophe, Bussa, Bogle, Martí, Maceo, Esteñoz and Ivonnet, to name only a few.
Here in the Caribbean, in the independence and post- independence period, Cuba was so intimately involved in the decolonization process that theories and developments aspiring to transformational political and economic change always perceived Cuba as providing an alternative model to the modest, limited, status quo, Westminster tinkering that was normative in the region. And so Cuba became one pole in a binary selection of choices, and Puerto Rico –and its imitators in the Caribbean- became the other.
Fidel has died at a time when both models are stressed. Puerto Rico, burdened with foreign debt, has become an outstanding casualty of the economic model that bears its name. Cuba, challenged by future developments, is taking a leap in the dark, at a time when normalization, not isolation, seems likely to become the order of the day.
Cuba seems to possess the tools with which to defend the best aspects of the economic and political system it has spent half a century in creating. One of these tools is that it seems to be on the right side of history.
First, the Caribbean people have always been opposed to colonialism and imperialism, not promoting it. Colonialism and imperialism still persist in the Caribbean and the world, and there is much work to be done in combatting these practices in their modern form. But they are on the defensive, and some of their best scholars, writers and analysts are themselves saying that the old order is running out of options to perpetuate itself.
In fact globalization, the newest and most combative form of imperialism, increasingly is associated with the imperialism of classes and decreasingly the imperialism of countries, to such an extent that it is now seen to threaten the sovereignty and integrity of even the most powerful countries themselves. So that Cuba's historic antipathy to imperialist domination, from Hatuey to Fidel, has to count for something and will undoubtedly play a significant role in the world that is developing.
Secondly, the Cuban economy, whatever one might say about its debilities, is autonomous, if not completely independent. One of the major future conflicts –the character of the economy, capitalist or socialist- will be fought on Cuban soil, in international conditions increasingly tolerant of economic diversity, and led by a generation of Cubans grown up and socialized by the Revolution. Adversity is a master teacher. And the Cuban nation has been a master class for more than fifty years.
Thirdly, the utter confusion of the opponents of the Cuban revolutionary process, the contortions and the contradictions they have been forced to embrace, and the winnowing of the enemies of the Revolution in the United States and in the world, are paving the road for ultimate Cuban success.
The process continues.
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO-CUBA FRIENDSHIP ASSOCIATION
For nearly a century the labour movement has continued its battle to improve the standards of employment for workers in this country. Indeed it was due to the early efforts of people such as Rienzi, Cipriani and Butler that not only workers but the entire nation began agitating for their rights. This movement laid the foundation for us gaining our independence.
From then to now the mantra has been the same. "Organise the unorganised!" and “In unity there is strength!"
IOCL workers are one of the very few groups of contract employees operating within Trinmar who have done just that. They gained legal bargaining status and have a negotiated collective agreement between their employer and their representative, the OWTU. Damus may be the only other set of workers who hold such status.
Having been led into strike action by their union which will come to a close next week, their employer has stood his ground: the strike therefore lasting the full 90 days.
A number of scenarios are possible at the end of this impasse. It is reported that their employer is in the process of winding up the company and transferring its assets to another entity which he owns: an entity which does not hold the contract for the provision of marine transportation of Trinmar workers.
Yet Petrotrin has already put out a request to tender for the said contract. Therefore it is entirely possible that this entity may very well become the awardee of said contract.
If the current batch of striking workers is sent home as a result of such actions and the matter goes before the courts, the contractor may then rehire those workers he feels are passive and leave the others who fought him vociferously during the strike on the breadline. Should this happen, it would be a slap in the face of the working class and more so the entire labour movement.
The signal sent will be clear. The Employer class showing that they have the power to deal with organised labour: that to organise yourselves, to become unionised, will be to your detriment.
The entire labour movement, be it FITUN, NATUC, JTUM and even the MSJ must become cognisant of this scenario. Otherwise any attempt to "Organise the unorganised" or to express the sentiment that "In unity there is strength" will be viewed by contract and other workers as just vain repetitions : that it is better to stay away from the unions in order to hold on to one's job.
I remember all too well the problems faced by janitorial workers at Petrotrin/Trinmar. These services like many others are performed by contractors and are neither permanent nor casual jobs within the company.
The Collective Agreement, a negotiated and legally binding document between the Company and the Union, is the rule book which governs workers’ and company rights. Contract workers in most cases are not unionised and are offered only one protection under this agreement. Under Article 4 (a) all contract workers are to be paid the minimum rates applicable to company employees for any particular job function. Most contract workers are even denied severance pay, their legal entitlement, upon exit from their company for whatever reason.
For many years the union fought to enforce Article 4 (a). In the late 90's and early 2000's, as an officer of the union, I met with numerous reports of abuse of these workers by their employers - from deduction of NIS payments which were not being remitted to sexual harassment and verbal abuse.
Eventually the pressure exerted by the union on behalf of these workers bore fruit and their employers agreed to begin paying them properly. It was a victory for the workers which was short lived. The contractor agreed to pay; however, he cut their hours of work to a bare minimum. Four (4) hours on land and six (6) hours offshore. Even though these workers spend eight (8) to ten (10) hours within the same dangerous environment within which we, the Trinmar workers, operate. Still envy them?
Contractors when tendering for jobs within Petrotrin quote Article 4 (a) as justification for charging particular rates for their contracts. They therefore get paid according to the minimum rates but pocket it without passing it on. This is the reason behind events such as the IOCL strike. Contractors were paid retroactive payments based upon the minimum rates due to an agreement between the union and the company. Yet to date, none of that money has reached their hands.
It is the Private Sector, the Contractors, who really benefit the most from Petrotrin. They lick the cream off the top while denying their workers their just dues and entitlements. It is amazing to see that the one set of workers who were actually being paid according to the agreement have been used to negatively affect the public's perception of what goes on.
IOCL workers fought long and hard for their rates to be adjusted. The union finally declared victory for them through the signing of an MOU with the company who agreed to pay the contractor retroactively, according to the minimum rates. They were shown receipts thereafter which proved that the company had paid the contractors. Yet not one red cent was passed on to them. Today they remain on strike, while it is reported that their employer is folding up the company and transferring the assets to another one he owns under a different name.
What of these workers? He will fire those of IOCL and rehire all those who are willing to work for this next company at the old slave wages. That is the issue the public should be focusing on: the rampant abuse of these workers and the subsequent posturing by their employer simply to deny them their just dues.
The working class, and more so, the contract workers of this country continue to be handed the "shitty end of the stick." All the while we are misdirected by news reports sensationalising the issues simply to please and keep viewers in their ignorance.
The promised strike action come Monday is indeed cause for concern. The statements being made by the different parties also makes for interesting times. Roget's claims that workers are operating at 2011 salaries, being true, leads to other questions. How indeed are the people who generate the revenues for the government treated with such scant courtesy while other service providers for the state had their matters settled with increases up to 14%?
I suspect however that this predicament was brought on more due to open politics and the falling out of the PP/MSJ/OWTU during the 2010 - 2015 period.
The former Energy Minister in his comments concerning privatisation also gives an indication as to the root of that falling out. It was the intent of the previous regime to bring in their party financiers to take over South West Soldado, our most promising field.
Between 2010 - 2015 the company spent billions refurbishing and developing this field which had been shut down following the closure of Block Station 25, the facility which provided compression and production services for the area. The facility itself has been deemed unstable and unsafe. However, seismic surveys of the area revealed that the acreage closer to shore mirrored the area further out to sea from which we were producing. It was thought that the near shore area could see additional finds of crude which would have increased our production capabilities.
These surveys date back to the 90's but it was only between 2010 - 2015 that drilling was done. It is reported that oil was found in certain areas with one well free flowing at a rate of up to 900 barrels per day.
A decision was made to tender for a floating production and compression facility for the area. The company then contracted a foreign entity for the job, paying the entire cost of the facility up front as a mobilisation fee, something unheard of prior to this arrangement. The facility was never delivered and the matter went to the courts. If memory serves me well, the government won a judgement against that contractor.
Currently South West Soldado can easily add 4000 bpd of oil to our production; yet today, years after the refurbishment and development exercise for which we are still paying, not one flow line which would bring the oil into our tanks has been attached. I assume that is so simply because they have no intention of flowing it into our tanks but rather those of a contractor/ party financier.
Dr Rowley in making the statement that there needs to be some parity concerning the 2011 - 2014 period of negotiations which the previous government had settled with the other state sectors at up to 14% is a good indication that he understands the need to properly compensate us the workers. However that matter remains before the courts. Having admitted such, would it then not be prudent for the government to step in and have that matter settled? After all his finance minister is stating that he cannot quantify an increase for 2014 - 2017 without knowing what 2011 - 2014 would reflect in terms of additional costs to the wage bill of Petrotrin.
The item carried in the news concerning the rates of pay of certain employees is erroneous and indeed being used to turn public sympathy away from the workers plight. A cleaner is quoted in the news as earning $64.14 is a contract employee. Said worker does not work a full eight hours per day but rather six. At Trinmar these people are sent offshore and remain up to ten plus hours and yet are paid for six. While this goes on, Contract workers who provide Marine transportation, i.e. boat captains and so on are paid an average of $40.00 per hour. Why didn't CNC3 tell the whole story? Why has the news station opted to reveal and indeed expose workers to the dangers of society by revealing salaries on national television - irresponsible in my view -especially given the current crime situation?
The opposition leader in making a statement that the government should have been proactive and have talks with the union in order to prevent the situation from reaching to this level has no moral authority to speak on the issue. Since the problems the current Administration is facing was inherited from hers.
The entire scenario is one of deep concern for all. Yet there remain so many sides of this issue which the public is not aware of. I hope that this clears up some of those.
Every day we are faced with decisions. Some are big, with the potential to change lives for the better or worse. Yet the size of the potential impact does not necessarily make a decision complex or difficult. I have been following a matter for some considerable time and cannot understand the decision being made by our government.
Please permit me to use an analogy to illustrate and simplify the issue. No analogy is perfect but this one comes pretty close.
A few years ago your neighbour ran into some financial difficulties, unable to pay his bills on time. He offered you his car as collateral against a tidy sum that you loaned to him to get by. In the intervening years you now have come to face your own financial troubles. It would be logical to approach your neighbour for repayment of the loan. You would pursue them for full or partial payment with vigour, especially as you have unpaid bills increasing by the day. Simple decision.
Contrast that simple decision with one that faces the government. In fact it has faced it for all of the last year or more. Back in 2009, our government decided to rescue CLICO in its hour of need. In so doing we the taxpayers advanced over 20 billion dollars towards the cause. Some has been repaid but we are told that at least another 10 billion dollars remains due to us.
Like our friend in the analogy, we have bills to pay by the truckload. Contractors have to accept bonds (IOUs), workers are denied salary increases and many times paid late. Important projects have stalled and even Carnival has not been funded with less than two months to go.
The obvious course of action is for the government to hound the CLICO shareholders in order to effect the rapid repayment of our generous support. A ten billion dollar injection into the country’s finances would be transformational. It would allow creditors to be paid in a much more timely manner and workers could get a fairer hearing at negotiations. Everybody wins.
Bizarrely, the government is not pursuing the shareholders for the timely repayment of this massive debt. Unbelievably, the shareholders are the ones who are pleading with the government to repay the outstanding amount. In the midst of our current economic travails, our government is refusing to even contemplate the recovery of this huge advance of our money. Why?
While workers are being offered zero-zero-zero increases in their wages and contractors stop work on projects due to late payment from government, our leaders refuse to take steps to recover ten billion dollars from CLICO. The shareholders want to repay the money, as was the anticipated outcome from the outset. Is it that we have chosen to “cut off our nose to spite our face” or are there other agendas at play?
Each of us adversely affected by the government’s late payments needs to demand a change of policy. Why should workers and contractors among others suffer so badly, when a simple decision would remedy the situation? The government must move assertively now to bring this money back into our control.
Not a single one of us should be expected to accept less than our contractual or bargaining rights when a very simple decision would utterly transform the status of the country’s economy. Talk of sacrifice in this hour of need rings hollow. The numbers are large but the decision is simple. We need the money.
I couldn’t let this old year (2016) pass without publicly making a point that my friend Gerry and I commented upon some months ago.And it has to do with the recognition by NBC of the undoubted prowess of Ato Boldon as a commentator not just at the Rio Olympic Games but even London 2012 and before.
We recognized a similar proficiency based on articulation, research, fairness and an even-handed projection of what it is in their deliberations, by two other Trinidadians. I am saying therefore without fear of contradiction that two other sons of the soil have to be placed on the podium with Boldon and they are Shaka Hislop in football and Ian Bishop in cricket, both for ESPN.
I am calling on one who is on the same trajectory to collate, enumerate and publicate (my word) on details of the above three careers including their schooling and upbringing whereupon there may be some common denominator that educationists, politicians, et al, can draw lessons from. Over to you Lasana Liburd, Faz Mohammed (ornybody else so inclined) - thanking you in advance!
What this call accentuates is that the so-called movers and shakers of our resources should see some merit in seeking out such relevant
information and connecting the dots. These dots could include Trevor McDonald of the BBC and, why not, Vidia Naipaul.
Since talk does bring talk, one can see Derek Walcott in the mix leading all the
way to Eric Williams. And then questions can flow, such as why no women are mentioned; how come the crucible of gestation is in the capital city or is it; what
does it say of the vast number of current radio announcers, politicians and other green verb specialists.
There have been 3 significant recent political events which lay bare what working class people have postulated for decades. The first was the response of the Industrial Court to statements made by representatives of an employers association re: the role the Court is playing in industrial relations matters and the description that followed of the judges.
What is interesting is that they feel bold enough to make these declarations openly and fearlessly. In other words the class feels politically strong enough at the moment to take the fight to the workers - their motto from the 80’s. Why now?
Their leaders seem to think that this is a moment to seize the time as class struggle intensifies and they perceive the labour movement to be weak and the present administration to be hopelessly inept if not confused and lacking initiative.
One must give credit to the JTUM/NATUC/FITUN for their response and the initiative the Court has taken. Why mention all three amalgamations of Labour? Even as NATUC knocked the Minister of Labour sideways on her arrogant usurpation of powers she is not entitled to, there was evidence of collaboration by elements within one of the Federations re: the Cipriani Labour College matter.
Next there was the declaration by Mr. David West, head of the Police Complaints Authority that the Police Service is a gang in uniform. What made this news? The source!
In sociology, criminology, it is an axiom that there is a direct relationship between the level of criminal activity and the culture of policing. C.L.R James always pointed out that the level of and potentiality for barbarism in the region would always be high because the Caribbean was a region where “law and order and justice” was an expression of raw power. Slavery, indentureship, colonialism…
Unlike the major capitalist countries there was no institution of democracy such as Parliament. No suggestion of the rule of law, rights of man. He would point out that it made possible the rule of butchers from Haiti down to Grenada.
Well Mr West is stating what many have lived through for decades. This is the land of Randolph Burroughs, the infamous illiterate crime fighter who made it to Commissioner but had to be taken down by his handlers. Burroughs was charged with murder, robbery, drug trafficking…
So if today police vehicles run cars to the edge of the road, police patrol malls at Christmas time with military grade weapons dressed in combat gear and you need a programme to tell the police from the accused, Burroughs’s chickens have come home to roost and calling for Mr. West's head in editorials does not change the reality. Yes he may have retracted or attempted to 'double speak' his way out as a form of damage control but facts are stubborn things. Besides nothing in his demeanour suggests he is given to rash, ill thought out commentary.
Finally, two lawyers, one a former Minister in the Ministry of National Security spoke on morning talk shows. The former Minister was calling for privatisation of some police functions. Never mind that nonsense call…look at the context in which he spoke! The haplessness and hopelessness of the police typified by the handling of the murder of Ms. Banfield a week ago!
The response of another prominent attorney was even more revealing. He stated openly that the corruption in the police service had now moved from the headquarters and onto the streets. Using what had happened in the Banfield case, he pointed out that investigations now seem to consist of detaining someone in the hope of extracting incriminating statements. He pointed out that laws/rules regarding detention and interrogation of persons were being openly violated. To wit, deeming someone a 'person of interest' does not give the right to indefinite detention and character assassination in the media.
A population that has been led to believe that God is a Trini and earthquakes cannot really happen here has been brutally compelled to realise how deep and widespread the cancer of social decay and self-imposed delusion has reached. To use an analogy from medicine the cancer has metastasised and spread to the bone, giving excruciating pain. Nor is pepper spray any answer.
Has it surpassed all the treatments we can give? We first have to acknowledge that we have fallen gravely ill and the present crop of national spin doctors cannot save us; then look for new staff.
Anyway, I share with my comrades my scholarly research. I have learnt this year, for example that Jesus’s full name is/was Jesus Christ Thompson and that he took his mother's last name. Her name you recall was Hail Mary. Joseph seemed to have no last name. Rather I have not found any so far. Even Wikipedia drew me a blank and they are generally reliable (heh! heh!). Maybe Joseph of Aramathea did not pay his Flow cable bill.
What would Diana Wyatt-Mahabir have done with Joseph anyway? She would surely have released the D.P.P. on him using the power of the Children's Authority legislation. You do not ride your wife around when she is about to deliver. Joe was old enough to know that. No wonder it took him so long to find a bride. And the boy was never close to him.
J.C., as we know, had a rough time of it. If Trinidad and Tobago as we know it now had existed, he would surely have been a deportee. School dropout, gang leader, wine dealer! Not that he did not have skills - he was a fairly good carpenter they say! Maybe the money was not fast enough.
There was gambling but he did not like it from what we read about the incident in the Jerusalem mall with the foreign exchange folk. For those who do not know, you had to change the local currency into a special coin to buy the doves to make offerings in the temple. The rate of exchange would have made the local Bankers association prooooouuuddd! It's called ''usury'' folks - then and now. Guess that is why we never see photos of Jesus in the banks - in the hardware stores, bookstores, in some maxis; but never in banks.
How did they spend Christmas? Fortunately for him, not Him, Christians came after, so he escaped them and their rituals. Much like Marx who is reported to have 'thanked god' that he was not like some of those Marxists who came after him. Christ Thompson was Jewish/Hebrew. Jesus would have looked absurd in a red suit anyway. He preferred Roman sandals to snow shoes. Had he not he would have stood out and been captured long before Easter/Good Friday. He would not have had time to turn water into wine and motivate Carmona. Anybody 'paranging' the Prez House this year?
The very heavily armed paramilitary/and military who will be fighting crime in the malls? Nah, I don't think that was his idea. Even if it were, he would have given it up after the first Christmas, recognising that is not where the murders and kidnappings are occurring. But then he would have had to fight off "Pepper Spray'' from the Dottin cohort..Jeez!!! What next; tasers for secondary school girl students?
Do you all realise that Gary Gee and Robert Gui have contracts with the media? Whenever it is a really serious matter on crime or labour they are both trotted out. One leaves the listener more winded than the Trinidad football team 60 minutes into a 90 minute World cup qualifier; while the other causes the viewer to ask "What the hell he talkin' about?"
My Christmas wish is that this anniversary of demonstrating on Christmas Eve is the last for the steelworkers. One year ago that is what they courageously did and they are still out there. They have waged tremendous struggle virtually alone. Let us remember there is an under-reported and overlooked strike by I.O.C.L workers camped outside the company gates down at Otaheite..And that Carnival and Christmas are celebrations and not distractions. And that pan players are owed money for 2016.
And that the need to take over and democratise our own institutions is paramount regardless of whether Colm says goes or is demoted or Jenny loses out to yet another “labour leader”.
Jah guid....oops...Happy holidays!
With the coming dispensation in the White House the world may be in for a turbulent trip as far as economics and politics are concerned. The two have always been two sides of the same coin. This is the reason why Econometrics - mathematical economics - has not been a reliable predictor of economic outcomes. Even if the data inputs are accurate and the model design rigorous, the discipline cannot take account of human motivation.