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

A WINDRUSH SUNDAY by Rae Samuel

posted 17 Jul 2019, 12:36 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 17 Jul 2019, 12:52 ]

"Naman, hero of the battlefields of Europe, Naman who vowed
for the power and continuity of the metropolis, Naman is mowed
down by the police the very moment he returns home. '' 

On National Culture
Franz Fanon-Wretched of the Earth


It was a Sunday on which the mother country redeemed herself in sport: Formula 1 and World Cup cricket. The second event held all the melodrama that the most imaginative Hollywood script writer could never have conceived much less written. A nation redefined itself in sport, especially after have been labelled 'chokers', 'poor finishers', eternal bridesmaids.

Soccer and cricket have a way of bringing everything and everyone in the world to a nerve wracking halt that no other sport can match. The only event that carried such melodrama was boxing but that was because Muhammad Ali took the fight for African liberation into the sporting arena. As one of his opponents said of him "He put it on the line, brother. The representation he gave to the Black community will never be forgotten...no matter what''.

Image result for WINDRUSHBut it was a Windrush Sunday as descendants of that first boatload of West Indian immigrants to arrive to help "re-build"  the "mother-country'', raised the Union Jack way above all other sporting banners that historic day; even as efforts are seriously being made to deport the children of the immigrants or even some of the immigrants themselves. Clearly the English ruling class sees us useful fools.

Inside the boundary ropes: A dramatic tie. Super over. The man chosen to bowl England's last over is a young West Indian, who is playing in his first major tournament after having been fast tracked into the English team at the expense, some would say, of one of their most senior and successful players.

His history is that he played three matches for the West Indies U-19 team but was not chosen for the 2014 under 19 world cup as were players like Pooran, Allen, Hetmyer. Former English player and his Barbadian/Bajan countryman, Chris Jordan,encouraged him to use his British passport, his father being a citizen. No experience at that level but had a very good opening match and played a strong role in helping England reach the final after a series of unexpected losses.

So it is down to the final over and to the surprise of many he is given the ball. First game at this level. Whatever happens he would be immortalised as the player who won or lost the match and dashed England's hopes after 44 years of waiting to win this major cricket trophy in a game they gave to the world.

His first ball is a wide which brings on a free hit/extra ball and run scoring opportunity; then a six, but he held his nerve and led 
Image result for jofra archer BARBADOSEngland into folklore and himself into legend. We the onlookers glued to television sets all over the world were more nervous than he was. In true Caribbean style we kept saying to one another "Hush...doh blight the boy''. He delivered literally and figuratively 

Not that the English media would tell it that way. It is all about Ben Stokes and his redemption. True he has salvaged himself since West Indies triumph in the last T-20 championships where Carlos Braithwaite gave him, and us, a super over of a different kind en route to giving West Indies a most unlikely victory. The BBC web pages barely feature Jofra, who, if he never plays another game, has his place in cricket history.

What if New Zealand had won? Oh that is easy. Jofra would have been blamed for everything happening in England at the moment - from the Brexit debacle to the confrontations with Iran. He would have been referred to as being West Indian born player chosen for England. Who knows if he would have been kept on the team?

Across the pond at Silverstone, another son of the Caribbean soil, born in England, created Formula One history by winning the British Grand Prix for a record 6th time. He is just as fast in the cockpit of a Formula One car as Jofra is on the cricket pitch.

Son of a Grenadian father, Lewis Hamilton has won the Formula One driver's title 5 times and is leading the 2019 race for it. He holds 
Image result for LEWIS HAMILTONthe record for pole positions in Formula One racing and is second only to Michael Schumacher in terms of titles won. His triumphs have enabled/assisted Mercedes Benz to win the constructors' title for 5 consecutive years. Only 34, Hamilton is already a legend in the sport. 

His story is unique in that one cannot play one's way in Formula One racing. A team must offer a driver a contract based on his performances in the lower echelon events in go-carting and Formula 2 calendars. Hamilton grew up in a housing estate, has a working class background.

Outside of Hamilton, the sport is for the lily white and super rich. There are no qualifying tournaments to allow a driver to be selected on a team. Like Tiger Woods before him Hamilton has gone where no Black person has ever gone before. No other is on the horizon either.

England as a sporting country can breathe again. At least until the Ashes series against Australia begins in summer. Not that it will comfort the descendants of the Windrush generation fighting deportation from the "motherland'. Nor that Boris Johnson, Prime Minister in waiting, is about to invite either of these 2 sons of the Caribbean soil to #10. We’ll see.

LABOUR MARKET REFORM IS NASTY BUSINESS BY Ken Howell

posted 12 Jul 2019, 07:58 by Gerry Kangalee

Prior to the closure of Petrotrin, as you may recall, there was a secret meeting of employer organisations and individuals. A secret recording revealed that the subject of that meeting was the trade unions and the Industrial Court.

Subsequently, there were a number of articles, appearing in the print media, critical of the Industrial Court, and purporting to be concerned about judgements of the court which went against certain companies. In addition, some of these articles, called for amendments to the IRA to allow workers to take trade disputes to the court as individuals and not through a union, as is usually the case now.

One might be tempted to ask why are employers so interested in having the labour laws amended at this point and time. Well labour market reform also requires the laws which govern the relations between labour and capital to be amended or repealed in order to clear the market of any obstacles to the freedom of capital to rule without let or hindrance.

You see, in a liberalised market, capital/employers must be allowed to buy and dispose of labour as and when it chooses. Have we not noticed the systematic destruction of the Ministry of Labour and the delay of the government to appoint new members at the Registration Recognition and Certification Board for almost a year? That is an indication as to the thinking of the government which is clearly in the corner of the employers on this matter.

Image result for labour versus capitalThe question is what should be the response of the trade unions to this threat? Well, the trade union movement must call a conference of branch officers and shop stewards to discuss and take concrete decisions to initiate a fight back in order to protect the limited gains which the unionised workers have achieved over the years. This conference must not be just another talk shop for labour leaders to gallery themselves and harangue the workers for hours. It must be a working session to come up with proposals, suggestions and ideas geared toward developing a self defence campaign.

Immediate steps must be taken to initiate a campaign to mobilise and unionise non-members in recognised branches and also to influence the more than 85% of those workers in the private sector who are not in a recognised bargaining unit in any union at this time. In order to achieve the above the leaders must rise above their respective insularity and insecurity. They must put the interest of the workers above their selfish interests and strive for unity within the movement.

While the current crop of leaders may not understand or believe it, the survival of the movement hinges on genuine unity and solidarity. It means that a blow to one is a blow to all. It means that we fight together or we die alone. If we fail to achieve that level of unity, we are likely to commit hara-kiri. By that I mean, that some unions are likely to die, if the major federation fail to recognise that mergers are a viable option for small unions to consider, in order to counter the attack on the movement.

It would ensure that the merged entity has available to it human and other resources which would not otherwise be available to small unions. Of course it is not the only measure that must be adopted. But these are some of the things unions must begin to talk about whether they like it or not. If they choose to procrastinate they will do so at their own peril.

Now is the time when leaders who are truly in the trenches with the workers they represent must stand up in order to be counted. The government and the employer class has already set in motion the plans through which they intend to destroy the unions in order to clear the labour market of the trade union movement.

In other words, when the movement decides to demonstrate strength in numbers on the streets, that strength must be reflected on the job in the work place. If and when the employers choose to flex their muscles by firing a Shop Steward or branch officer, the power and unity of the branch must be demonstrated in support of the officer, demanding his reinstatement.

If that can be achieved it will demonstrate that the movement is capable of confronting the enemy on any terrain it chooses. I am saying all that I have said, to say, that if the current crop of leaders are not aware, the fact of the matter is that we are currently involved in a class war. The ruling class has launched an attack on the working class. Therefore we have no choice but to respond.

However, when we do, our response must be effective and devastating. And we must be prepared for an oppressive response from the state apparatus in defence of the class interest of the capitalist. Make no mistake; they are determined to break the back of the trade union movement. I have no doubt that this is going to be a fight to the death. Someone will win and someone will lose. Labour market reform is nasty business.

UNITED FRONT FOR FOOTBALL FORMED

posted 5 Jul 2019, 08:13 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 5 Jul 2019, 09:01 ]

A group of activists in local soccer have formed a united front in an effort to clean up the nationally embarrassing mess that football finds itself in.

Persistent media reports highlight the serious crisis on and off the field. Our teams are routinely and heavily defeated by opponents whom we would have matched handily in recent years. We have failed and continue to fail to qualify for major international tournaments whether due to our poor standard of play or administrative blunders by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association.

Developmental programs, especially those of youth football, have faltered. Attendance at football matches is paltry. Referees complain of lack of support from

 
“It is extremely imperative that the person/persons given the responsibility to run football in our country has the ability, aptitude, experience, knowledge and humility to properly execute this responsibility to improve the inefficiencies plaguing our football.

In the past, Football in our country has experienced difficult times, but never as woeful and disastrous as the present. This current administration has taken our football beyond the depths of despair. Its members have acted in ways that have undermined and destroyed the bedrock of the sport in our country. If any of these men and women have any pride and patriotism, they will do the honorable thing and step down, and allow for the rebuilding process to begin. 

Sport in itself is a powerful vehicle, and by extension football. It is a sport that had a powerful impact on my life. It is heartbreaking knowing that the next generation of players will be deprived of fulfilling their dreams and the opportunities of representing our national teams because of the incompetence and dictatorship of this administration.”

Maylee Attin-Johnson

FORMER NATIONAL WOMEN'S TEAM CAPTAIN 
the national leadership. They point out that we no longer have local officials at international matches in the numbers that we used to. Morale is low within the football community and public support has dried up.

The group , consisting of Presidents of some regions, ex-footballers, some incumbent Board members and former national players based abroad, is gearing up for TTFA elections due by November 30th. The, committee, chaired by Board member Keith Look Loy, outlined the areas of concern which include:
“There are moments when change must be pursued and that time is now.  David John-Williams’ continued ineptitude is having a negative effect that has debilitated football in Trinidad and Tobago. 

Our young players need the correct environment to improve and to grow. The current TTFA leadership is incapable of providing such.

David John-Williams has demonstrated beyond doubt that he cannot improve the reputation of TTFA or instill trust among potential sponsors and stakeholders in Trinidad and Tobago. I believe that the establishment of a united administration is of huge importance to lead the TTFA out of the current mess that has made us a laughing stock among our rivals.”

Kelvin Jack

FIFA WC 2006 PLAYER

*The debt crisis in TTFA

*Lack of accountability which forces them to go to court to obtain information re operations of TTFA

Desertion of national teams reflected in the lack of training programs.

*An absence of a technical director

*The collapse of grass roots programs

*Monies owed to retired TTFA employees

In the face of all this David John Williams, President of the TTFA, according to the group, continues to act as if all is well and to show absolutely no interest in responding to the concerns of local football.

He is accused of acting ultra vires the organisation's Constitution in making appointments, in setting up committees and in spending funds. The committee says it will be outlining a road map en route to the upcoming elections, with consultancy with the national football community, on and off the field, as its core principle.

THEY SETTING LAGLEE By Ken Howell

posted 2 Jul 2019, 14:12 by Gerry Kangalee

Image result for trinidad catching birdsI imagine that many of us who grew up in country districts and enjoyed the thrill of catching birds, will be familiar with the phrase, “setting LaGlee” That is when you have a bird that whistles frequently in a cage with a trap door, well positioned on a tree with sticks of the glue you would have harvested from a Breadfruit tree, processed and carefully wrapped around the vein of a Coconut branch leaf.

Then you position yourself, in a place from which you can observe the inquisitive birds manoeuvre around the cage looking for an opening in the cage, through which they can enter, to attack the bird in the cage.

Do you see any similarity, between that situation, and the local political games which our politicians play? Well, the recent developments in the political responses and attacks which have been occurring between the political parties speak volumes about the anxieties and expectations, doubts and frustrations which have been visited upon the contending parties.

These developments have led to one party pulling out what it considered to be its heaviest artillery, which is the allegations of corruption, which it chose to use as weapons against the other party in opposition. That is the LaGlee with which it hopes to catch those it accused of wrong doing. The cage is the High Courts of law. In addition, there are the Courts of public opinion, in which those who have been accused of alleged wrong doing have been found to be guilty as charged.

Now while we are supposed to believe, that justice is blind, there is always that nasty feeling in the pit of our stomachs which seems to point us in the opposite direction. This is a feeling which many people experienced regardless of which side of the political divide you might have found yourself.

You see the intention, whether it is bird catching or political kidnapping, is to capture the bird or, as in the case of bourgeois politics, a substantial proportion of the electorate, in order to- in the case of the bird- domesticate and control its behaviour and in the case of the electorate, convert them to the party’s point of view in order to secure their votes.

In the event that the outcome proved to be overwhelmingly successful and resulted in convictions, that would be additional sugar coating on the cake. But we must never fall into the trap of believing that the original intention was to fight corruption, because corruption is the oil which drives the capitalist system. Those who happen to be catapulted into political office are sometimes tempted to abandon morals and ethics and they surrender themselves to corruption, by falling victim to the temptation to dive headlong into the Treasury.

This has been the recurring story of politics in this country from way back in the 1950s and 1960s. It has been the avenue through which those from the middle class, who are usually the ones getting into government, have been using to enrich themselves. This has not changed. And the fact that it would appear that the protagonists on both sides of the political divide are trying to put a racial spin on it, is really about who gets to control of the treasury.

That is why we hear comments such as: “when they came into government they had fobs and now their pockets reaching down by their ankles” That was just another way of saying, it is our turn now. That is no different from when we as young bird lovers would have found a place where there are birds which can be found in large numbers and your neighbour’s son discovers your sanctuary.

The result is usually a contest to determine who will rule that domain. In our case, the contest is to decide which elite clique of which ethnic group has the right, by reason of their historical circumstances, to control the public purse. This has always been the underlying motive of the kind of politics we practice. The trick however, has always been to ensure that my bird could whistle better than yours. Let us see whose LaGlee is stronger.

SMALL ISLAND, GLOBAL IMPACT: how Trinbago workers shaped worker rights around the world by Dr. Zophia Edwards

posted 26 Jun 2019, 13:32 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 26 Jun 2019, 13:45 ]

Dr. Zophia Edwards is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Providence College, RI, USA.
Every Labor Day, we celebrate the remarkable impact of the working class on the nation of Trinidad and Tobago. We remember the famous names such as Butler, Rienzi as well as those we did not record in the history books – the drillers, pipe fitters, domestic workers, sugar estate laborers, and more – who sacrificed their lives and their livelihoods in the labor protests and riots of 1937 to make the country a better place for all Trinbago people.

These people and the trade unions they forged struggled for higher wages, better health and sanitation services, greater political rights, to reduce and eliminate racial discrimination and worker abuse in the workplace, and to lower overall inequality. It is largely because of the efforts of these working class movements that Trinbagonians enjoy such a high standard of living today.

While we typically honor how working class people and trade unions in Trinidad and Tobago have shaped the nation, less well known is how these same Trinbagonian working class people in the 1930s also helped improve people’s lives around the world. The working class movement of the 1930s led to the establishment of a Trades Disputes (Arbitration and Inquiry) Ordinance in 1938, which, for the first time, instituted a system of arbitration to settle labor disputes, and was the very first iteration of what would later become the Industrial Court.

The legislation, while containing some elements of British law, was unique, and described by colonial officials as “the first of its kind.” They referred to it as the “Trinidad model” and it was rapidly adopted by other colonies across the British Empire; by 1941, 23 colonies had passed this legislation. How did this ordinance emerge and spread across the world?

Prior to 1938, workers in the British colonies had little to no institutions to which they could take work-related grievances. Without legal recourse to strike or engage in collective bargaining, workers often resorted to writing letters to their employers and colonial government officials. They demanded that workers and employers meet to discuss their grievances and demands with mediation by the then colonial government. Unsurprisingly, the oppressive colonial government ignored the workers’ pleas.

It was only when workers all across the colony protested and rioted, which peaked in 1937, that they got the attention of the colonizers. The Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the causes of the labor unrest (often called the Forster Report) concurred with what workers had been asking for all along, and recommended the establishment of an institution for collective bargaining and dispute resolution.

The colonial government was forced to comply out of fear that workers would continue to protest. Therefore, British colonial government officials engaged in negotiations with labor unions, represented by Rienzi, and private employers to produce the legislation. In 1938, the Trades Disputes Ordinance was enacted in the colony of Trinidad and Tobago.

On August 20th, 1938, a circular dispatch was sent from London “to all colonies (except Trinidad), Protectorates, Palestine and Tanganyika Territory” instructing colonial governments across the British Empire to consider adopting the ordinance. Labor protests were also occurring in other British colonies and the Trinidad model became seen as the solution to the Empire-wide worker movements and political uprisings.

One colonial official said he was, “very anxious to see adequate machinery set up as soon as possible in all Colonial Dependencies where labor disputes are likely to arise, which can be put into operation with the object of settling any dispute in its earliest stages and before it has time to assume serious proportions.” Another said, “… it would be desirable for machinery on the lines adopted in Trinidad to be available to be used should this be found necessary.”

Many territories willingly accepted the “Trinidad model” for labor dispute arbitration. For instance, one colonial administrator in Sierra Leone wrote, “This Bill follows almost verbatim the Trinidad Trade Disputes (Arbitration and Inquiry) Ordinance, 1938, which was sent to Colonial dependencies.” Another in the Leeward Islands said, “The [Leeward Islands] Bill follows almost word for word the Trinidad Ordinance No. 7 of 1938, which was supplied to Colonial Governments as a model with the circular dispatch of the 20th August last [1938].”

In other cases, the Trinidad and Tobago model was adopted with some small but not substantive alterations to fit local settings. For instance, in Barbados, a colonial officer said, “The Act is drafted along the lines of the Trade Disputes (Arbitration and Inquiry) Ordinance, 1938, of Trinidad…”⁠ However, “The concluding section (section 15) is modified to meet local conditions.” While some colonies resisted adopting the legislation, Trinbagonian workers, nevertheless, were at the center of the creation of this legislation and tribunal, which improved worker rights not just at the national level, but across the world!

Therefore, as we celebrate Labor Day, let us remember how working class people of Trinidad and Tobago shaped not only the nation, but also the world, as they helped create better working conditions for people around the globe. Therefore, there is much for Trinbagonian workers to commemorate, celebrate, and preserve both nationally and internationally.

Recently, the Industrial Court appears to be under threat. The Joint Trade Union Movement of Trinidad and Tobago has called out the government and the elite class for covertly attempting to undermine worker rights in the current Industrial Court. The government and elites should draw a lesson from the history of working class mobilization in Trinidad and Tobago. The workers will not give up their legacy that easily. When they come together, they change not only Trinidad and Tobago; they also change the world. Be warned.

(The data presented here comes from research undertaken at The National Archives, United Kingdom. The full paper based on this research is currently under peer-review at an academic journal.) 

LEGISLATORS PROMOTING THEIR OWN CLASS INTEREST! By Bryan St. Louis

posted 23 Jun 2019, 16:12 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 23 Jun 2019, 16:13 ]


Bryan St. Louis
The recent debate and justification given by those who supported a Bill containing amendments to the President’s Emoluments Act, the Prime Minister’s Pension Act, the Retiring Allowances (Legislative Service) Act and the Judges Salaries and Pensions Act to streamline the basis on which the retiring allowances of legislators, the pensions of the President, Prime Minister and judges are calculated, leaves much to be desired.

So, let’s look at some of the justifications for this Bill…...

Ø Judge with $3,000 pension could not maintain his house and died in poverty.

Ø A former legislator in his declining years, with a parliamentarian pension of less than $10,000 was unable to pay his medical bills.

Ø We need more judges. We need some security of tenure. There is a difficulty with hiring and retaining of judges and one of the real concerns is the pension.

What is startling is that the streamlining involves two things:

Ø Raising the pension benefits every five years.

Ø Including in the calculation of pensions, the housing allowance and personal allowance of these office holders.

In effect what the Act is proposing in the calculation of pensions for these office holders is vastly different to the general principle governing pensions which are computed on the basis of salary alone. This new proposal can best be described as a classic example of those in authority promoting their own class interests and putting things in place to feed off the trough.

So, what about ordinary working-class citizens whose pensions at their place of employment are calculated based on final salary alone and with the proviso of a formula which states that their pension cannot be more that 2/3 of their final salary, with no option for adjustments thereafter?

What about those ordinary working-class citizens whose only source of income upon retirement is the NIS Pension of $3000.00?

What about ordinary citizens who are living on a day to day basis, unable to plan for the future and have to depend on the Government for token handouts and grants for survival?

Could this new Act be a violation of section (b) of the preamble of the Constitution which states in part “Respect the principles of social justice and therefore believe that the operation of the economic system should result in the material resources of the community being so distributed as to sub serve the common good, that there should be adequate means of livelihood for all.”?

It is my view that this Bill as presented discriminates against ordinary citizens, as such once this Bill is assented to, then similar provisions should be made for everyone
.

CLASS STRUGGLE IN THE 1960S. PART TWO by Dr. Godfrey Vincent

posted 23 Jun 2019, 09:46 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 28 Jun 2019, 18:22 ]

In 2020, there are plans afoot to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the “Black Power” uprising in Trinidad and Tobago. the organizers are to be commended for taking time off their busy schedule to organize seminars, symposia, fora and cultural events.

While the events of 1970 should be commemorated, we must not engage in nostalgia; but rather use the events as a historical guide that will help us understand the present crisis that confronts the nation and utilize new tools and analyses to educate and mobilize the generations of Trinidad and Tobago’s citizens who didn’t share in that experience. 

Moreover, we must understand that 1970 was not the beginning of a struggle but part of a protracted struggle that took new life in the 1960s and culminated in the 1979 Grenada Revolution.  Therefore, this essay, which will be presented in three parts seeks to broaden our understanding of this historical trajectory, beginning with the struggle against the Industrial Stabilization Act of 1965. (See Part One)

Concerned as what they saw as the government’s inability to control the trade union movement and stabilize the investment climate, the Trinidad Guardian, in a 1963 editorial entitled Trade Unions must Behave made the call for legislation to check the power of trade unions.

The editorial maintained: “A law is needed at once which would enforce a cooling off period before any strike can be called; which would provide a court penalty for violators. The law should also laid down that where agreement cannot be reached by normal bargaining methods, an Industrial tribunal possessing powers to enforce its decisions would take over. We can think of no other way to save this country from

Dr. Godfrey Vincent is an Associate professor of history At Tuskegee University; Co-Coordinator of the Integrative Public Policy and Development. 

He is the co-Editor of Contended Perspectives of Neoliberalismand has published in Journal of Labor and Society. Dr. Vincent is completing his manuscript called Rebels at the Gate: The Oilfields Workers Trade Union in the Era of George Weekes.

Dr. Godfrey Vincent is a longstanding correspondent on this website

 Trade Union vandals.”

Traditionally, the Guardian has been the mouth piece of the local business class and it was clear that its editorial spared no attempt to label the OWTU and the radical trade unions as instigators of the spate of industrial unrest. However, despite its plea for calm, the workers became more emboldened in their actions.

During 1965, the government of Trinidad and Tobago faced an unprecedented state of industrial unrest. The atmosphere was charged because the sugar workers and their militant representatives not only wanted to join the OWTU; they also declared their intentions to stage a massive march and protest in Port of Spain on March 11, 1965.

Additionally, the workers at Lock Joint and Federation Chemicals went on strike, and the Civil Service Association engaged in work-stoppages. These strikes were a continuation of the workers’ militancy that begun in 1964 when the Bus workers staged a fifty-six days strike over a new collective bargaining agreement. In addition, to the strikes and other forms of protest, unemployment became a major factor for a number of school leavers who had taken opportunity of the government’s free secondary education program. Many of them, predominantly Afro-Trinidadians found great difficulty in securing jobs in the public and private sectors.

This unemployment situation became a major concern for the government, given the state of industrial unrest that affected the nation’s industrial relations climate. More importantly, Prime Minister Williams paid particular attention to the developments in the oil and sugar industries because of its political and economic implications.

Governor General Sir Solomon Hochoy, evoked the Emergency Powers Ordinance of 1947, and declared a state of emergency on March 9, 1965. 
He recognized that prolonged strikes in these two industries not only posed a threat to his government but also had the capability of jeopardizing the economy. It is against this backdrop that the government declared a state of emergency to break the sugar workers strike. Acting on behalf of the government, Governor General Sir Solomon Hochoy, evoked a section of the constitution, the Emergency Powers Ordinance of 1947, and declared a state of emergency on March 9, 1965.

The declaration of the state of emergency restricted the freedom of movement and banned public meetings in the sugar belt areas. In effect, it literally limited contact between oil and sugar workers for the duration it was in effect. To justify the government’s actions on declaring the state of emergency, Williams claimed that C.L.R. James, working in tandem with other subversive elements, instigated the strike in order to achieve unity between the oil and sugar workers.

Williams used former OWTU President General John Rojas’ testimony to the Mbanefo
Image result for clr james
During the 1965 state of emergrency, CLR James was placed under house arrest and confined  to Barataria.
Commission into subversive activities to make the allegation that C.LR. James engaged in subversive activities against his government. Thus, when the government enforced the State of Emergency, the police placed James under house arrest and confined him to Barataria. Following the State of Emergency, the government took further measures to curb the strikes by tabling a bill in the House of Parliament.

On March 18, 1965, the government introduced to the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago the Industrial Stabilization Bill (ISA). The legislation called for the establishment of an Industrial Court that had jurisdiction to hear and determine trade disputes; to register industrial agreements and to hear and determine matters relating to the registration of such agreements; to hear and determine complaints relating to the price of goods and commodities; to hear and determine any complaint brought in accordance with this Act as well as matters as may from time to time be referred to under this Act.

In addition to the above functions, the Bill empowered the Court to establish an office of economic and industrial research for the purpose of compiling and analyzing data that would be of relevance to the Court. Furthermore, the Bill gave the Court the power to arbitrate labor disputes, impose penalties and enforce orders and awards.

Popularly known as the ISA, the government rushed through the Bill in both Houses of Parliament. The debates lasted two days from March 18-19, 1965, and the Bill became an Act on March 20, 1965. In his defense of this piece of legislation, Williams declared: “Anything therefore to establish order amid this disorder, to substitute reason for passion and judicial determination for the anger of the workers, however legitimate, is a net gain for the society and a protection for the workers themselves. 

It is from this point of view that the mass of the population as a whole has welcomed the Industrial Stabilisation Bill. The workers do not lose wages, the country does not lose essential revenue, the Nation’s social life is not disrupted, and none of these is achieved at the expense of the workers cause. Instead of fighting for their rights by a strike, they argue for the rights in a Court. And the Law quite properly prescribes penalties not only for unauthorized strikes, or for violation of the procedure concerning strikes, it also imposes penalties on persons supporting or promoting or financing a strike contrary to the provisions of the Bill.

Image result for eric williams
Prime Minister Dr. Eric Williams
Ironically, in 1960, Williams defended the rights of the trade unions to initiate strike action to defend their interest. Faced with a crisis that not only threatened his political rule but also the government’s industrialization thrust, Williams retreated from his previous populist position and used the ISA to subdue and restrain the radical elements of the trade union movement and constrain wages.

One of the major concerns of the government was that wages in specific sectors of employment like oil and sugar were consistently rising in relation to other sectors of the economy. Williams noted that between the years 1956 to 1963 wages in the oil and sugar industries increased by 72% and 83% respectively. In its attempt to adjust this trend, Williams argued that in order to protect the national interest and the interest of workers, it was necessary that the government passed the Bill to protect both wages and prices.

Using a Comparative analysis of Income policies to make his argument, Williams examined and compared the wages and prices policies of the Communists countries, the Advanced Western Countries and Underdeveloped Countries.

Arguing that the government had a responsibility to maintain competitive wages and prices in order for Trinidad and Tobago manufacturers to compete in the international market, Williams compared the retail price index of Trinidad and Tobago to that of several countries. Given that the Arthur Lewis Model of Industrialization by Invitation was central in his thrust to modernize the society, Williams used the data to give assurances to the local and foreign investors that the passage of the ISA was an attempt to regulate wages and prices in the national interest that ensured high rates of returns to investment and the achievement of high rates of economic growth.

However, the OWTU countered Williams’ claims on the payment of high wages to oil and sugar workers. In an address to the Inter-
OWTU President General George Weekes
American University of Puerto entitled Why the ISA is not good for Trinidad and Tobago OWTU President General George Weekes contended that sugar workers employed as laborers received $4.00 US per day for working four or five days bi-weekly. In the oil industry, his data showed the oil companies paid laborers $5.00 US per day while skilled craftsmen received $8.00 US per day. Comparatively, in the United States, Weekes’ figures showed US oil companies paid laborers $22.00 US and skilled workers $31.00 US respectively.

Commenting on the ISA and its effects on the Trade Union Movement, Weekes stated that, “…clearly this Act, expressive of Government coercion will cause our trade union movement to wither and die if we do not fight for it. For it strikes at the very roots of the existence of unionism and this is a plant which in Trinidad is still relatively young.” Weekes understood what was at stake but also knew that the government had the support of some prominent members of the trade union movement. 

(Look out for Part Three soon)

IMBERT SIDELINES CENTRAL BANK GOVERNOR

posted 14 Jun 2019, 20:16 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 14 Jun 2019, 20:40 ]



In a shocking development, it seems that gov
Dr. Alvin Hilaire
ernor of the Central Bank, Dr. Alvin Hilaire, did not have a clue that the Rowley cabinet had decided to amend the Central Bank Act of 1964 by including said amendments in the Miscellaneous Provisions (Tax Amnesty, Pensions, Freedom of Information, National Insurance, Central Bank and Non-Profit Organisations) bill 2019.

It also seems that he is not too happy with the amendments proposed by the cabinet which in his view would represent a fundamental change in the operations of the central bank after over fifty four years of operation.

Reports coming out of the bank indicate that there is great unease and disquiet among both management and staff of the bank about the amendments which would have the effect of turning the Minister of Finance into the Chief Executive Officer of the Bank, in effect sidelining the governor.

Dr. Hilaire’s views are contained in governor’s circular no. 2 of 2019 to all members of staff dated June 13 2019. The first line of the circular states: “By way of media reports of June 10, 2019, management became aware of a proposed amendment to the Central Bank Act of 1964.” 

Recently, Minister of Finance Imbert had a public dispute with Dr. Hilaire over the central bank’s calculation of the costs to the national budget of the ongoing Venezuelan refugee situation in the country. We all know what happened to Related imageJwala Rambarran, the Central Bank governor who preceded Hilaire in the position. He was fired by Imbert for revealing how much foreign exchange was accessed by particular companies.

POLITICIANS PENSIONS INCREASED; NIS PENSIONS REDUCED! by Gerry Kangalee

posted 12 Jun 2019, 15:46 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 12 Jun 2019, 15:52 ]

Gerry Kangalee
We all know, unfortunately some of us don’t care, that our political elites are just a bunch of bandits, hustlers and confidence tricksters who get together to loot and plunder public funds while facilitating the rank exploitation of labour by their one percent financiers. But oh gorm... they carrying this thing too far!

Impsbert has become part of folklore for his contemptuous dey ent riot yet statement. While he sniggered and sneered at working people and the poor, we laughed right alongside him as if this blow to our standard of living was a joke.

They retrenched thousands of workers and devastated the economy of large parts of the country, while turning over more and more control of our energy industry to Valentino’s “foreign parasites” And we responded by saying wha we go do, dey didn’t have a choice.

The Minister of everything, Rowley’s favourite son, Stuart Young argues that the immigration detention centre, which is nothing more than a glorified prison, is not an inhumane place, but our prisons are accepted as being hell holes especially for those who have not yet been convicted and who waste away in remand for years upon years and our response is to shrug our shoulders and say jail eh make to ripe fig.

Our bullhorn toting Minister of national security also claims that the frenetic registration of Venezuelans will enable the government to protect them from exploitation by employers. What a load of rubbish! Thousands of Trini citizens, particularly women, are exploited mercilessly by employers. They are paid less than the minimum wage, have their NIS deductions stolen and are subjected to a hostile work environment with rampant bullying, sexual harassment and exploitation.

All the Chambers of Commerce are rubbing their hands in glee as they see a bright new world of unhindered exploitation where wage rates at the bottom will be further driven down; where employers will not have to pay NIS contributions for their workers and where workers would be so vulnerable they would be willing to accept substandard treatment.

They are now moving to enact legislation exempting those migrants/refugees who register and are employed from paying NIS contributions. This will further weaken the NIS ability to meet its commitments in a situation where no effort is made to prosecute thiefing employers who rob their workers and the country of NIS contributions or to include the self-employed in the system.

They have so much contempt for us that they have been able to divert our attention from issues that affect our interests and onto red herrings. A big jhanjat is being made about what they claim is theft and sabotage in the oilfields costing TT$20 million, when it is they who got rid of the Petrotrin estate police and replaced them with Amalgamated Security, owned by the in your face Sabga clan.

Meanwhile, there is no focus on the AV drilling scandal which cost Petrotrin US$100 million; but after all Baksh is the friend of the Prime Minister. And what about all the Petrotrin oil that has been stolen by lease out and farm out operators since the early nineties and sold back to Petrotrin.

It seems that we have grown immune to the abuse meted out to us over the years by the bandits posing as politicians in the service of their one percent financiers – their puppet masters, but their latest outrage surely will make even the most abject of sycophants, at least scratch his head and say nah! This is a bridge too far!

Image result for pissing on the poorThese jacket and tie pirates have decided that it is not enough to insult and show scorn for working people and the poor; they have decided it is time to piss on us. These rip off artists have come up with a scheme whereby politicians who are entitled to pensions are passing laws to increase their pensions during a period when workers are losing their jobs in droves, the economy is in free fall and national insurance entitlements are under attack.

Just imagine the Prime Minister, the President and the Chief Justice at present receive a pension that is equal to their salary. Workers who are members of occupational pension plans are restricted to a pension that is no more than two thirds of their salary.

Not satisfied with this, the Rowley Administration wants to add allowances that these office holders receive to their pensionable salary, so that they could gorge themselves on public funds when they lick up the country and demit office. Still not satisfied, they want pension increases whenever, in the future, the pensionable salary of their offices increase.

Meanwhile, there is a massive propaganda campaign to convince the population that they must cheerfully settle for decreased NIS pensions and other benefits, all, of course, in the “national interest”.

While politicians are enjoying the fruits of our labour, national insurance contribution rates increases are scheduled to increase, in the short term from 13.2% to 16.2% and eventually to 25.5%.

They are attempting to reduce the pension for those retiring before age 65, by 6 per cent for each year before age 65. If they get their way pensions are going to be reduced to 80% of minimum wage.. They are also thinking about freezing pensions already in payment and merging of accident and ill health benefits. All these would of course redound to the detriment of working people and the poor.

So! Here we have it. Milk and honey for the bandits and confidence tricksters who control the public purse and bitter aloes for those who ent riot yet. The question we must answer is: do we really like it so?

OF BANKERS AND TRADE UNIONISTS By DAVID WALKER

posted 12 Jun 2019, 08:59 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 12 Jun 2019, 09:17 ]

David Walker
What do bankers and trade unionists have in common? I know that is not a matter of great concern to many people but it does offer a fascinating insight into how we, as average citizens, view two key actors in the business world. Were we to examine the operations of each in a dispassionate way, would we still view them in the same way at the end of the exercise?

Firstly what do they both do? At its most fundamental and basic level, they both provide invaluable and necessary services to businesses at large. How would any business function without the availability of finance and financial services by banks and other financial institutions? How would business function without the blue and white collar human resource that produces the goods and services that they need?

We see therefore that banks (read financial institutions at large) and trade unions deliver very similar services. Those services contribute to the successful operations of businesses and are rewarded for the delivery of said services by way of charges to businesses that affect the levels of profits achieved by those businesses. They are both irreplaceable in a modern economy.

In both cases they act on behalf of their members. Banks principally act on behalf of the owners/providers of capital to business. Trade unions act on behalf of workers who also deliver services to business. The providers of capital are mostly already wealthy individuals and shareholders of the banks. The beneficiaries of the returns negotiated by the trade unions are in the vast majority of cases, persons at the lower end of the income scale.

The level of claims by each on the revenue of a company has a profound impact on the profit attributable to that company. So given that they both provide invaluable and necessary services and that their members benefit financially from the commensurate payments by businesses, why do we regard them so differently?

Image result for bankers cartoonWhen, as recently occurred, banks announce record profits, our political leaders and we, to some extent, applaud them. This is happening in the face of a recession when we all are being asked to "tighten our belts". I've written before that far from tightening their belts, banks react to tough economic conditions by increasing the rates of interest charged to their business and other clients. For this, our leaders praise them.

Faced with the same economic conditions, workers and trade unions are expected to "be reasonable". We hear incessantly that seeking increases in pay for workers will destroy the companies that pay the workers. In difficult times, workers are expected to accept stagnant or even reduced pay and are treated as unpatriotic and unreasonable for seeking a living wage.

I am yet to hear a call for restraint by the banks. Why is their remuneration impervious to economic realities? Indeed, why is their remuneration increasing in direct opposition to the state of the economy? The same economy that justifies attacks on workers' pay routinely is used to support ever more rewards for the already wealthy owners of capital who control the banks.

There could scarcely be a better example than the recent events at Petrotrin. Faced with huge losses, management made the decision to sacrifice the workers. It was widely claimed that workers were overpaid and effectively authored their own demise by seeking better wages and working conditions. As a consequence, over 5,000 workers were sent home, the refinery mothballed and thousands more persons adversely affected.

While workers were first to come under attack, not a word was said about the number one drain on the company. Directors had borrowed twelve billion TT dollars, we've been told. Those borrowings were at an annual rate of interest of 9.75% or thereabouts. That annual interest payment was easily the biggest cause of the problems at Petrotrin.

Yet there was no effort to reduce it, or any condemnation of its excessive nature. Had workers been overpaid by more than 100% running to 500 million per year as the banks were, the trade union would have been roundly condemned. When we are charged excessive interest, as in this case, the administration doesn't bat an eyelid. Banks are allowed to bring companies to their knees and are praised for it.
Image result for trade unionists cartoonWe continue to praise the banks and their executives for extracting more and more from businesses every year in order to enhance the income of the already wealthy. We take great pleasure at the same time in condemning those in the trade unions who toil in the interests of better returns for the least wealthy in society.

I am not asking for socialist type treatment for labour. I am in fact asking you to recognise a simple truth. It is that in modern capitalist
 economies there is more in common between labour and the banks than conventionally accepted. The truth is that they are both providers of services to businesses and are a charge against profits. One is praised for maximizing the charges that they achieve regardless of the consequences. The other is condemned for doing far less. That cannot be right.

Would society and the economy not be better off with some semblance of balance in the way we view and treat with them both? Might 5,000 jobs have been saved if we treated banks and trade unions in a more equitable manner given that they are both service providers to business? At its most extreme, just as the workers were sent home, should the company not have also defaulted on their loans? Guaranteed loans do not attract rates nearing 10%.

In the light of the explanation above, I invite you to look again at your view of the roles of trade unions and banks and your relative acceptance of each.

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