Where we stand‎ > ‎

News & Comment

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

TAKING IN FRONT By Rae Samuel

posted 29 Jun 2015, 23:29 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 29 Jun 2015, 23:30 ]

There is an expression in journalism called 'getting out in front of the story'. It is especially used when the facts of a story are clear and likely to damage the image of an individual. For example: a 'plant-like substance' was found at the home of a certain high local official sounds less incriminating and shifts the burden of proof to the investigator even more: meaning that 'plant like substances' are not reason for further investigation since they are not illegal. 


By the time the story is sufficiently run, without reference to 'ganja' the culprit/home owner is now merely the victim of probable home invasions by tradesmen, repair men or public servants.

Fast forward to the shooting in the Emmanuel church in Charleston South Carolina! Let's see: the shooter is not Islamic, has not been radicalised by Sunnis, is American by birth, so we avoid words like 'terrorist/terrorism',' fundamentalists', 'crusades' which is the Christian version of Holy wars. We do not call in 'moderate/responsible Christian pastors' to explain his behaviour.

As Jon Stewart of the "Daily Show' put it, the "disparity of response' is so glaring compared to reporting on similar incidents in 'Islamic/Arab' countries, a description that avoids reference to the interference over decades by firstly colonisers and today foreign investors and lending agencies.

So, staying ahead, the narrative focuses on what type of flag flew over the state capital and protesters march to have it removed, even as 'good ole boys' fight for the right to preserve their 'historical identity.' Oh Adolf. You must be spinning in your ruined bunker. You would have been a darling of the talk shows today, but for the flag, those nine people would have been alive today.

And then we read that ‘terror attacks' occurred in Tunisia and in France. Darn right 'terror attacks'. They occurred in Tunisia and in France in a factory and at a hotel. Let us not make the error of calling them 'factory killings' or 'beach front assaults'. In America they are 'church/mall/school campus shootings'. Outside of America they are 'acts of terrorism'.

Poor France! The killings at the magazine offices of Charlie Hebdo, at a farm house later that week and now this attack at a chemical plant. Poor France who howled the loudest for Gaddafi's head, who intervened in Mali and who was the original coloniser of Tunisia and who carried out the massacres at Setif and Guelma of 40,000 plus Algerians according to estimates by their own sources.

So the narratives will always have a bias.The media are instruments of propaganda, which is not a bad word. Words in and of themselves are symbols. When activated they are used for a purpose. That is why the Morning shows in our country are so vapid and predictable. They are intended to have us view the world a certain way; to invalidate the everyday experiences of our daily lives and to define the world for us..To have 'them' speak and to have 'us' listen. The silence of the lambs, so to speak.

So next time you take in the news check and see what is out front

YOU AND YOUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVE! by Bryan ST. Louis

posted 25 Jun 2015, 13:58 by Gerry Kangalee

Whenever an individual makes himself available to serve the people he is expected to be full of integrity, morally sound and committed to service of the people. Only upon satisfaction of these basic principles is he supposed to be selected to face the polls at election time. This however does not happen in our political landscape. As such, party affiliation, nepotism, favoritism, loyalty to the Political Leader, political wealth and other cynical criteria are brought to bear on the selection process, which presents us with all types of candidates for Members of Parliament and Councilors. As constituents, we the people have little or no say in the selection process; as in most cases, if not all, the Political Leader has the last say on the selection of a candidate. 

After the elections, the candidate who gains the most votes in his constituency or electoral district is called the Member of Parliament or Councilor as the case may be, having gained the right to represent the people and the constituency. In that regard, when a Member of Parliament or Councilor is elected into office he has in effect signed a Contract with the constituents to be their representative in Parliament or Council.

It is therefore now the job of these elected representatives to work on behalf of all the people in the constituency, even those who did not vote for them. So, even if you voted for one of the other candidates and you strongly disagree with the views of the Political Party to which the elected representative belongs, he is still your representative, there to help you and the constituency with all matters for which Parliament, Central Government or Local Government is responsible. He is therefore now a servant of the people of his constituency.

In that regard, how is the performance of our elected representatives measured? Performance is deemed to be the fulfillment of an obligation, in a manner that releases the performer from all liabilities under the Contract. So let us therefore analyze and assess the performance of our elected representatives in the following context:
As candidates did they satisfy the principles of Integrity, Morality and Commitment to service of the people?

2. Do our representatives come to us to find out our positions on issues/or suggestions on what we want them to say in debates on behalf of the constituents they profess to be talking on behalf of?

3. Why do we have to take protest action to have issues affecting our constituencies addressed?

4. Are we approached or allowed the opportunity to contribute meaningfully on decisions affecting the National Community?

5. Do our elected representatives suddenly remember their constituents when elections are called or when they are in opposition?

6. Do our elected representatives blame being in opposition for their non-performance?

7. Are we allowed to participate in the governance of the country?

8. Do we have a say in the Legislative agenda and the impact this will have on our lives?

9. Do our elected representatives keep or honour manifesto promises?

10. Are we kept up to date on the stewardship of our representatives at any time during their term of office?

A careful analysis of these areas would easily cause all our elected representatives to fail their performance appraisals. This therefore raises the issue of what are we to do with these non performers. At present nothing is done; which suggests that something is radically wrong with our political system. In the circumstances, measures should be quickly put in place to meaningfully address the long outstanding Constitutional Reform, so that the right of recall for non-performing Parliamentary Representatives and all other representatives of the people can be immediately addressed and implemented.

In addition measures should also be put in place constitutionally to address checks and balances to safeguard against the abuse of power, respect for the voice of minorities whilst acknowledging the will of the majority, integrity in Public Office, containment and eradication of corruption and systems/mechanisms to facilitate participatory governance.

In the meantime, whilst we await this long overdue Constitutional Reform, our Members of Parliament and Councilors will continue to violate their contractual obligations as representatives of the people. At the work place we all know what the penalties are for a failed performance appraisal. So what are we as a people waiting for to demand the implementation of similar criteria for our Members of Parliament and other Representatives of the people? They are our employees as they signed a contract with us at election time and are being paid with our tax dollars.

My analysis suggests that these Representatives of the people would continue to feather their own nests, buy big cars, build big expensive mansions and give their friends and families the best opportunity for education and employment, whilst the masses themselves struggle to survive in these challenging economic times. They will continue to operate as owners of the nation until we the people demand accountability from them as servants of the people, with the attendant constitutional reforms in place.

The existing electoral process only generates power seekers who once elected into office lack humility and repeat the cycle of neglect for the people who elected them as representatives of the people. It is time to put an end to this charade and implement the necessary mechanism and legislative framework to demand accountability, integrity and performance from our Representatives.

These representatives of the people have signed a Contract with us as servants of the people and as such must consult with the constituents and act in their best interest at all times. For, after all is said and done, the will of the people must come before the position of any political party. We need meaningful Constitutional Reform now so that the existing political system could be addressed and tailored to facilitate the framework for good governance from those entrusted with the Governance of our beloved Country, Trinidad and Tobago.

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL DOMESTIC WORKERS DAY - JUNE 16TH by Ida Le Blanc

posted 15 Jun 2015, 20:39 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 15 Jun 2015, 20:40 ]

WE MUST PROTECT THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF ALL DOMESTIC WORKERS


Ida Le Blanc, General Secretary, National Union of Domestic Employees
The proposed Amendment to the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) in Trinidad and Tobago promises to recognise domestic workers as "Workers" When I heard about it, I said we have something to celebrate, this is after decades of struggle. But when I heard and read for myself that the "Employer" is defined as a person who employs more than three domestic workers I was shocked at that under hand blow.

According to the ILO definition under Convention 189 - The employer of a domestic worker may be a member of the household for which the work is performed, or an agency or enterprise that employs domestic workers and makes them available to households. Therefore the IRA amendment would contravene Convention 189.

Article 3 (2) of The ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work For Domestic Workers states that "Each Member shall, in relation to domestic workers, take the measures set out in this Convention to respect, promote and realize the fundamental principles and rights at work, namely: (a) freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining...".The mischief behind this proposed amendment is to deny most of our domestic workers the right to organise and collective bargaining.

It can also be argued that if you hire one or two domestic workers then how can they seek justice in instances of wrongful dismissals when the person who hired them is not an “employer”? Who is the employer? Or is the legislation saying this is only the case when seeking certification for recognition status?

Is the government responsible or should I say accountable to Domestic Workers to explain the meaning of this proposed amendment? Have they sought an audience with domestic workers because it is these workers who would be affected.

Article 3 of The ILO Convention 189 goes on to state that "Each Member shall take measures to ensure the effective promotion and protection of the Human Rights of all Domestic Workers, as set out in this Convention".

I therefore wish to remind the legislators (and government) or should I say draw to their attention Article 5 of the Convention 189 which states "Each Member shall take measures to ensure that domestic workers enjoy effective protection against all forms of abuse, harassment and violence."

In my respectful view this proposed amendment is a true form of violence against women which must be thrown out completely. The proposed legislation with respect to the domestic workers is abusive and perpetuates a form of harassment of women. It must not even be entertained.

DOMESTIC WORKERS REMEMBER 16TH JUNE IS DOMESTIC WORKERS DAY
WE SHOULD ALL BE HOME RESTING AND COUNTING OUR ACHIEVEMENTS THUS FAR ON BEHALF OF DOMESTIC WORKERS EVERYWHERE

DEN OF INEQUITY

posted 12 Jun 2015, 12:07 by Gerry Kangalee

The following article was extracted from the newsletter SWRHA TODAY volume 1 No. 2, published by the National Health Workers Union (NHWU).

SWRHA (South West Regional Health Authority) is for all intents and purposes a den of inequity.  SWRHA is the nomenclature for the South West Regional Health Authority which is a state-financed health care provider with approximately 4,100 monthly paid employees and 3,400 vacancies throughout its thirty-one health centres, three health facilities, two Extended Care Centres (ECCs) and two hospitals. There are also daily paid employees.

So the first statement that SWRHA is a den of inequity is not entirely correct. A much more precise statement is that there are members of top Management in SWRHA who are inextricably involved in the course of their duties and operations in nefarious activities.

They utilise their control over the San Fernando General Hospital to live high on the hog and to operate this critical public institution financed by public funds (our money) for private purposes. Some of them would have never found themselves in these plum positions were it not for their political connections and the colour of their tongues.

In their estimation, the health care system is just another means of accumulating capital for themselves, their families and their political sponsors and benefactors. We all know this, but as workers, we are placed under tremendous pressure to turn a blind eye and conform to a vicious and venal system because of the economics of survival.

We believe we are powerless because of the incredibly exploitative industrial relations system that prevails in SWRHA, particularly the use of short term contracts, the appraisal system as a weapon of victimisation and the culture of favouritism and discrimination that has developed over the years.

What this atmosphere does is to put worker against worker, all in a mad scramble to please the bosses so that favours may be bestowed on us as we struggle to keep our heads above water and sacrifice our dignity and integrity in the process.

We have a situation where instead of uniting across occupations to advance our interests as health care workers, we emphasise status differences, bad talk each other and exist in a state of low level conflict between groups of workers. So we have friction between doctors and nurses; RNs and ENAs; ENA’s and wardsmaids and on and on.

Of course, the management is orchestrating all this divide and rule nonsense and we are falling for it. The essence of the problem is that monthly paid workers in SWRHA do not have a negotiated collective agreement which would spell out in detail how the relationship between workers and management is regulated.

This collective agreement is registered at the Industrial Court, once it is negotiated and it becomes a legal document.

The only way SWRHA workers can enjoy the protection and benefit of a collective agreement is if they are members of a recognised majority union with which management is compelled through the force of the law to negotiate and meet and treat.

To become a recognised majority union the National Health Workers Union must apply to the Recognition Board for certification and this can only happen if more than fifty percent of members of the bargaining units in SWRHA become members of the union.

To speed up the process to the point where we can make an application to the Recognition Board, those who are already in the union must encourage those who have not yet joined that it is in everybody’s interest that they do so that we can put some order into the chaos and confusion that prevails in SWRHA.

We can transform this den of inequity from a den of iniquity into the best health care system in the Caribbean.

FIRES FLATTEN CHAG. FARMS By Eugene Reynald

posted 11 Jun 2015, 12:22 by Gerry Kangalee

The sinister plot being managed and directed by Bhoe Tewarie, Danny Solomon and Dr. Allan Bachan to remove all farmers from their Guave Road farms and obliterate all evidence of their existence and farming activities on the Guave Road lands continues to unfold. Unfortunately in their sinister plot they did not factor in the power of photography and the challenge this alone can present to the millions of dollars they have spent to fabricate and propagate their litany of lies and deception so as to conceal their sinister ulterior motives.

Quite ironically through, their propaganda financed by public funds, they told the public that at Guave Road there were neither farmers nor farming. Now they have to publicly admit that they lied and indeed also spend a lot of time and money fighting the manifestation of a truth which they all lied about - and the fight has only just begun. They shot their credibility at inception but they are now so steeped in blood that to return to truth for them would be as tedious as to go on with their lies (to paraphrase the tragic Macbeth).

On the 6th May 2015 - i.e. the day of the March to Chaguaramas, a fire razed the Guave Road farmlands and destroyed much of the farmers’ crops there. As has been recorded over the last two years or so – on the instructions of Tewarie and Solomon the farmers have been harassed, assaulted and arrested for being on their lands so a lot of their farms had become overgrown somewhat with vegetation - and the CDA saw opportunity in this to further their Plan and wreak havoc by way of a fire.

The evidence shows that the fire first started from inside Guave Road. No farmers were there at the time or even before because they were all under threat of arrest and assault from the CDA if found on the land and also were preparing for the March and/or on the March on the very day the fire started.

Around the same time another fire razed the lands on the western side of the Macqueripe Road which is the last available large expanse of land in Chaguaramas. This area is earmarked for development by parties selected by Tewarie and Solomon. It was very strange that this fire - the first of its kind I have seen devastate that area to the extent it has in forty years, was able to do the damage it has.

It is also a coincidence that these two areas were the ones most devastated by fire and I wait to see what the CDA does with these lands. We are currently in discussions with the Fire Service to verify what we suspect - that neither fire was started by accident.

I am reminded of a fire which also started in the Guave triangle during the previous dry season which destroyed a lot of farmers’ crops and swept up the hill to the North of Guave Road. In effect the fire started in the Guave Triangle and not on the hill which is where fires normally start.

This fact coupled with the report from witnesses doing fire watch duties on the hill between Carenage and Chaguaramas that they saw a CDA vehicle leaving the Guave Road area just before the fire started tells a story. Also evidence on the ground suggests that the fire spread from several smaller ones which began/were started at specific locations on the Western side of Guave Road with the clear intention to have the fire spread westwards across the main expanse of the Guave triangle.
Subsequent to the fires of the 6th May 2015 several acts of destruction to farmers’ crops and farms have been taking place. One of the major ones took place on Indian Arrival Day 30th May 2015, and literally wiped out a farm owned by one of the Farmers. There is now no evidence of there being a farm at the location but we of course have photographs of her farm before and after it was wiped out by Tewarie and Solomon. Crops belonging to several other farmers were also destroyed during their assault.

Repeated acts of destruction have taken place since then with an ongoing blitz starting on Thursday 4th June 2015 and continuing as I write this on the 9th June. These acts are being done by a Firm called Kanhai we are/were told which owns several agricultural tractors. We have extensive photography of the faces of the men and the tractors - and of these men loading up and carrying away truckloads of farmers’ crops in acts of open praedial larceny.

On 9th June 2015 we followed one of their trucks carrying the tractor from Chaguaramas to St Helena. Interestingly the truck delivered the agricultural tractor to a yard less than 400 metres from KallCo’s yard in St Helena.

Needless to say we have good quality photographs of the yard, its surroundings and several persons on the compound. The pictures now form part of the many thousands we have on this saga that will ignominiously immortalise Tewarie and Solomon when we compile and publish the story of how Chaguaramas was stolen.

What we also saw on the way to and from KallCo were scores of white or off white trucks heading for KallCo’s yard in St. Helena. None of them carried the sign or name of the owner but they all headed for the KallCo compound. KallCo is doing most of the work in Chaguaramas and many others around the country but seldom will one see a truck or piece of heavy equipment carrying its name.

Praedial larceny of their crops has always been part of the combined activities being carried out by Tewarie and Danny Solomon against the farmers. These crimes have been regularly reported to the Police in Carenage but no action has ever been taken by Inspector Hospedales, Corporal Patino or others in Carenage because their friends and colleagues within the CDA Security are usually on the spot protecting and supporting those carrying out the larceny and destruction - and of course personally benefitting from the proceeds. Most of what is written here can be corroborated by photography and other evidence in our possession.

The effect of the recent acts of destruction by Tewarie and Solomon can be seen as one drives along the western main road opposite to the boardwalk. Only trees have been left standing and this destruction extends far into the Guave Road Wetlands. Not only the farmers’ crops but the flora and fauna have been decimated by Tewarie and Solomon with the approval and support of Dr Allan Bachan of the EMA. There is now no need for the “No Hunting” signs put up by the CDA.

Added to the larceny of crops and all the other crimes against the farmers is the loading up and removal of valuable top soil from the land which is clearly being taken away to be sold for profit or taken to destinations instructed on by those in the CDA and the Ministry.

The CDA and the Ministry are, I expect, acting on advice from their Attorneys (besides Danny Solomon who himself is one) and that also tells a story of what Attorneys really do. This will also become clear when the farmers win their case and it is proven that the advice of Attorneys to Tewarie and Solomon – and indeed from all Attorneys to clients who are in the business of wrongdoing/crime, is really about how to plan and do this best.

THE STING IN THE TAIL

posted 9 Jun 2015, 06:13 by Gerry Kangalee

The National Workers Union (NWU) has issued a discussion paper called A LOOK AT THE INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS AMENDMENT BILL as a contribution to the discourse raging across the labour movement about the government's attempt to enact  the Bill which the trade union movement views as a an attack on its very survival. The discussion paper is attached at the bottom of this page and can be downloaded.

Because it is a rather long document, this website will publish it in parts over time. This is the third and last in the series of articles.

RESTRICTIONS ON THE RIGHT TO STRIKE

The restrictions on the right to strike have not been tackled at all. Essential service workers are still denied the right. In fact, workers who are considered to be on “short term” projects defined as “a project in the heavy construction industry, which is scheduled to be completed within five years of its commencement.” (Part 111A) are now considered “essential services” workers and are also denied the right to strike. The Essential Industries issue has been completely ignored. So much for freedom of association!

Trade unions can no longer be decertified for taking illegal industrial action, but according to the Bill (PART VA) a worker who is not satisfied with the representation he gets from the union may trigger a process which could lead to decertifying the union.

The power of employers to initiate cancellation of our certificates has now been transferred to the workers. No better way to destroy the union than from within. This is going to initiate a period of bribery, corruption and could lead to finally breaking the ability of the trade union movement to legally advance, protect and defend the interests of its members.

This part requires unions to represent all workers in a bargaining unit where they are the recognised majority union, even if they are not union members. Further: it allows union members and non members to apply to the Court for the union to be decertified if they: (a) failed to represent the member or worker of the bargaining unit; or (b) were negligent in its representation of the member or worker of the bargaining unit.

RECOGNITION ISSUES

An application for recognition is decided under the IRA by a majority of the Board “sitting in accordance with the Rules and Regulations determined by the Board”. The Bill deletes reference to the “rules and regulations of the Board” and requires the determination of recognition claims to be made by the Chairman and three members, one of whom should be the jointly agreed representative.

If this deletion of reference to the rules and regulations of the Board leads to the demise of the Practice Notes it may significantly speed up the process of gaining RMU status. In dealing with applications for recognition: Where the Act says applications must be dealt with expeditiously, the Bill says applications must be dealt with within six months. The Bill is silent on what happens if the Board does not meet its legal obligation of determining matters within six months.

The Bill deletes issues of “workers within the meaning of the Act” and “members in good standing” for trade disputes which will release the Board from this work. It should be noted that the unions have sought three (3) months as the maximum for completion of an application for recognition.

OBJECTIONS TO APPLICATION

 The Act says that where more than two unions have more than fifty percent of the members the Board is required to organise a ballot. (Note: this could arise where a union is challenging a sitting union).

While the Bill retains the ballot it inserts new criteria which allow an employer, “another trade union” and the Registrar of Trade Unions to object on the grounds that:

The claim made by a union seeking to be recognized is false; and

The accounting of the union is false;

The union has filed false membership records; or

There has been some other allegation of irregularity in the operation of the union.

Objections have to be filed with the Board within 28 days.

This section could effectively destroy a serious attempt to conclude recognition applications within six months. It would simply open the door to employers (who do not want union recognition anyway) to raise complaints concerning every application for recognition. Any employer and any trade union can raise an objection. They do not have to be party to the application.

We have seen employers and their representatives regularly raise questions about “membership in good standing” and “workers within the meaning of the Act” simply to delay trade disputes. They have been provide with a more pernicious mechanism to achieve the same end. Unions have long argued that the 51% threshold should be reduced. The Bill does not address this issue except in the case of recognition for short term projects

The Bill inserts a new Part (111A) dealing with applications for recognition for “a short-term project” which is defined as “a project in the heavy construction industry, which is scheduled to be completed within five years of its commencement.”

Applications are determined entirely by the Chairman of the Board. The threshold for recognition is reduced from 51% to 331/3%. These bargaining units are classified as essential industries.

Whilst an attempt to provide for organising in building industry is welcomed, this proposal is limited to “heavy construction” and also makes the bargaining units “essential industries” which means that cannot take industrial action of any sort.

The building industry, because of its short term nature, has thrived on taking immediate direct action to address its issues. Workers could well be better off staying outside the law and dealing with their issues as they do now rather than getting boxed into the limitations of these proposals.

Fixed contracts for Industrial Court judges have been abolished. The Bill deletes the section which limits judges in the court to a maximum 5 years contract (although renewable) and replaces it with an amendment to the Constitution which provides for judges to be appointed through the Judicial and Legal Service Commission. Industrial Court judges are renamed Justices and this change is made throughout the legislation.

This provision would seem to rely on the deletion of an amendment to the IRA and a simultaneous amendment to the Constitution. The latter requires a four fifths majority and probably needs the support of the PNM opposition in Parliament to pass.

WORKER WITHIN THE MEANING OF THE ACT

The Act says anyone who formulates policy or is in charge of a department is not a worker. If there is a dispute about whether a worker falls into this category the matter is determined by the Registration, Recognition and Certification Board (the Board).

The Bill keeps the definition as a way of excluding “managers” but deletes reference to the Board making a decision and instead gives workers in this category the right to report a trade dispute in the same way as a trade union can.

This is a strange way of dealing with this issue. It would have been much clearer to simply define a worker as anyone who sells their labour power. But what it does seem to mean is that “managers” can report their own trade disputes. What is not clear is where they can be represented and, if so, by whom. Does this open the door to lawyers representing “managers”?

It is not clear what would happen if the employer raised the question as to whether a worker represented by a union was, in fact, a manager and should be representing themselves. At the moment it is not clear where this dispute would go: obviously not to the Board; presumably to the Industrial Court, although that is not clear.

The Bill does not address the current exclusion of teachers, public officers etc. from the definition of “worker”. To address this, however, would probably require amendments to a range of other Acts which deal with these categories of worker.

DOMESTIC WORKERS

The Act says anyone “employed in any capacity of a domestic nature, including that of a chauffeur, gardener or handyman in or about a private dwelling house and paid by the householder” is not a worker within the meaning of the IRA. (s2(3)(f)). The Bill deletes section 2(3)(f) but changes the definition of “employer” so that it “does not include a householder who employs not more than three workers in any capacity of a domestic nature, including that of a chauffeur, gardener or handyman in, or about a private dwelling house.” (s2(8)).
 
This has removed the reference to domestics (and others) not being workers. However, if the employer has less than three workers falling into this category then the definition does not apply to him. This seems a ruse to have the status quo of domestic workers to remain unchanged while pretending to uphold Convention 189.

 CONCILLIATION AND MEDIATION SERVICE

 The section introducing the Conciliation and Mediation Service seems to have been lifted from the laws of some other jurisdiction and needs further study as to the ramifications of its establishment. At first glance its powers seem widespread and extensive and it seems designed to create another bureaucratic monstrosity to facilitate the boys getting jobs at inflated salaries, but also to shift the industrial relations ground, as one commentator put, away from the “grassroots” and into the hands of academics and theoreticians who cannot recognise a grievance if it slapped them in the face.

FINES

There are other changes made in the Bill of varying significance, but we will just touch on the more significant ones. The Bill removes the sanction of cancellation of our Recognition Certificates for taking illegal industrial action; however, the fines have been increased ten fold From $10, 000 to $ 100,000. They will surely buss all the unions now!

For taking industrial action in essential services the Bill removes summary conviction and imprisonment. The fines for employers have increased from $40,000 to $100,000 which is 2 1/2 times. But the fines for unions increased from $20,000 to $75,000 which is 3 ¾ times more. So when it comes to workers it is even worse! The fine for workers taking part in industrial action in an essential service moves up from $1000 to $25,000. This is 25 times more!!! If the worker is in the Health Service he will have to pay a fine of $50,000. Is it because there is a new wave of organising by health workers which the government wants to cut off at the root?

The trade union movement has been struggling for decades to remove from its shoulders the yoke of repressive legislation as embodied in the Industrial Relations Act. The Industrial Relations Amendment Bill far from addressing the issues that are of concern to workers and the trade unions are, in fact, attempting to slip into the law measures which are designed to keep that yoke more firmly in place than ever before. The trade union movement must reject out of hand this latest assault on its historic mission to protect, defend and advance the interests of the working class!

ABUSING PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL

posted 8 Jun 2015, 19:47 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 8 Jun 2015, 19:47 ]

The following article was published in the newsletter SWRHA TODAY, vol. 1 no. 2. The newsletter is published by the National Health Workers Union (NHWU) and deals with issues affecting workers in the South West Regional Health Authority

SWRHA, like many employers, abuses Performance Appraisal Systems and consequently lose an ideal opportunity to utilise a tool which analyses employees’ barriers, exposes their strengths, identifies training needs, career development and organizational strengths and deficiencies.

 In order to achieve these objectives the system must be designed as an analytical tool. It must engender trust so that the appraiser and appraised can be honest during the entire evaluation process. It should be noted that performance appraisal is not just a year end interview as happens in most places. It is a continuous process. It starts with an interview whereby the system, targets etc. are discussed, understood and agreed on both sides. The bad book system has no place in a performance appraisal. Good performances and bad ones are discussed throughout the period of review and formal midyear reviews are done. So that at year end there ought not to be any surprises.

The system analyses, it neither punishes nor rewards. Its findings feed into support systems for employees e.g. training, bonus, upgrade, promotion, EAP, etc. but never for disciplinary measures as this will undermine the trust and openness required by the system.  Many times required training cannot be accessed externally but in house resources are unavailable. The employer must accept this as their liability and guide their training capacity.  Employees must feel free to express career change and accommodation if possible must be provided.

Peer assessment is a key ingredient.  If properly structured and adequate training organization-wide is provided it is the most accurate guide into the appraised’s soft and hard skills. Evaluation should be based on self, supervisor and peer assessment with a weighting system in place. It must include an internal appeal system and access to the dispute procedure.

 All Appraisals throughout SWRHA go to Randolph Badall, Chief Operating Officer and he short-lists them. He operates within a policy directive from the CEO that a Supervisor is entitled to appraise a worker after twenty-one (21) days supervision. The culture SWRHA has fashioned is that a worker’s appraisal is used as a tool to terrorise fixed term contract employees because it is linked towards a worker getting his or her annual gratuity.  Workers are being pressured to change appraisal comments.

 Workers speak of a Wheel Barrow in the transport department as an infamous example. It is said that appraisals are to reward favourites and punish those who do not stick their tongues out. But the culture cannot be denied. It is one designed to keep the monthly paid pliant and subservient. The caste system which has spawned the ‘untouchables’ in mother India has taken root in SWRHA.

Workers speak of a Wheel Barrow in the transport department as an infamous example. It is said that appraisals are to reward favourites and punish those who do not stick their tongues out. But the culture cannot be denied. It is one designed to keep the monthly paid pliant and subservient. The caste system which has spawned the ‘untouchables’ in mother India has taken root in SWRHA.

Are the workers silent about this state of affairs? Not from the evidence being produced. Recently a petition of over 100 names surfaced for a Supervisor, himself on contract, to demit office but senior Management’s response is that since there is a mountain of complaints throughout the institution that particular Supervisor will stay on and training sessions to supervisors and managers attending to Appraisals will be pursued

 





WHEN THEY RAID THE HOUSE OF LORDS... by Rae Samuel

posted 5 Jun 2015, 06:52 by Gerry Kangalee

First he promised a tsunami of revelations. Now he pledges a torrent of secrets and I am thinking that in the end, in true Maxwell Smart fashion: “would you believe” we will have received a trickle of less than impactful 'bombs”.

Mr. X-es Warner: ex-school teacher, ex-special reserve policeman, ex-trade union activist, ex-Kublalsingh nemesis, ex-Brer Nansi in Zurich, ex-Cabinet Minister, continues to caricature himself. He fulfils the Reagan/Thatcher theory of economics where production is optimised profit overflows and wealth 'trickles down' to the poor/expectant. We know that never materialises.

Mr. Warner is leaving the 'stage' spitting and spewing about matters that incriminate himself. He seems not willing to wait for his day in court but sounds as if he is turning State witness against himself. Maybe this is a master stroke he learnt from Latapy or Dwight Yorke but isn't it going to end up scoring an own goal/’gaol’? (The second spelling is the ancient way of spelling "jail'': as in the Royal Gaol (pronounced Goal by Trinis). Even so Chuck has already 'Blazed' that trail.

What we need to look at now is how this is going to play out.The surgical airstrikes, the surges, the operation Desert Storms against FIFA read like copy/newsreel from Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan. Led by Loretta, who cannot address the undocumented extra judicial killings of Blacks in the US, the moral brigade attacks the headquarters of that den of iniquity in Zurich.

But the campaign seems to have hit a snag. Yes "shock and awe' has decimated the high command of FIFA. The general staff has been incarcerated or in hiding in Longdenville. But the problem here lies in installing a 'puppet regime'. Like in Afghanistan and Iraq these crusaders have completely misread the terrain/territory.

Whatever Blatter and company are, their 'trickle down' was much more beneficial to the needy, the greedy, the mendicant, the client. Listen to the statements coming out of the Federations in Africa and the Middle East. Qatar has linked this anti-FIFA campaign to a chauvinist, racist, anti-Arab assault by a first world country against a developing nation.

One is sure this was not how Loretta intended the propaganda campaign to flow. Football federations were supposed to welcome this cleanup campaign with open arms, soft tackles and a thousand Olés. In much the same way the Iraqis, Afghans and Libyans were expected to embrace the democracy of the liberators, heralded by drones, Cruise missiles and Abu Graib prisons.

What happens next is any one's guess. Blatter is no longer the story since the initial goal of removing him has been achieved. The second part of that plan however failed in that a puppet president was not elected to replace him. Therefore a smooth transition has not occurred. Civil war may be occurring in FIFA. Whoever forms the new executive of FIFA has a tremendous task on their hands, inheriting a fractured organisation where all motives are now suspect. They must not be seen as being friendly to or co-operating with the ones who destroyed the old order as, Hamid Khazai did in Kabul...

And now to the latest piece of 'smoke and mirrors'. Do not be fooled by this expose of Alan Wells, 1980 Olympic 100m gold medallist or of Coach Alberto Salazar's alleged 'doping violations'. It is a reaction to the failed anti-FIFA campaign. The BBC and others would have us believe that the West is on a campaign to clean up sport and FIFA was the first stop, even as ex-con Gatlin is running faster than a jet plane.

I will believe that when they raid the House of Lords and arrest Lord Coe, head of the British Olympic Committee.

SEPP, JACK AND HOUSE SLAVES (A PERSONAL TESTIMONY) by Selby Browne

posted 5 Jun 2015, 06:21 by Gerry Kangalee

SEPP, JACK AND HOUSE SLAVES

by Selby Browne

(Vice President Veteran Footballers Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago AND President Caribbean Sports TV Network BVI)

I, personally, suffered directly at the hands of the FIFA thieves, with their theft of my company CSTN’s ownership of the FIFA 2002 World Cup TV Rights to the entire Caribbean. On the collapse of FIFA’s marketing partner ISL/ISMM, despite the written guarantees of the FIFA President and FIFA that no FIFA World Cup broadcaster would lose his rights, CSTN was the sole broadcaster to have its rights stolen and given to FIFA Vice President Jack Warner's company JD International of Grand Cayman.

Further: I received the written assurances of Le President, FIFA that the rights would be returned to CSTN no later than January 31st 2003. That date has unfortunately not yet arrived on the calendar of the FIFA President.

Repeated attempts both legal (prohibitive costs for a non Swiss company) and direct requests to have the FIFA President and FIFA return the Rights or pay compensation to CSTN have to date failed. I therefore welcome with open arms the action taken against corruption by the U.S. Justice Department.

While the purpose for the action may have been the treatment the U.S. and allies who have themselves suffered at the hands of FIFA, I am elated that the U.S. has set the precedent by taking action against the FIFA thieves, which hopefully would be followed by other major nations.

The disgraceful obscene support for Sepp, displayed by the Presidents of Caribbean Football at the CONCACAF Congress in Nassau last month, who referred to him as: Jesus, Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr, Father, et al, demonstrated the slavishly placed dependence on the King of the Thieves, from whom they derive their lifestyle funding at the expense of the meaningful development of footballers, administration, management and operation of football in the Caribbean and the third world in general. It speaks to the size of the "World Cup of Thieves".

Mind you, the demonstrated action of the Caribbean Presidents is similar to the action that comes from all the third world football slaves along with those East European poor Associations.

How well do I recall the bid for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, when Nelson Mandela was brought to tears by the FIFA thieves, who blamed old man Charlie, President of the New Zealand Association for taking bribes.

The US First Lady was embarrassed with her presence at the draw in Zurich, based on the expectation conveyed to the U.S. along with the campaign of the UK facilitated by Prince Charles, who paid a call on the mighty FIFA Vice President of Port of Spain, who is today referred to as "The Honourable"; as a parliamentarian in this Republic, that has refused to take action on the source of funding for him..

On two occasions the third world blacks and friends who were provided with the opportunity to have a black voted to head the FIFA, slavishly pledged their unswerving support for their Father, Sepp.

Having been appointed Ambassador for Issa Hayatou to the Americas and the Caribbean in 2002, I personally witnessed the shameful action of the slaves, when Issa received 56 votes at the FIFA Congress held the day prior to the opening match of the World Cup as was the tradition. Last week when Prince Ali received 73, I was amused as it clearly demonstrated the handful of UEFA anti Blatter votes was added.

The fact remains that the poor black slaves and colleagues remain quite happily to accept the crumbs from their Master "Father" a reminder of the slaves who had the privilege to be taken from the fields given a wash and placed in Master's house.

Finally, I thank the U.S. Department of Justice for taking this long required action against the runaway, before untouchable, unregulated thieves, and I have every confidence that all the FIFA Sponsors, if given the option of the U.S. Market or FIFA World Cup would quite clearly take the decision of the capitalism and promptly abandon the FIFA thieves.

NWU'S POSITION ON THE IRA

posted 30 May 2015, 08:39 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 30 May 2015, 09:12 ]

The National Workers Union (NWU) has issued a discussion paper called A LOOK AT THE INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS AMENDMENT BILL as a contribution to the discourse raging across the labour movement about the government's attempt to enact  the Bill which the trade union movement views as a an attack on its very survival. The discussion paper is attached at the bottom of this page and can be downloaded.


Because it is a rather long document, this website will publish it in parts over time. This is the second in the series of articles.

What then is the trade union movement’s position on the IRA and what does it want to see as mentioned in the Workers Agenda?

The IRA defines how, when and under what conditions workers may withhold their labour; it denies workers in so-called essential services the right to strike; through its essential industries provision it violates freedom of association by denying workers the right to join a trade union of their choice; it provides employers and the state with a mechanism to decertify trade unions while not providing unions any countervailing mechanism to deal with employers.

The IRA prohibits strikes in rights matters; prohibits strikes in 'essential services' and many other areas; it provides for compulsory union recognition – but only after a tedious legal procedure determined by the Registration Recognition and Certification Board; it requires conciliation at the Ministry of Labour and establishes an Industrial Court to provide for compulsory arbitration.

WORKERS AGENDA

The Workers Agenda called for:

The severe limitations on the right to strike to be removed.

The excision from the IRA of the provision which allows an employer to seek decertification of trade unions.

Removal of obstacles to Workers’ Right to Join a Trade Union of Their Choice: the law must allow for workers to join trade unions of their choice. The present restrictions on trade unions in terms of workers categorised in essential industries, violates international labour standards

A limit of three (3) months for the determination of recognition claims which are made to the Registration, Recognition and Certification Board; the present requirement of fifty-one percent (51%) membership of workers in one particular union for that union to obtain recognition by the Recognition Board should be amended to twenty percent (20%);

Security of tenure and pensions for Judges of the Industrial Court and their appointment by an independent body, similar to that of High Court Judges.

The elimination of employers being able to use provisions related to “worker in good standing” and “worker within the meaning of the Act” to delay and prevent trade unions from representing individual workers, who come from a non-unionised environment.

All workers to be recognised as Workers: The term “worker” should be amended to include drivers, domestic workers, etc.

Ministry of Labour to revisit its mandate to make it functional to the needs of the labour movement.

The above is a concise summary of demands of the trade union movement in relation to the IRA as contained in the Workers Agenda. There are other obstacles contained in the IRA which may be dealt with as we examine the effects of the law. We can then look at the proposed amendments and see to what extent they meet the demands and to what extent they impose more restrictions.

RIGHT TO STRIKE

The International Labour Organisation has stated: “The right to strike has been recognized internationally as a fundamental right of workers and their organizations and as an intrinsic corollary to the right to organize. Nevertheless, these fundamental rights are still not enjoyed by millions around the world, and where these rights are recognized, there continue to be challenges in applying them.”

(http://www.ilo.org/declaration/principles/freedomofassociation/lang--en/index.htm).

This statement precisely describes the situation in Trinidad and Tobago as it relates to the prohibition of certain categories of workers. Section 67 (2) of the IRA prohibits workers and employers in “essential services” from taking industrial action. It says: “An employer or a worker carrying on or engaged in an essential service shall not take industrial action in connection with any such essential service.”

The law goes on to say that a worker who contravenes subsection (2) is liable on summary conviction to a fine and imprisonment and that “(5) A trade union or other organisation, the holder of an office in a trade union or other organisation or any other person who calls for, or causes industrial action to be taken in, an essential service or induces or persuades any worker in that service to take such action is liable on summary conviction…”and it lays out fines and prison terms, disqualification from holding union office. A trade union may also be decertified for violating this section.

In T&T for exercising what the International Labour Organisation holds to be a worker’s fundamental right, workers and trade unionists may be jailed. But the ILO also said: “where these rights are recognized, there continue to be challenges in applying them.”

The IRA determines, indeed, spells out, how workers must strike: under what pretext; under what conditions; utilising what procedure - all of which are governed by legal prescriptive application set down in the IRA and other laws

According to Bryan St. Louis of the Communication Workers Union in his paper Jurassic Labour Legislation in a Technological Age (see paper analysis of the IRA 1972 as amended attached at bottom of this page): “In cases where workers do not take strike action as spelt out in the Industrial Relations Act, the employers use the IRA to the hilt by instituting lock-out action and then issues individual contracts to workers, bypassing the Union in order to get workers to accept inferior terms and conditions of employment in an attempt to get rid of the Union.

Further, if a union is found guilty of taking illegal industrial action the IRA makes provision for decertification of the union whilst there is no reciprocal penalty for an employer who commits the same offence.

In addition before strike action can be taken notice must first be given to both the employer and the Minister of Labour, which in effect eliminates the surprise element and gives the employer time to put things in place to pre-empt the effects of strike action." 


But even those actions that do not seem to be governed by the prescriptive force of the IRA are dealt with by the use of what St. Louis calls: “Various tactics are also being used to break legal, legitimate and peaceful struggles of workers e.g. Injunctions supported by the State to prevent protest actions on legitimate issues, laws to limit marches, picketing and breakup of picket lines by the State machinery, use of Paramilitary Forces in the Collective Bargaining Process are some of the violent attacks against workers within recent times.”

ESSENTIAL SERVICES

The “essential services” listed in the Second Schedule of the IRA: 1. Electricity Service (Generation, Transmission and Distribution). 2. Water and Sewerage Services. 3. Internal Telephone Service. 4. External Communications (Telephone, Telegraph, Wireless). 5. Fire Service. 6. Health Services. 7. Hospital Services. 8. Sanitation Services (including scavenging). 9. Public School Bus Service. 10. Civil Aviation Services (including all services provided by a commercial airline the majority of the aircraft of which are registered in Trinidad and Tobago or are owned by citizens of Trinidad and Tobago or by a company incorporated in Trinidad and Tobago, aircraft maintenance, refuelling and ramp services, air traffic control and meteorological services and airline catering services).

But that is not the end of the matter. Section 69 (1) of the IRA states: “The following persons shall not take part in any industrial action: action. (a) members of the Public Service in Trinidad and Tobago (b) members of the Prison Service of Trinidad and Tobago; (c) members of the Fire Service of Trinidad and Tobago; (d) members of the Teaching Service; and (e) members of the staff and other employees of the Central Bank, established by the Central Ch. 79:02 Bank Act.”

The inevitable conclusion is that the legislation attempts to codify and regulate on the industrial relations front the imbalance of power in the employer/worker relationship. But the reality is that the employer/worker power relationship is not a stable one and is always in a state of flux governed more by subjective factors dealing with the strength of solidarity among the workers; whether they are organised or, more importantly, whether they have organised themselves; whether they have a trade union history/presence.

It means that at the point of production where the employer/worker interplay is sharpest, the methods of struggle, the tactics employed by both sides, the dynamics of the relationship have far outstripped the ability of the law to regulate and direct that relationship.

If we accept the ILO’s position that workers have the right to withhold their labour, then we have to recognise that attempts, legislative or otherwise, to obstruct the exercise of that right are themselves illegal and the attitude of organised workers has to privilege the pursuit of their interests as workers over worship of and obedience to the law.

ESSENTIAL INDUSTRIES


According to the ILO, Article 2 Convention 87 - Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87): “Workers and employers, without distinction whatsoever, shall have the right to establish and, subject only to the rules of the organisation concerned, to join organisations of their own choosing without previous authorisation.” 

The Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago ratified Convention 87 on 24th May 1963. By ratifying a Convention, a Government is confirming that its domestic legislation is consistent with the principles of the Convention.

The IRA defines a category called “essential industries” which by any standard, violates this convention and any accepted constitutional definition of Freedom of Association.

The following are described as “essential industries” according to the First Schedule of the Industrial Relations Act:

1. Electricity Service (Generation, Transmission and Distribution) 2. Water and Sewerage Services. 3. Fire Service 4. Health Services 5. Hospital Services 6. Sanitation Services (including scavenging) 7. Oil, Gas, Petrochemicals (Exploration, Exploitation, Refining, Manufacture, Distribution, Marketing) 8. Port Operations (Dock and Harbour, Cargo Handling, Ship Building and Repairing) 9. Sugar (Cultivation, Manufacture, Refining) 10. Communications, internal and external (Radio, Telephones, Telegraph, Television, Wireless) 11. Public Bus Transport Services (including Public School Bus Service) 12. Civil aviation services (including all services provided by a commercial airline the majority of the aircraft of which are registered in Trinidad and Tobago or are owned by citizens of Trinidad and Tobago or by a company incorporated in Trinidad and Tobago, aircraft maintenance, refuelling and ramp services, air traffic control and meteorological services and airline catering services) 13. The iron and steel industry

The relevance of The First Schedule is determined by Section 38 (4) of the Act which says:

“... no application for certification of recognition under this Part shall be considered where the application relates to workers comprised in a bargaining unit in one category of essential industries and the claimant union is already certified as the recognised majority union for workers comprised in a bargaining unit in another category of essential industries.”

Workers in essential industries cannot join a trade union that already organises workers in other essential industries

It is interesting to note that the iron and steel industry was added as recently as 1980, specifically in response to the establishment of what was then ISCOTT, It forced those workers to form a new union – the Steel Workers Union of T&T.

When un-organised workers in an essential industry want to join a trade union, they have these limited choices: join a trade union that is already recognised in that essential industry category; join a trade union that does not have any bargaining units in an essential industry category; form a new trade union. This means that they may HAVE to join a union that they do not really wish to join, but have no choice if they are to unionise It would limit the choice of union to that already recognised in the essential industry category.

They may join a trade union that does not have any bargaining units in an essential industry category. The number of unions falling into this category would seem to be limited. The irony, of course, is that once one of these non-essential industry unions acquires a bargaining unit in an essential industry it is then boxed into that category.

They may form a new trade union. Forming and registering a trade union under the Trade Union Act Chapter 88:02 is not a difficult process, Building a trade union is a formidable task. A new union would have little in the way of resources – especially until it established recognition. Such a union would likely have no office, no full-time staff, no ability to employ lawyers or other advisers or undertake research. Effectively, such a union is likely to be an in-house organisation with all the weaknesses that that entails.

Although the freedom to form and join a new trade union is not restricted by the IRA, looked at in terms of giving workers the organisational strength necessary to impact on the balance of power between workers and their employer, it is a challenging but surmountable task

DECERTIFICATION

The Workers Agenda talks about the excision from the IRA of the provision which allows an employer to seek decertification of trade unions. The IRA has provision for the employer to initiate a process of decertifying a recognised majority union in cases of illegal industrial action. The trade union movement has long clamoured for the removal of that provision.

The inequity between employers and workers is clear, because while an employer could be found guilty of illegal industrial action, he cannot be decertified from his status as an employer! During the last Manning administration, attempts were made by PTSC and TSTT to decertify the TIWU and the CWU respectively.

THE RECOGNITION BOARD

The trade union movement has been calling for large scale reformation of the recognition process. Three (3) months should be the upper limit for the determination of recognition claims which are made to the Registration, Recognition and Certification Board, a creature of the IRA. The present requirement of fifty-one percent (51%) membership of workers in one particular union for that union to obtain recognition by the Recognition Board should be no more than twenty percent (20%);.

Section 32 (1) of the IRA states: “The Board shall expeditiously determine all applications for certification brought before it…” what, in fact, happens is that while the Board dilly dallies (the opposite of acting expeditiously) in determining applications, employers dismiss organisers and intimidate workers from joining a union. The longer the process lasts, the more organisers and members of the union are at risk of being victimised.

Even the Industrial Relations Advisory Committee (IRAC) has been less than complimentary in describing the operations of the Board. In its final draft submission to the Minister of Labour, it stated: “For the past two to three decades there have been numerous complaints about the efficiency and timeliness of the process of recognition…The RRCB has been called various negative names, the most telling is ‘the cold storage’. Its human resource quality and quantity have been brought into question so too has been its structure.”

In 1972, the year the IRA was enacted there were 169 applications for recognition and the average time it took to determine those applications was 6.94 months. By 1995 when only 6 applications were made it took an average time of 43.25 months to have the applications determined.

No study has been done since then on the average time it takes to determine an application, but it certainly is as bad as it ever was. The OWTU’s recognition bid for workers at what was then Amoco dragged on for more than ten years; it took MPATT ten years to gain RMU status for the doctors in the South West Regional Health Authority; BIGWU had to struggle for five years to gain recognition for Central Bank workers; Royal Bank is a saga of its own...

What clear is that as the volume of claims decreased, the secretariat of the board ensured that the time for determination stretched out like a rubber band so that their role in the bureaucratic structure would seem indispensable.

What is it that takes the Board so long to make a simple determination? Under the law the Board is supposed to determine whether a union that is making a recognition claim has more than 50% of the workers for whom the claim is being made as its members.

The Board has to determine whether the workers for whom the claim is being made are members in good standing in the union, meaning that they have to be members of the union for at least eight weeks. The Board also determines the shape of the bargaining units, whether by pay grade or occupational classification or otherwise. What is so difficult about this?

The law talks about members being “in good standing”. The criteria can be summarised thus: the union has to follow sound accounting procedures and practices (Section 34 (3) (a)); the worker must have paid an entrance fee and at least eight weeks contributions (Section 34 (3) (b) (i)), or contributions for not less than two years (Section 34 (3) (b) (i)); the funds of the union have not been used to pay the members contributions (Section 34 (3) (c); the question of membership in good standing must be determined “having regard to good industrial relations practice” (Section 34 (3) (d))

The real problem is how the secretariat of the Board has interpreted and carried out its legislated function. The Board has issued two Practice Notes that are used in applying Section 34: Practice Note No. 1 and Practice Note No. 2.

It is the application of the Practices Notes, and in particular Practice Note 2, that is the cause of most problems. It is worth examining this because Practice Notes, whilst having their roots in the IRA, are very much the product of the Board.

Section 34 (3) (a) does not determine precisely what “sound accounting procedures and practices” are and it is in an attempt to address this that, presumably, the Board has issued Practice Note 2.

Amongst the problems raised are: a massive intrusion into the internal administration and affairs of the union; the incredible level of detail required; the requirement to have a manual accounting system when unions ought to be computerising their accounts; the imposition of financial procedures that are determined, not by the Union but by a State agency; the ability of Board examiners, who are not qualified accountants, to determine what are “sound accounting procedures”

The Practice Notes issued by the Board, particularly Practice Note 2, have the effect of interfering in the internal financial administration of unions and impedes to process of developing collective bargaining. The Union has to go through convoluted procedures when making an application Such as submitting union minutes, bank statements, receipt books, accounts have to be produced for inspection.

When matters affecting a union come before the Board, unions are not even advised, let alone have the opportunity to appear or be represented. The process is not transparent.

Unions don’t know the nature of the reports being presented to the Board or have an opportunity to challenge, query or correct them or have the right to representation at the hearing where their matters are being determined. This is particularly worrisome, because according to Section 23 (6) and (7) of the IRA:

“(6) No decision, order, direction, declaration, ruling or other determination of the Board shall be challenged, appealed against, reviewed, quashed or called in question in any Court on any account whatever; and no order shall be made or process entered or proceeding taken by or in any Court,… to question, review, prohibit, restrain or otherwise interfere with the Board or any proceedings before it.

(7) … the Board shall be the sole authority competent to expound upon any matter touching the interpretation and application of this Act relating to functions and responsibilities with which the Board is charged by the Act or any other written law; and accordingly, no cause, application, action, suit or other proceeding shall lie in any Court of law concerning any matter touching the interpretation or application of this Act.”
The Board is therefore a power unto itself!

The actual work of the RRCB is not carried out by members of the Board, but by the secretariat which seems more concerned with building a more and more opaque bureaucracy than in expeditiously settling recognition claims. It seems more concerned with protecting its turf than carrying out its function. It seems more concerned with “mek wuk” than in ensuring that workers rights are implemented.

What use is it having the right to join a union and when you do so you are frustrated and delayed by the very agencies of the state that pose as facilitators but are in fact obstacles to exercising those rights?

The National Workers Union has proposed, in the past that the recognition process should include: joint meetings with the union, employer and board to discuss and agree to the composition of bargaining units; time limits on employers: requiring them to respond to Board enquiries or the matter will proceed on the basis of the Union's application (the Industrial Court operates on this basis); an interpretation of the community of interests to allow for unions to organise departments or small units within an employer because trying to organise an employer with many outlets and turnover of workers is extremely difficult; granting of interim recognition certificates as provided for in Section 37(3) of the Act; recognition claims should be determined within three (3) months at the most.

On top of all these endemic obstacles, the indomitable Don Quixote sitting in the Ministry of Labour refused to appoint the Recognition Board for more than a year.

The trade union movement, if it has to deal with judges, prefer to deal with judges who are not themselves concerned about their own job security and who depend upon politicians for having their contracts renewed.

We have long argued for the power to appoint judges to be carried out by a body independent of cabinet and that they should be given security of tenure including being eligible for pensions.

WHO IS A WORKER? 

We have long argued against employers being able to use provisions related to “worker in good standing” and “worker within the meaning of the Act” to delay and prevent trade unions from representing individual workers, who come from a non-unionised environment.

There is no corresponding regulation that empowers the recognition board from examining the financial relationship between a consultant and the company he represents. Another example of class bias!

The trade union movement has long argued that the exclusion of some categories of workers from being defined as “workers” is a scandal of gargantuan proportion and has called for domestics, gardeners, drivers, etc. to be included in the definition of “worker”, particularly so since the government voted for ILO Convention 189 which campaign for ratification was led by the National Union of Domestic Employees.

Public servants, teachers, firemen, prison officers etc. are for purposes of the IRA also not defined as workers.

1-10 of 662