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

NO RETREAT NO SURRENDER By Ken Howell

posted 10 Jan 2019, 06:27 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 10 Jan 2019, 06:54 ]

Friday 30th November 2018, will go down in the history books as the day when one of the descendants of the French slave masters, with the connivance of their respective minions, laid to waste the South Land by destroying the lives of thousands of families.

Notwithstanding the reality of our current situation, we have lost a battle, not the war. And as is always the case, we must make an honest assessment as to the reasons why we lost. We lost the battle because we were not prepared organisationally, physically and mentally to fight that battle.

Joe Young (left) and George Weekes
Our leaders did not learn anything from the crisis of the 1980s. After 1990 union leaders who succeeded stalwarts such as George Weekes, Joe Young and even some of the pro-employer leaders, neglected to recognise that the class struggle is always on. It is being fought every day: on the factory floor, in the office, on the rigs, in the shopping malls, stores, in every work place whether the workers are unionised or non-unionised.

But the leaders whose interest is to use their unions as a spring board from which to catapult themselves into politics deliberately neglected to train this army of workers so as to prepare them for protracted struggle. As a result we lost this battle. It remains now for us to call on the leaders who abdicated their responsibilities to do the right thing - fall on their swords!

The battles ahead require that the union movement must not make the mistakes of the past which resulted in our forces being unprepared. Thankfully, Mr. Espinet has already set the tone for the battles which we must fight. In his response to the concerns expressed for more than 600 so-called temporary workers who were sent home without severance benefits, he said “some wil
l suffer because we cannot develop a formula based on feeling sorry for people”.


Well it is only business! That is exactly what the young men who are killing themselves and their brothers, mothers, sisters believe that the illegal drug trade is only business. That is what our corrupt capitalist society has taught them.

Doctor Rowley is right when he says that the society is corrupt. But he did not discover that when he became Prime Minister. He knew that when he joined the party in the 1970s. It was his party which sent Gene Miles to her grave for exposing PNM corruption.

Another good example is the case of Mr Anisette, the deceased father of the Speaker of the House of Parliament. He was the Chairman of the National Housing Authority and due to the high incidence of tenants not fulfilling their obligation to pay their mortgages or rent, he decided to move against them. But he was prevented from so doing by PNM party functionaries.

In most of those cases, the mortgage monthly instalment was about $500.00 and the rents were from $9.00 to $12.00 per month. I have chosen to cite these examples to make the point that the corruption at the lower levels in the society was encouraged in order for the John O’Hallorans, Boysie Prevatts, Ou Wais and those who fled to Panama to conduct a higher level of corruption.

So the con game that Doctor. Rowley is trying to pull on us will not work. No amount of bleach can wash that stain out of the history of the PNM. It was always, and it is still, the mission of the PNM to build a capitalist economy in this country. You cannot talk about independence and sovereignty when your intention is to build an economy that is controlled externally; at a time when American exceptionalism is on a mission to dominate the global economy when corruption in capitalism is rampant at its highest levels in the centres of capitalist power.

Image result for yellow vestsThat is why the struggle to defend the gains made by the working class throughout the capitalist world and in countries such as ours is crucial. The attack on the OWTU and its members at Petrotrin is no different from the attack on the French workers. What we are witnessing is capitalism at its most brutal stage - the stage of neo-liberalism.

It is at the stage when the stench of its decay will overpower the working class if preventative measures are not taken to insulate that class who are the producers of all wealth in the world from the machinations of the capitalist, whose intention is to seek to weaken the bargaining position of the workers when they come to the labour market to purchase labour power.

Their intention is to use the new and emerging technologies, such as robotics, block chain technologies, Artificial Intelligence and so on to achieve a negotiating advantage. This does not mean that the introduction of new technology into production processes is evil. New technology is necessary to remove the drudgery from the production process, but it must not be used to place workers on the unemployment garbage heaps.

In our case here in this country the intention is to dismantle the state sector in order to increase the influence of foreign and local capital in the local economy and simultaneously weaken the influence of the trade union movement on the production process.

The plan is simple and deadly for the trade unions and the workers both unionised and non-unionised. Therefore in order to fight the battles to come we cannot continue with the current crop of leaders.

New leaders must emerge and I have every confidence they will emerge. While some people see gloom and doom in the mind set of some of our misguided youths, I see hope and a bright future. Lurking within the subconscious mind of this new generation is the will and determination to bring about change for the betterment of mankind. That is the pool from which the new leadership of the movement will emerge.

It would seem therefore that by an act of fate those who have been committed to the struggle for real social change, have been assigned the task to transmit to the upcoming generation in the workplace, in the sports clubs, in the steelband movement, in the training sessions in the respective union halls, education about the workers struggles of the past; about the struggles from the 1930s through to the 1980s and to educate them about the real mission of the working class.

This task must be divided into three parts. The first is the immediate. The movement must begin to mobilise and educate the workers as to the reasons why we must ensure that this right wing PNM government must be voted out of office in 2020. An essential part of this mobilisation programme is a massive education programme.

This would be necessary in order to lay the foundation for a massive recruitment drive in which all trade unions must participate. No effort must be spared in our campaign to increase the number of workers who are unionised. We must do everything possible to increase the presence of the trade union movement in the labour market because that is where the capitalist class does not want us to be.

The second phase is the medium term programme. This second phase must be built on the achievement of the immediate. Because the intention is to foster real unity and solidarity within and among unions and among the members of unions; if and when this is achieved the question of mergers could be a real possibility.

While it is hardly spoken of, the reality is that trust among the leaders of the movement is lacking because they are ignorant of the fact that the real mission of the trade unions is not to be an appendage of the capitalist system. Trade unions must not only be for the purpose of serving the system, carrying out the task of keeping the working class quiet so that the capitalist vultures can exploit them.

The real mission of the working class is to take political and economic control. The capitalists are aware of that. That is why they are mortally afraid of the working class. That is why opportunism among the leaders and within the movement at any level is damaging to the movement. The long term task of those who are committed to rebuilding the movement is to rebuild the confidence of the workers in their ability to cultivate and maintain solidarity within the movement. In order to achieve those objectives, we cannot and must not retreat or surrender. The struggle continues!

FELONS IN HIGH PLACES By Eugene Reynald

posted 9 Jan 2019, 05:16 by Gerry Kangalee

Image result for trinidad freedom of information actThe very few PNM friends I tolerate have been admonishing me – or at least trying to, for referring to Rowley and his Cabinet sycophants as a criminals, felons and outlaws. I tried to explain it to them verbally but being totally conditioned by the immoral, unintelligent and racist PNM dogma (in response to the same from the UNC) they have been unable to understand my reasoning.

I however record it below in a very simple form not so much to reform them but to make my position clear in logic and give them an opportunity to respond in writing…knowing that they cannot and will not.

Criminals, Felons and Outlaws (CFOs) are persons who function outside the Law. My dictionary tells me so and so does my Google search.

Rowley runs the Cabinet and it is therein where Policy is determined. It has to be so because that body enjoys privileges and immunities in Law that protects each of its members. It operates somewhat like a gang, but out of reach of the Law and its deliberations are carried out in secret and without input from citizens.

Its decisions inform the behaviour of all his appointees in Cabinet, all State owned Enterprises and the lives of all citizens. For instance its decision to spend some 300m dollars to build a National Oncology Centre some 12 years ago - and as of today have not delivered on even the basic structure, would have resulted in the deaths of an untold number of citizens from cancer whose lives could have been saved if the Centre - as planned, was completed and operational.

There is a Law in this country called the FOI Act which, inter alia, allows citizens to request and obtain information with few exceptions, from Rowley, his appointees and other public officials.

I, and several other citizens, have made requests for information by way of this Act and these requests have either not been responded to or have been unreasonably denied. Rowley has at least one such request from me and has not yet responded after several months, and other persons he has appointed exhibit the same behaviour.

Afra Raymond made a FOIA request of him and had to take the matter to Court to get the information he requested. Rowley waited until the eleventh hour - just before the Court decided on the Matter, to withdraw his defence and accede to the request from Afra.

We the citizenry paid all of Rowley’s costs for what was an attempt to oppress and frustrate one of us. Think about that one! I am sure that Al Rawi is smarting over this Afra Judgement and others, and must be in his closet drafting Laws to make legal the oppression that he and Rowley are obviously always about.

Rowley thinks that by withdrawing the matter at the eleventh hour when he saw his “ass was grass” he did not commit a crime or felony; but he did do crime by simply refusing to provide the information in the first place in keeping with the stipulations of the FOI Act and only doing so after both Afra and the State spent a considerable lot of money, effort and time in bringing the Matter to Court.

The latter alone suggests forethought and malicious intent on the part of Rowley but for some reason the Court chose to overlook that. So Rowley will do the crime over and over again and is doing just that as I write. Of course he also yielded because he might have had to sit on a witness stand and defend his act of illegality which he clearly did not have the anatomy, courage or conviction to do.

We, the people, paid for all the costs for Rowley’s crime including some of the costs incurred by Afra (one is never awarded one’s full costs by the Court). The obvious conclusion to be drawn from this is that Rowley knew he was breaking the Law but decided to take a citizen, who was exercising his rights in Law, the full distance; in the hope that he would give up in frustration or would have been unable to afford the costs charged directly and indirectly by the Courts for delivering Justice to citizens.

Most citizens do not have the financial resources or the commitment to hold the course that Afra did and this is exploited by Rowley and his appointees. The Courts are supposed to help but the cost of getting there is frustrating, expensive and unaffordable to most citizens as Rowley and his appointees know and this in part contributes to the high incidence of crime and frustration in the country and gives Devant and the Opposition perch on high ground.

What Rowley and his Cabinet appointees do to citizens who they are there to serve is unconscionable, ungodly and criminal and their sycophants, in advising and supporting them also deserve to be called felons and outlaws for the part they play.

Of Badjohns, Bandits and Barbarians by faye rowe

posted 7 Jan 2019, 08:58 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 7 Jan 2019, 09:08 ]

A precocious 11 year old asked me how the old year was and I realized that even though certain things impacted on me, I said check me before the year was over. She did and I responded more or less as such. For this SEA student I had to summarise in biteable portions – she, being part of generation ‘touch screen’. Now I turn my monologue into print form.

So Miss Prisoner of SEA, the badjohns I am referring to went to secondary and tertiary institutions, but that did not stop them from flashing dey mouth in the true tradition of old. I accepted the first self-proclaimed one, he of some cultural acclaim hailing from east Port of Spain – Kurt Allen – dripping with irony some years ago, but those who showed their true colours were simply obnoxious.

Our Prime Minister, already draped with the moniker – Rottweiler – by his PNM predecessor Prime Minister, would stand up in Parliament and challenge a member of the opposition to ‘come outside and say that’ with all the braggadocio of a carnival stickman. And then he has the temerity for his new year’s message to say our society is too violent. Well Ms. Long Suffering SEA Student, we have a role model second to none. Oops, did I say that?

My next badjohn is also second to none, so it’s a tie. Newly selected Commissioner of Police (COP) Gary Griffith must also be part of the carnival scenario. Remember I talked about a badjohn in calypso, and another being a stickman. This COP can be characterized as a ‘Midnight Robber’ because it is one shot one kill; perceived law breakers are cockroaches and he wants an armoured vehicle or two.

There are others of course, who, taking their cue from the top two, would rant and rave from time to time. You can find them within the trade union leadership, in political parties and elsewhere, but they normally do their stuff behind closed doors.

When I talk about bandits you, a product of our primary school system, read or see on TV evidence of their trade. Five hundred plus murders with drugs and guns available on command!

You need to remember however that the reported banditry is only the tip of the iceberg. Who could forget Harry the Credit Union man; the CEO who expertly put a state owned energy company into billions dollar debt with no blame, no apology, no restitution, just crash the company stealing the hopes, dreams and aspirations of thousands; or the politicians who stole the freedom of Tobago-based people to travel or the CEOs of our main sporting bodies. Banditry is widespread and pervasive.

And yet Miss Extra Lessons for SEA, those two classes of anti-heroes are not the worst. They are simply the shakers of the society. The
movers have to be clearly defined. Not just called one percenters but for what they really are – barbarians. What is their mission? Plain and simple, there must be no middle class, only working poor people or else, as they would trumpet, T&T cannot compete.

The Petrotrin debacle, TSTT now and soon WASA and TTEC workers according to their bible must be brought to heel within one generation. The barbarians’ bible continues. Give them some succour – normalize marijuana; allow churches to spread and grow; depend on the capitalist class to own the commanding heights of the economy. It’s a classic IMF style reform that is taking place.

How do we, amongst the working people approach this coming visitation? I dare say it calls for a new breed of defenders who can only emerge from the youth but who have to be informed of the past, the present and the future. The barbarians are at the gates and gatekeepers are needed now! Let us get a channel for communication, for unity to develop into united action.

TOBAGO WE ARE SORRY!

posted 2 Jan 2019, 07:13 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 2 Jan 2019, 07:43 ]

“Leaders instil in their people a hope for success and a belief in themselves. Positive leaders empower people to accomplish their goals.”
Unknown

“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”
Theodore M. Hesburgh

Image result for trhaThe Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) has been totally absent of true leadership for approximately the past eight (8) years. That equates to approximately four (4) to five (5) Boards.

One can safely say the last respectable board, the board that showed true leadership of the TRHA, was the board headed by Keith Charles (2009 – 2011). That was possibly the last board that knew what their objectives and responsibilities were to the organization, the population and most importantly to health care on the island of Tobago.

The boards that followed leave much to be desired and have sent the organization on a downward spiral. Resignations has become a norm over the years; beginning with Camille Mohammed – Director Medicine (2011-2013), Trevor Craig – Chairman (2014-2016), Maria Dillon Remy – Medicine (2014-2016), Oswald Williams – Chairman (2016-2018) and most recently, Stanford Callender - Public Interest, and Welfare (2018-2020).

Additionally, and possible worst of all, after the Orville London-led Tobago House of Assembly (THA) administration fought and won the “behind the scenes” battle of not having to discuss and collaborate on the persons chosen to be appointed to the board with the opposition, the appointment of misfits, square pegs, political and professional “wanabees” and geriatric dreamers, became the norm.

No need to name then as we know exactly who holds which portfolio. It is glaring - the lack of solid, forward thinking individuals who have what is necessary to lead the organization and thus health care, to where it needs to be.

The TRHA is plagued with Leadership issues stemming directly from the top and at its current rate, things are only going to get worse. “Ole people say fish does rotten from deh head.”

Fast forward to the present time 2018 with this current board led by Ingrid Melville. What can be said about this leader? Ingrid Melville began her TRHA experience on the Trevor Craig-led board of 2014-2016. Be reminded that that was the board that paid themselves increases in allowances which were not approved.

As the legal person sitting among her peers, what was her contribution to this illegal and unauthorized payment? Did she refuse to accept the payment knowing that it was legally not authorized? One would want to challenge this argument because the decision was later cleared by the Integrity Commission. However, we as citizens have all questioned the Integrity of the said Integrity Commission.

Needless to say, the integrity of that board was tarnished, and its members will never be looked at the same again. It is alleged that t
he Director that resigned from that board, asked about paying back the monies she received. It seems her integrity was affected by the misdeed.

Ingrid Melville was also on the Oswald Williams-led board as the Deputy Chairman/ Director Law and became the acting Chairman after his hasty resignation. She is the “Legal” representative on the board who always must seek legal advice on the most basic of issues. The advice she seeks always costs the organization an arm and a leg, as it seems she does not have legal associates that she can simply use to soundboard issues with, hypothetically, to save the organization cost. This is all part of the “It’s our time now to eat ah food” mentality. As if her blunders thus far were not enough, Ingrid Melville was appointed as the Acting CEO in October 2017. 

There has been much debate on the legality of such a decision and appointment. What we can say at this time, is that such a decision, regardless of the circumstances, represents poor corporate governance.What happens next must be of great interest.

The first order of the day by Ingrid Melville as acting Chairman/acting CEO was the recruitment of Ms. A. Potts to the office of the CEO. There were no dis
cussions with the recruitment manager, no discussion with the HR manager, no advertisements, no procurement. Nothing! Ms. A. Potts showed up one day within the first we
ek of her being the acting CEO and she is there to the time of this article being penned. We are told that at one point, she was not shortlisted for a position that she applied for but the person doing the shortlisting was instructed to include Ms. A. Potts to be interviewed. She was not successful.

In a previous article we highlighted other persons that are working at the TRHA but who did not undergo the organization’s normal recruitment processes. Can it be that Ingrid Melville is arranging a GHOST Gang within the TRHA?

Several persons within the HR and Finance departments of the organization were recently demoted. Some, after more than six (6) years of acting in vacant positions. No discussion was held with these individuals. No period of adjustment after such an extended period of acting. Just letters telling them that they are to revert. Who right thinking leader decides such a heinous act?

In an organization of close to 2000 employees, there are a little over 400 permanent employees. Persons have been working with the organization from 2010 and in some instances even before then and are still on contract in known vacant positions. Be reminded that Ingrid Melville has been with the TRHA since 2014. In all that time sitting at the helm, couldn’t she be instrumental in making a decision that would afford employees job security and thereby increase employee morale.

with women in mind
is this the puppet master?
It is believed that Ingrid is the puppet being pulled by the puppet master – “Gyartha”. Who then really guarding the guards?

What can the populace in Tobago expect in health care? It is widely discussed among staff throughout the hospital, as it is glaring what is now the norm in the organization. Underneath and underhand operations, nepotism, corruption, no accountability, no transparency and a general demotivated and dejected bunch of persons in an organization that once boasted of being the premier employer on the island. Where are the slogans “people caring for people” now? Is the staff not considered “people” as well?

The stop gap measure of appointing Ashworth Learmont to act as CEO was quite frankly the smartest decision with Ingrid in the picture. That was short-lived because as we pointed out previously, he is a man of integrity. So, the rotating door continued to Gillian Pollidore. A three month stint makes no sense in organizational management and achieving strategic objectives.

Mrs. Michelle Edwards Benjamin was appointed. The entire nursing fraternity are rooting for her and hoping that her integrity withstands the test of the office. We believe that though such a promotion would look good on her CV, one look at the organization and all her efforts could be washed away with the remaining dirty water.

Now we shudder to think that according to information received, Ingrid Melville applied, was interviewed and is the successful candidate for the position of CEO at the TRHA. Allow that to sink in. Ingrid Melville is the successful candidate for the position of CEO at the TRHA.

1. What didn’t collapse before in the TRHA can be expected to collapse now.

2. Expect persons to be popping up to complete the Ghost gang.

3. Family and friend will get their promised appointments.

4. Staff morale will sink even lower that it is at present.


After two consecutive terms and currently on her third term (of two years each) at the pinnacle of Leadership, Ingrid Melville proved herself incompetent to foster change and improvement at the TRHA. What folly to think that she will be able to do so as the CEO of the organization!

Our advice to Ingrid Melville is simple: “A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better.”
Jim Rohn

Not everyone in the organization is against the red and ready posse. For some it’s their job and they love what they do regardless. Not everyone in the organization know who you are (even after five years), and it really shouldn’t be forced on them. They however, expect to be paid on time and that includes all gratuities and allowances etc.

You are not seen as a fair and transparent individual. Revisit your conscience. Sometimes who you think is an enemy might just be your greatest ally. Tobago we are sorry...!

Demoralized Health Care Workers

HERITAGE/PETROTRIN TRADES WITH CORRUPT TRAFIGURA By David Walker

posted 18 Dec 2018, 17:36 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 18 Dec 2018, 18:02 ]

Many commentators, myself included, have attempted to satisfy ourselves that the financial and economic arguments justifying the closure of the Petrotrin Refinery could withstand scrutiny. A decision with such grave consequences should only be made after the most rigorous appraisals. I think we could all agree on that.

The lack of supporting information is palpable. Today, after the closure has been effected, we do not know how much money the refinery was losing as opposed to other parts of Petrotrin. We have no idea of what financial performance we should now expect. We therefore have nothing against which to measure the “success” of the new regime other than the status quo of the two billion dollar composite loss as stated.

Yet even that argument is fallacious as the annual interest payments still remain. That commitment has not changed as a result of the closure. Any comparison between before and after must either ignore the 1.2 billion dollars or include it in both the before and after figures. The comparison must also include the cost of the termination which we know runs into billions of dollars. A thorough summary should be given. One assumes, based on public statements by the authorities that it is in excess of 5 billion dollars.

With such flimsy financial justification for the closure, there are those who suggested all manner of nefarious reasons other than the country’s economic well being: everything from the famous 1% and their interest to possible corruption and underhand dealing. This latter possibility has intrigued me and has been the focus of some of my attention recently.

I have written previously about the sharp contrast between how Brazil has dealt with the failures at Petrobras and our reaction to failures at Petrotrin. There, former directors and government ministers have been sent to prison. Here, workers have been sent home and directors continue to enjoy the fruits of their lavish salaries and bonuses.

There is one area however, where we have copied them. In a recent speech Minister Khan is reported to have said “I am pleased to
announce to date three spot sales have been awarded”
. He went on to say that one of the sales was to Trafigura. This is the same Trafigura who have recently been in the news as follows: “Leading global oil traders Vitol, Trafigura and Glencore paid more than $30m in bribes to employees at state-owned Brazilian company Petrobras in a scheme that may still be going on, prosecutors said on Wednesday”.

The energy industry is well known internationally for corruption and bribes, particularly in small developing states. It is all too easy to amass a fortune by means of negotiations “on behalf of the country”. To be fair, the international majors play a huge role in promoting and facilitating corruption. Furthermore, it is exceedingly difficult to detect.

That is why one must use every weapon available to the country in its defence against such corrupt practice that deprives the nation it is suggested in some instances of 20-30% of revenues that should otherwise accrue. One such weapon is the blacklisting of companies that are found guilty of, or even reasonably accused of, such practices.

In that vein I find it remarkable that at the very moment that Trafigura is being accused in the courts of Brazil, we should be entering a new sales regime with said company. Brazil is at the forefront internationally of holding corrupt energy executives and traders to account. What motivation could our executives possibly have for dealing with such a company?

A little further searching reveals that Trafigura has a reputation for being a less than stellar corporate citizen. They have been found guilty of dumping toxic waste at dumps in the Ivory Coast with devastating health and environmental consequences.

There is this statement from international environmental media: “The media have linked Trafigura to corruption scandals such as the Oil for Food Programme in Iraq, as well as to incidents that have had serious consequences for human health and the environment. The most outstanding one certainly was the so called Probo Koala incident (another name for the Ivory Coast incident).”

What we have with Trafigura is a company well known for corrupt financial practices in addition to a total disregard for environmental and health issues in countries it considers to be unable or unwilling to call them to account. Such companies naturally gravitate to countries where politicians and their appointees are self serving and pliable.

Some people might argue that Trafigura’s history does not necessarily mean that their actions here are of that ilk. I hold a different view. I believe that we must screen each of these international companies that we are doing business with in the same way that we and our citizens are being screened by the banking sector. We must stop doing business with every company that comes knocking until we conduct a thorough evaluation of their bona fides.

This is little different from the argument about gang membership. If I belong to a group that includes known deviants doing business with them, I should not be surprised if I am treated like them and suffer loss of business, criminal conviction, or imprisonment as a result. Why are we keeping company with an organisation as tainted as Trafigura?

It begs the question – does our leadership do any background checks on the international companies with whom we do such important transactions running to billions of dollars? Is there no pre-qualification for these companies with whom we trade, similar to the pre-qualification local companies must navigate before getting the most insignificant of contracts?

I am concerned, and I suggest that we should all be as well. The dealings with Trafigura lend credence to the concerns expressed by many that the new regime is designed to better facilitate corrupt practice, not reduce it. I know that many experts in the energy field are keeping an eagle eye on decisions that are being made. I urge every one of you, to pay particular attention to the track records of the companies and individuals with whom these new companies choose to do business. Let us heed the red flag.

UNION MEMBERS MUST DEMAND PROPER LEADERSHIP by Cecil Paul

posted 16 Dec 2018, 17:58 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 16 Dec 2018, 18:18 ]

Image result for Trinidad cecil paul
There is a serious crisis facing the Trade Union Movement with a multitude of negatives seriously harming the economic welfare of workers. It is estimated that more than eighty five percent of the workforce are not organized into Unions. Many of these unorganized workers earn the minimum wage of less than $3,000 monthly. This payment in effect is starvation wages.

Most of these workers are women and mothers with no right to negotiate the price and conditions for their labour while their employers reap handsome profits. There is absolutely no attempt by the Government and the Trade Union leaders to address the issue of the plight of these workers and their right to representation. In fact the Recognition Board (RRCB) has been non - functional for more than a year.

The majority of organized workers are employed in the State Sector with comparatively decent wages and conditions due to Union representation. But with the closure of Mittal Steel, the closure and massive retrenchment at Petrotrin, the consistent retrenchment at TSTT, TCL, UTT and so many other areas and with rumors of employee reductions at WASA, T&TEC and other areas, the comparatively well paid workers of this country will not only be further reduced but the economic welfare of their dependents and the nation’s economy will be seriously affected.

Another negative development is the increased hiring of “temporary”, contract and casual labour which is no longer the exception for specific short term projects but is now the norm. These workers are subjected to inferior remuneration and are unable to obtain hire purchase and mortgage agreements and no security of employee tenure. While these anti-worker policies are good for the employers’ profit margin it is negative for the workers and the economy and leads to social instability.

The Employers are so emboldened by the weakness of the trade union leadership that they are questioning the relevance of the Industrial Court in the current environment so that they can do what they please, when they want, in their attempt to weaken and destroy the Trade Unions and create a minimum wage environment.

Both the organizations of the business class and their representatives in successive governments, which ironically include former labour leaders, have all displayed arrogance, contempt and an uncaring attitude towards the plight of working people who are responsible for their profits and in the latter case for electing them into office. This pain and suffering of workers and entire communities must be ended and only a democratic, progressive and respected Trade Union Movement with leaders who have earned the respect of workers, governments and employers can end the economic oppression of working people.

What is evident by these developments is that there currently exists among the ruling elites an attitude of total disrespect and contempt for the Trade Union Movement. This loss of respect was clearly demonstrated by the government’s offer of millions of dollars in grants to Trade Unions and two years later closing down the largest State Enterprise in the country with the loss of some seven thousand jobs and plunging the communities and businesses in which they operate into economic waste lands. Then the Trinidad Cement issue of foreign Cemex takeover, the Petrotrin closure, the TSTT retrenchment and the violent assault on the leader of the CWU, the legally recognized Union. Also the company’s refusals to have the legal representative enter the premises to address the members’ issues.

The question therefore is why this loss of respect for Trade Unions, the powerful OWTU, the mighty SWWTU, the militant CWU and the Labour Movement as a whole?

1. The decline and disrespect for Labour goes back to the early 1990’s with the breakup of NATUC into two separate Federations due to the violation of the rotating Presidents rule and the decision to hold elections for the Presidency with the losing faction forming FITUN, then another JTUM formed after its work of uniting Labour ended in 1989. As a result the issue was not to serve the workers through united strategies and struggle but to fight each other in a spiteful power struggle series of jointly-inflicted nonsensical wounds which seriously weakened the workers’ interests with NATUC being the Federation recognized by the government and the FITUN left out, so that governments of the day can apply the divide and rule strategy.

2. As a result Labour Leaders took different positions in conflict with each other. One leader called for retrenchment before any decision by the government, once with a good separation package while another federation opposes retrenchment.

3. The compromising of the independence of Labour from political parties. Some leaders hurriedly formed a party (MSJ) and aligned themselves with known corrupted and anti-labour politicians and gained for themselves governmental positions such as Ministerial posts, Senatorships, Chairmanship and Membership of politically appointed Boards of Directors and Committees; thereby creating a conflict of interest; pacifying workers with a false sense of hope and power to the detriment of their members and working people and becoming themselves part of the onslaught against working people they claim to represent.

4. Refusal of Union leaders to consult with second rank leadership via democratic participation of members on critical decisions affecting their jobs thus creating a dictatorship leading to a breakdown of the institutions of the Unions and an absence of ideas and fight back organizing strategies and tactics.

5. Most Trade Union leaders using their positions of leadership to promote their personal political ambitions and welfare to the detriment of their members and the economic welfare of their communities.

6. Signing Memorandum of Agreements (begging) with alternative political parties as an alternative to promoting and defending the economic welfare of members thus employing a lazy alternative to sound proposals and sensible struggles. This conflict of interest alienated the members from their leaders.

7. The absence or very little training of second rank leaders in Industrial Relations and leadership by most Unions for fear by trade union leaders of a threat to their positions by informed members. As a result there is a scarcity of competent and capable practitioners in the movement.

8. Manipulation of Union institutions to select their successors to gain a golden hand-shake of benefits on retirement.

9. Conducting unfair elections to secure their long stay in office.

9. Expelling or permanently suspending all opposition to their one person rule.

The Trade Union movement is in a mess and will continue to decline unless its rank and file members convene and address the issues mentioned here and many other issues plaguing Unions. Due to the grave crisis we face workers must demand proper leadership and stop the disrespect of this vital peoples’ institution. This atmosphere of disrespect must be stopped by direct action of the rank and file members. The dependency syndrome on politicians who manipulate the leaders must be ended by members’ involvement and participation and the election of progressive new leaders.

Trade Unions are about promoting the interests of worker members. Such interests include fair wages, terms and conditions of work, honest, fair and competent representation. Democratic practices are essential if workers are to protect and improve their living standards and that of their family. Trade union leaders are not the bosses of the workers but their servants and they too (leaders) must be paid well but they must not be allowed to own the Union and to undermine the principles of which so many of our forebears were jailed, persecuted and died.

A weakened and compromised Trade Union Movement leads to a weak and compromised society. Those working people who criticize the so called high wages of unionized workers are not only working against their own economic welfare but also that of their children and others still to join the work force. A weak Trade Union Movement is a society riddled with crime, and social instability and where the majority of its citizens live in relative poverty.

REGROUP AND REBUILD By Rae Samuel

posted 12 Dec 2018, 09:28 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 12 Dec 2018, 09:34 ]

But the war goes on. And for many years to come
We shall be bandaging the countless and sometimes
Indelible wounds inflicted on our people by the…onslaught.

Frantz Fanon


The present stage of the class struggle finds organized labour in retreat. This statement is not intended to start a debate on who failed to provide proper leadership, who made opportunistic political alliances that soured or how many federations should/should not have been formed. That is for the historians of the era to come.

A
Image result for privatisationt the moment the ruling class and its instruments of power, the political establishment, continue to wage a most pitiless and relentless war on the working class in this country. The privatization/take back movement of theirs is in full swing; with a highly politicised and reactionary military arm whose leadership portrays itself as saving the country for us. Though in reality it is a case of saving the country for themselves from us. Give us parang, unemployment, Panorama, a new soca superstar/super song and that is supposed to keep us happy in the midst of the social tsunami that is battering our lives - man, woman and child. 

The task that lies before the modern generation of workers is to re-build the movement. As Fidel Castro advised in Estella Bravo's documentary on his life Fidel, new forms of struggle will emerge that hitherto would not have been imagined. It is only by getting inVolved in everyday activity wherever activists find themselves that new tendencies, novel initiatives will emerge.

A word here: I am not talking about tweeting, posting on social media or messaging incessantly. These are tools, not strategies. Look where the JTUM ended up. But the war goes on. And for many years to come.

There is not a sector in this country that is not in crisis. Recent political decisions by the State simply exacerbate the situation amidst the ''gallerying'' and distraction offered by the red and yellow brigades. Even the mentally ill are gunned down.

Some ask for another George Weekes, Elma Francois, Jim Barrette, Joe Young, Clotil Walcott, Idris Hamid or Uriah Butler. I always like to point out that Butler, for example, did not start out with the OWTU or Paramount Building. He had a sense of mission, a hatred of injustice and his Bible.

He was willing to take on the British Empire then at its zenith. Those of us who were fortunate to be around Joe Young would remember his telling us of how he and George and others would ride the bus to San Fernando analyzing and planning strategy 'for Rojas tail". They looked to each other to find the Messiahs within. History in never made by one great individual.

The trade unions, their head offices and other assets would came out of the struggles Theirs was a mass based united front of workers, intellectuals, cultural activists, professionals and the broad mass of workers ketchin' dey nenen in oil sugar, on the water front, in small businesses, retail stores.

We must sing, parang, drink some bois bache and eat some sponge cake, beat pan and play mas. These are necessary stress relievers much needed now. Besides these are evidences of our innate creativity. Even as efforts are made to co-opt and hijack Pan Trinbago and make it a musical contractor to adjunct Sandals beach resort and the like.

The primary task before us is to regroup our badly mauled and scattered forces to re-build a movement

GUAVA SEASON HERO BY CATHAL HEALYSINGH

posted 11 Dec 2018, 09:49 by Gerry Kangalee

Image result for trinidad superhero gary griffithThe establishment has placed a foreign trained military man as Commissioner and Chief of all Policemen (and we love it of course). He is an overnight hero (and 'agency brown' - quieting the racial anxiety of our bipolar tribal 'state'). He is our savior and serious about it ["If you doh fraid God fraid Gary"]. 

Some love it. Some say surgical extractions can be faked. Others say he wants to be PM and if he does, it would be his master piece - the softest of establishment 'coup d’états'. He is the truth and the 'way out' of the corruption morass our body politic has become.

He is beholden to both sides of the dishonored aisle, therefore untoward to neither. Hence Establishment preserved. No swamp to be cleared. But plenty bullet to fly! And the media will bawl "shoot dem Gary, shoot dem". And then so will we.

Our shameless state transfers public goods and wealth (space, land, assets, natural resources in all forms) into private hands as modus operandi. This is its purpose and status quo. Well-placed sources say well placed people run the show. The result? Wealth concentration and asymmetry of living conditions between rich and poor is not just obtuse, it is acute. Old money conglomerates and a handful of overnight billionaires supply pretty much all local demand for staples and daily consumption habits as well as get all the contracts "worth it" to them.

Politicians are millionaires. The revolving door between corporations and State Boards spins fast. Losers can be put to interim pasture at Lok Jack and pass off what they do there as tertiary education. Student aspirants can get some contact and, who knows, even a connection. It is who you know not what you know. Cuties are favored of course. And those that toe line. But time is longer than twine. So we need a hero. And we have one now.

A casualty of our system of predatory capitalism is our currency - the TT$ - it is like cholera. No one wants it. No one will buy it. No neighbor, not a Bajan, nor an EC$ man far less a $US man. There is nothing to buy. Everything is owned. In the formal economy, every time a stash of local cash appears it lines up to buy any US$ it can, - via the Central Bank. The big boys are always at the front of the line.

Billions upon billions appeared and disappeared on a one-way route overseas; all derived from fossils. (Remember the "Gas Rush"?) At its helm is a National Gas Company that only ever owned pipe; conduit of steel that appeared to buy and sell gas; except they bought from and sold to the same extractor on terms shrouded in secret long-term contracts. This was the great work of the "Energy Czars" - the knights of the commanding heights. All glory be theirs with national honours.

The economy is majorly owned by a tiny few. The dilemma in monetary terms is the only way forward is to devalue the dollar more; hoping if it becomes cheap enough, someone might want to buy one by investing. Investors of course will want - like all before - to take their earnings out - a sovereign guarantee for expatriation. They won't invest until they get that guarantee. They have it. They always had. Enter scandals. I mean Sandals.

Most money made here has left already. The fossils kept things going. We lived a life of imports. Conglomerates monopolize imports and local production of all essentials (except doubles). We are a nation of poorly paid workers at the end of our fossils era. Our non renewable resources were stripped and renewables captured. Natural asset generating wealth was always on a one way ticket out of here riding a green back - the proverbial "petro-dollar".

Today we are spent. The establishment around a "rotten head" is to blame. Whether it was corrupt or not is important, but is not the only question. The take away is that our "system" is wrong. It does not serve public interests FIRST! So we need a hero to hide that system; to keep it in place even while it buckles and cries for change. The media will handle that.

Sucking on beers, knocking back rum and pulling on a joint may make things appear normal enough. But they are not. For the poor it has always been guava season. Yet, the guava season coming in the New Year will be like no other.

PRESSURE HARDENS THE DIAMOND By Ken Howell

posted 10 Dec 2018, 08:04 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 10 Dec 2018, 08:07 ]

Image result for pressure hardens diamondsThe Sunday Guardian of 11th November 2018 published an article under the title: CONSULTATION NEEDS SUBSTANCE. Well, the word consultation, according to the Oxford English Dictionary is a noun. That is how you would describe a situation where parties meet to ask for advice or information. In other words we consult.

The writer appears to be saying that what the management of Petrotrin, led by Mr Wilfred Espinet, understood was that the union was seeking advice when the union presented proposals and the parties signed an agreement to meet to have further discussions in April.

The truth is that the parties were not in a consulting mode. It was plain and simple negotiations which resulted in the parties reaching an agreement, which they signed as is usually the case.

The real issue in the industrial relations offence is whether there is a signed agreement that the parties agreed to without duress and whether that agreement is enforceable. The substance of the agreement is contained in the documents filed in the Industrial Court in support of the Industrial Relations Offence (IRO).

Disparaging remarks about the apparent limited intellectual capacity of the current crop of trade union leaders does not diminish the reality; that it is precisely that quality of leadership, which infuriated the scribes in the pay of the PNM and Petrotrin to spread lies about the salaries of employees of the company.

You see the strength of the leadership really lies in the unity, confidence and strength of the workers and is it that unity and strength that is usually employed by the workers and their union, to win struggles. Never believe that it is in the strength of the leadership. While it is desirable for the person or persons who are in leadership of any union to acquire sufficient knowledge about the workings of the economy and business, we must never forget that all the knowledge that is necessary to know about any industry, is available at the point of production. Therein lies the strength of the workers.

The reason why employers focus their attention on the leaders is because they believe the authority in the union flows from the top down. And if you can turn the leaders to their way of thinking, they can succeed in weakening the strength of the workers and their union. They have been led to believe that because pro-business opportunistic trade union leaders, in our jurisdiction and in the centres of capitalism, have been working diligently to create pro-capitalist unions.

The fact of the matter is that most, if not all, of the large unions in this country are affiliated to an international federation of trade unions, which is the umbrella body of workers in the industry or discipline in which the workers they represent are employed. Membership in these federations provides these unions with the necessary information about what is the current situation in their particular field of interest.

So while Ancel Roget’s stumbling under cross examination gave cause for celebration by employers that they might have succeeded in wounding the pride of the most powerful union in the country; they must remember that a wounded animal is a dangerous animal!

It is not just the OWTU and its members, who have been wounded - it is the trade union movement. It is the unionised and non-unionised workers against whom Mr Reginald Armour has delivered that blow. But this does not mean that they have won the war. This is just one of the many skirmishes in the battle, because we are heading for a war which is about defending the little gains which we made as a result of the revolt of 1970. That is what the attack on the OWTU means.

After Petrotrin closes down, the real war will begin. And this war will have nothing to do with the intellectual capacity of the leaders of the respective unions. By that time the initiative to lead would be out of the hands of the current leaders. So by belittling Roget and the current crop of leaders, the spokespersons of the business elite are helping to replace the current bunch with young bright, militant, progressive leaders. Throughout the capitalist world, this is already happening. Leaders are emerging in the movement who are anti-capitalist, IT and AI savvy and are already making an impact on the movement.

So while it would appear that some of the current crop of leaders needs to upgrade their skills, the fact of the matter is that they are on their way out. While the employers may be of the view that this offensive against the movement will effect the total annihilation of the trade union movement, they will soon learn that “pressure hardens the diamond.”

Those were the words of Prime Minister Rowley when he delivered an address on the occasion of Divali at the Nagar. So that if you want the workers and their leaders to stop the noise, negotiations must be infused with good faith and full disclosure, not with trickery, the techniques of the conman, which is bait and switch and when these tactics are exposed, you want to shout about too much noise? Listen and listen well. This just a skirmish, the war is yet to come!

NO LOYALTY DISCOUNT CARD By Rae Samuel

posted 6 Dec 2018, 10:15 by Gerry Kangalee

Image result for stuart young and gary griffithThe most striking thing about Minister Stuart Young’s statement is that it reveals how much he does not carry loyalty cards. Hardly had news broken of the raid in the heartland, so to speak, of the drug trade, his statement came out distancing himself from one of the women arrested in the exercise.

Not that she is a stranger to him. He was her step-father for a while and had recently been featured in operations to rescue her from kidnappers. In the absence of substance, image trumps all. Thus she was thrown under the nearest unmarked police SUV…headlong. She immediately became a liability, politically speaking

What is interesting about this raid is that it took place at all. From all appearances those arrested clearly thought themselves in sanctum. Raids take place in the forest, or 'hotspots' or roadblocks are set up. Who raids high end duplexes in the elite Westmoorings area? Gary G. has gone where no other police commissioner had ever dared to go before? Beam me up Inspector Gadget!

Now let us give him his just due. He did not refer to any of the suspects as cockroaches or animals. Oh! Cockroaches do not live in high end apartment complexes. Okay…okay...In the old days a call to the Commissioner, acting or active, would have put an end to this; except that the Commissioner himself was leading the exercise.

Whom do you call then? Ghostbusters? The Minister of National Security? So with his carefully crafted public image as the man who is getting the job done, Gary is now seen as a true crime fighter. Except of course if it is corporate theft, or income tax evasion or not submitting payments deducted from workers paychecks for NIS. Nothing glamorous in that! Which employer high tails it away in a BMW after not submitting payments?

What will be the impact of Gary operating so high up on the food chain? One suspects that a lot of folks are not sleeping well tonight. This is not how it is supposed to work. Lock up the housekeeper on Monos island in the country's biggest ever drug bust, but not the home owner. She could not have imagined this happening in her home! Ownership, unlike charity, does not begin at home. But to strike so close to the nerve centre, the heartland? Whew…someone must be sweating 9mm bullets. And to rein him in would create such a backlash because of his equal opportunity/affirmative action policy. Be they university students, peaceful pickets or speeding motorists

Please let us see this for what it is and what it is not. A 'gung-ho' chief of police cannot disregard the rights of suspects, wherever he perceives them on the evolutionary scale. In fact these are the ones whose rights must be most protected and ensured. Absent that; the law enforcers become judge and jury and all too often, executioners. We have a long history of that in this country. The hands of the Police Complaints Authority are as well bound as the hands of the young lady hearing the condemnatory responses of her ex-step father.

The presumption of innocence, the right to be tried in a court must still hold, regardless of the nature of the crime or whether one is labeled cockroach or animal.

How far will this reach? Some embarrassment for one or two perhaps: charges will be laid; ask the drunken judge and Minister arrested on DUI charges. This is more serious you say? So is stealing oil. No one has been charged for that! The self serving media conferences will follow. Bail will be granted. Then given the power and profile of the suspects the matter will drag through the courts. Petrotrin might re-open long before the matters are concluded. Another set of ''part heards'' to clog up the court systems for the foreseeable future

Down the street the shattered lives of individuals, families and communities in the wake of the closure of the refinery will hardly raise a yawn in newsrooms; that children in primary and in secondary schools and university will be forced to drop out. Banks and other financial institutions will foreclose in the wake of the biggest criminal trespass in the country's recent history. Fuel prices, with the inevitable ripple effect, will increase because unlike the French workers we 'ain't riot yet'

But the above mentioned is a different type of crime. And police commissioners are not hired to deal with such!

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