The Union frequently comments on events or receives news of general interest and these are documented on this page.
News & Comment
On Tuesday the 5th of July, 2016, at approximately 2:30 pm, the T&TEC Eastern Area Sports Club was occupied with the crew members of most of the daylight crews in the Eastern Area. The reason? The severe lack of materials to perform work!
This situation has become commonplace over the past few years. What made that day different, however, is that usually when we complain of material shortage, the Area would find some way to replenish the stock of items that were lacking in number.
The following Thursday, the branch membership being so incensed at the situation, approached their Union representatives on the issue. The membership outlined the issues and what was to be done. The members accompanied their representatives to a meeting with The Assistant Area Manager in charge of Operations and Maintenance and expressed the frustrating nature of the issue at hand and the surrounding spin off effects of the main issue.
This led to a meeting with the membership, their representatives and the Area management that same Thursday morning. The information coming out of that meeting was dodgy at best. So the membership suggested that the public should be informed. This culminated into the situation that took place on Monday 11th July, 2016, where the demonstration of disgust and frustration about the failure of T&TEC to properly supply the materials necessary for the performance of the workforce, turned into big news.
The reason for the posting of the time lines of this struggle is to show that our Union representatives are the metaphoric blade at the end of the handle that we are supposed to be in control of. We have the power!!! We must overstand this and use it to our disciplined advantage.
I have seen and heard the comments made by The Minister of Public Utilities. I have seen the outrage of workers about those disrespectful statements made by Minister Antoine. What I would like to see is that outrage manifest itself into the type of response that is needed by the membership to their representatives that would shame Mr. Antoine into an apology and subsequent removal from his post.
When we do this, we have truly exercised our power and we can truly know that any challenge can be conquered with UNITY among ourselves.
STOP GRUMBLING IN THE CORNER!
COME OUT WITH YOUR DISSATISFACTION!!!
LET US SHOW OUR UNITY AND TENACITY IN THE STRUGGLE FOR WHAT IS OURS!!!
LONG LIVE PROGRESSIVE TRADE UNIONISTS!!!
FORWARD EVER, BACKWARD NEVER!
Prior to 1990, every oil well throughout our fields was painted in our colours. Nowadays there are many jacks and motorised pumping stations of various colours existing alongside our own. When one considers the age of the infrastructure in terms of pipe lines and other equipment associated with production, we must realise that the company is indeed challenged. Added to that, the cost of abandoning a well completely is a very costly exercise. An offshore well, of which there are approximately 200, costs about $17M to cap off.
Production sharing contracts have been a part of its operation for quite some time, though concentrated more so in the east and north coasts. The intent however seems to be the introduction of these farm out/lease out and production sharing contracts within the producing fields at Trinmar.
One remembers the announcement of a Jubilee find in our east field a couple of years ago which to date has added nothing to our production of indigenous crude. Coupled with the fact that the company has spent billions at the south west field, refurbishing it and drilling new wells without attaching one single flow line, and the picture becomes clearer.
Change is imminent; however, it must be done at a pace which can be accepted by the industry and its main stakeholders, the workers. Trinmar has long been treated as a step child. Our rates of remuneration are way below that of the wider Petrotrin and even now, as we work to rectify this, the oppression continues. There is however an equity clause within the company which requires that all workers be treated equitably and fairly. As we at Trinmar fight to preserve our rights and indeed bring ourselves in alignment with the parent company, we must remain cognizant of these facts.
Our labour leaders, too, seem to have their own agenda trying to convince us to accept inferior standards of remuneration. We must guard against this. We must ensure that our rights are not violated by either the company or our representatives. We must demand a say in how this process is being carried out. Sitting back idly may just result in signatures being attached to settlements which will be against our best interests.
We need strong and firm leadership at this time: leadership which cannot be deemed as being compromised through party affiliation and loyalty. Be informed and aware lest you fall victim of agendas which are not your own.
The bilateral agreement between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP), signed a few days ago in Havana, Cuba, flooded the streets with joy. After 52 years the guns are silenced after an irreversible pact that prepares the Colombian people for the end of the conflict. The document includes bilateral and definitive cease-fire, the surrender of weapons, security guarantees and the mechanism of countersignature of the peace agreements.
The signing of the definitive bilateral ceasefire is due largely to Commander Chavez, President Nicolas Maduro, and the great and wonderful Venezuelan people, the Cuban people and their leaders, Raul and Fidel. They have made it possible for Colombia to start a path of struggle for democracy and social justice.
For Colombia the time has come to show that politics is a tool superior to war to resolve conflicts of large interests. The signing of the ceasefire between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - People's Army (FARC-EP) involves a great step that will lead the country on the path of peace. The ceasefire not only involves silencing the rifles; it also means that it will bring to an end the habit of exercising violence as a means to achieve political goals.The bilateral ceasefire was one of the nodal axes of talks in relation to the termination of armed confrontation and the discussion about pardon and amnesty.
In addition to these process requirements are the demands for social transformation that the insurgency has managed to introduce in the different agenda, throughout the history in attempts to negotiate a solution to the social and armed conflict in our neighbouring country.
Although the inclusion of issues such as the comprehensive agrarian reform, political participation of excluded sectors or structural State reforms and economic models, have been within the agenda, the position of the Colombian state has always been reticent to them and it has been the insurgency who insisted on putting forward these subjects to achieve the peace agreement - a state policy which at the time did not want to advance a cessation of hostilities and an insurgency that repeatedly demanded the realization of an agreement as soon as possible on the issue. In turn, some political sectors linked to traditional and warmongering powers that were working to seriously hinder the progress of the process and pressed for not allowing a ceasefire.
The bilateral ceasefire mediated by the participation of governments and international organizations, as well as the parties and organized Colombian society, would be responsible for coordinating and verifying compliance, avoiding any kind of suspicion in the case of a "military attack” by any of the parties. It is clear that this bilateral ceasefire agreement has given greater strength to the peace process, allowing faster progress in discussions on various topics agreed. At the same time, it will enable the different communities that have been involved in the conflict to participate actively in the process of reconstruction and national reconciliation; establishing itself as the first step to start a process of real democratic opening.
The balance is then inclined in favour of peace with social justice, removing the possibility of a peace that was commissioned to continue perpetuating inequality. This historic agreement signed in Havana opens the door to the historical process of building a just peace, stable in time and lasting in its arteries.
Peace is making its way, the agreements between the national government and the insurgency of the FARC, are an essential element that we must all defend and actively participate in social mobilization to defeat the warmongers and build that social justice, so desired by the Colombian people.
Petrotrin/Trinmar has invested $Billion refurbishing the fields at South-West Soldado. Structures have been refurbished and new wells have been drilled and capped. To date we have seen absolutely no return on this investment.
The reason, we have been told, was that the existing flow lines needed changing out for which a contract was subsequently reported as having being signed.
In the interim, a Mobile Offshore Production Facility was being constructed into which we would flow our wells. This was expected to increase our production by some 6000 barrels of oil per day.
Now that the facility is between 80 and 90% complete we are being told that the idea has been scrapped. This has given rise to litigation being considered by those contracted to build and supply the facility.
More importantly, one must question the actions of those in charge with respect to their unstated agenda.
It was widely rumoured that Well Services was chosen by the previous regime to be given South-West Soldado to operate under a lease operatorship agreement. The players often change in this country but the game remains the same.
Are there plans to once again lease out this field? Or is it that the plan has never been changed?
Within the existing operation, already plagued with aged infrastructure, we have a pipeline which carried gas to Point Lisas being deemed un-usable. Cost of repairs to which has been estimated at $200M. The company has therefore decided to cease gas sales: A direct loss to our revenue stream.
Not having settled negotiations for at least two terms, it is fair to say that when these settlements are reached, we will well be on the road to becoming unsustainable and indeed a burden on the treasury. Strong leadership is needed at this time and by people who have our interests at heart - the real stakeholders being us the workers. Be warned and be prepared or else we will all stand the consequences of our in-actions.
The Industrial Court of Trinidad and Tobago is a Superior Court of record, which gives it a status equivalent to that of the High Court of Justice. It is also a specialized Court with its own peculiar jurisdiction and is responsible for the dispensation of Social Justice. The Principal role of the Court is to settle unresolved disputes and other matters which arise between Employer and Trade Union.
The mission statement of the court which clearly outlines its role is stated as follows:
“We are an effective Court upholding the principles and practices of good Industrial Relations as pillars of Industrial Peace, Economic and Social Development”.
However, in the Newsday Business Day dated May 12, 2016, the Business Sector claimed that decisions of the Industrial Court lacked equity and as a result called for sweeping changes to the structure of the Industrial Court.
In their discourse they portrayed the Industrial Court as an obstacle to their ability to run their businesses profitably and maintain the necessary discipline. They further claimed that judgements coming out of the Court favoured the worker at the expense of the employer and the survival of the business as a going and profitable enterprise.
But is the claim by the Business Sector justified? Let’s look at the facts!
The Structure of the Industrial Court is so designed to promote flexibility and open dialogue rather than protect entrenched interests. Additionally, in accordance with Section 10.3 a, b of the IRA the Court has a moral foundation from which to operate.
“Section 10 (3) Notwithstanding anything in this Act or in any other rule of law to the contrary, the Court in the exercise of its powers shall-
(a) make such order or award in relation to a dispute before it as it considers fair and just, having regard to the interests of the persons immediately concerned and the community as a whole;
(b) act in accordance with equity, good conscience and the substantial merits of the case before it, having regard to the principles and practices of good industrial relations.”
Further, a look at judgements of the Court would indicate that they are quality judgements which display fairness and justice.
The Legislation which gave life to the Industrial Court can be described as one of the greatest piece of legislation for the protection of the ordinary worker despite its limitations and challenges.
The Employers are complaining now, but are those who are making these statements actually involved in the Industrial Relations process, especially at the level of the Industrial Court or are they familiar with the contents of said judgements they are now criticizing?
Advocates at the Court will reveal that in most cases employers do not co-operate with the processes at the Industrial Court and they treat attempts to administrate matters with scant courtesy. Would they dare to do this at the High Court, where judgements could be given on the basis of your refusal to participate in proceedings?
The Industrial Court is the manager of the Industrial Relations process and environment and as such they should be given all the tools, resources and support in the provision of fairness, equity and justice, whenever oppression stifles the use of flexibility.
These are the same employers who often talk about productivity whilst workers are not being treated fairly and justly at the work place.
The Court’s role is to treat with the imbalance of power between capital and Labour and its judgements clearly displays its transparency in the administering of justice, with judgments clearly defined and taking into account all the facts on a matter presented before it.
The members of the Business Sector should therefore look at themselves before making unfair and unjustified criticism of the Industrial Court. The conduct of Industrial Relations practices at the work place is far from being fair and just. In fact, in almost every matter that goes before the Industrial Court the conduct of the employer is described as being harsh and oppressive.
So instead of making veiled attacks on the Industrial Court, the Business Sector should focus on its role as a Social Partner and commit itself to the building of meaningful Labour/ Management Relationships as this has a direct impact on Profitability, Productivity, Job Security and improvement in the Quality of Life of Working Class Citizens.
Additionally, instead of blaming the Court, it is time that the Business Sector meaningfully engage the Trade Union Movement and begin the conversation to make the playing field level in the best interest of all parties.
Failure, to so do would result in the continuation of the class struggle between those who possess but do not produce (Capitalist Class) and those who produce but do not possess (Working Class).
The United States mobilized its pawn, Luis Almagro, the Secretary General of the OAS, to attack the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Before the “soft coup” in Brazil, this disgusting character was ordered to keep his mouth shut.
Luis Almagro called for the implementation of the Democratic Charter against Venezuela. Nicolas Maduro accused the secretary of the OAS of working in the service of the CIA. He added that with that decision, Almagro was looking for ways to open the doors to a US intervention in Venezuela.
The former Uruguayan foreign minister made a presentation in which he said that "the institutional crisis in Venezuela demand immediate changes in the actions of the executive branch at the risk of falling immediately into a situation of illegitimacy”.
Almagro submitted a 132-page report referring to Article 20 of the Charter to "request the convening of a Permanent Council of the Member States between June 10 and 20, 2016,” in which he planned to address “the alteration of constitutional order and how it seriously impairs the democratic order of the country.”
Recently, it produced a hard exchange of words between the Secretary General of the OAS and the president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro. In a public letter, Almagro accused Maduro of "denying the consultation to the people" in reference to the recall referendum and he said to the Venezuelan president: "that makes of you a dictator …” Venezuela considers that the secretary general of the international organization is making fraudulent use of Article 20 to apply the Democratic Charter because the same applies for those Member States of the OAS when it has altered their constitutional order, ie, that impairs the democratic order to protect systems of coup d`etats.
The right-wing in Venezuela, within the National Assembly, has been promoting, creating and staging episodes of destabilization and coups. It is clear; it has taken pains to accelerate episodes of market shortages, social violence and psychological warfare throughout the country. This produces the conditions that Almagro needed to compose his alleged complaint using the Democratic Charter as a justification for calling an intervention against Venezuela”.
It is evident how it has built the stage, and gone about creating the requisite scenery and choreography in Venezuela so that with the help of media inside and outside the country, Venezuela is converted into a chaos, there is a humanitarian crisis, there is repression, and with that argument justifies invoking the Democratic Charter.
In Mexico there are thousands missing and dead due to the control that drug trafficking has over much of the state apparatus. In Central America there are dozens of dead journalists and political assassinations, in Brazil there was a parliamentary coup, but the secretary of the OAS could not think of asking for the application of the Democratic Charter in any of those cases.
People's governments of Argentina and Brazil have already been beaten. The Empire moved another piece on the board. Before Obama leaves the White House, he wants to give the final blow to Venezuela and say, "Checkmate".
After the permanent session in the OAS, the 34 member countries of the organization expressed their support for the process of dialogue between the government and the opposition. Venezuela achieved thus an important victory in the OAS to convene the Permanent Council statement in support of the dialogue, the Constitution and peace and it thanked the countries of the region for their support for the rule of law in Venezuela, "full sovereignty and constitutional democracy”.
“Something happened along the way...This is madness”
Bill Clinton eulogising Muhammad Ali...along with the King of Jordan and the Prime Minister of Turkey? Is this a funeral for the original Muhammad or a movie in the making? The Greatest being sent off by some of the flakiest? What did I miss pray tell?
When I read and heard the BBC coverage I was reminded of Kwame Ture addressing a group of students in London and saying to them "You paid for me to come here. You'd better write down what I'm saying because you will be hearing it from the BBC." Shortly after Kwame was thrown out of England, and Canada, could not visit his country of birth, Trinidad and Tobago and most of the Caribbean (Jamaica a notable exception). They could never 'sanitise' Kwame.
Ali came out a tradition of Negro/African-American/African resistance. Some of the best remembered activists who 'shook up the world' as he did included Jack Johnson, the swaggering first Black heavyweight champion, whose successes caused race riots. He was a playboy of fast cars, white 'wimmens' and pulverising fists. Jack was hounded out of his own country.
Paul Robeson was living the American dream that few 'negroes' dared imagine. He was a Rhodes scholar; All American football player and a gifted artiste. But like Ali he opted for the poor and dispossessed, his race and workers all over the world; touring and raising funds for the working class all over the world. He declared for communism at the height of the McCarthy era which was the equivalent of today professing to a Muslim in much of America.
"The time has come for America to hear the truth about this tragic war. I agree with Dante that the hottest places in Hell are reserved for those in a time of moral crisis maintain their neutrality''. This was the Apostle of peace, Dr. Martin Luther King, on the Vietnam war. He continues. "You may not know it my friend but it is estimated we spend $500,000 to kill each enemy soldier but $53 on each person here classified as poor." Dr. King who was no longer saying "I have a dream' was assassinated months after.
So we need to remember who Ali was, that he came at a time the colonial world, not just the Africans in America, was moving towards independence and nationhood; that Ali was able to represent and achieve what he did because there was the anti-war movement, the Black Power movement in his home country. In the wider world there was the anti-apartheid movement, the African Liberation movements, the non-aligned movement, the Pan Arab movement and the Pan African movement led by revolutionaries like Muammar Gaddafi whom Ali respected thoroughly.
So as those who once reviled him now seek to embrace him in order to sell shoes, socks, polos and tee shirts let us remember who he is/was, why Hilary...oops Bill...Clinton is speaking at his funeral in an election year...
I still go with Ron Lyle's comment “He put it on the line brother. The representation he gave to the Black community will never be forgotten...no matter what''
The right-wing coalition in Venezuela which now controls the National Assembly has bashed President Nicolas Maduro`s government over the head. They claim to defend democratic values but the language of their own leaders reveals that they have no plans to do so themselves, and their goal remains the same: ousting President Maduro from power.
From The Caracazo to the 2002 coup, much of the political violence in Venezuela is intimately linked to right-wing political actors. It is worth exploring the violence that factions of the right-wing have employed against the socialist revolution over the last two decades.
Their tactics to overthrow the revolutionary government has been the same, just to quote a few cases: they used a violent coup to overthrow President Hugo Chavez in 2002, leaving 19 dead. Later that same year and early 2003, they continued with a months-long oil lockout that cost Venezuela’s oil industry US$ 13 billion.
Then they refused to participate in elections, as well as they refused to accept the results in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2013. Then they resorted to violence in 2013 to oppose the outcome of democratic elections, leaving 7 people dead. Then they sought to violently overthrow the government in 2014, leaving 43 people dead. As you can see the violence is always on the opposition’s cards, especially when it has exhausted all other means.
After years of being the opposition and vocally criticizing the constitution, which was drafted by the socialist party under President Hugo Chavez and passed by a popular referendum, the MUD seems to have developed a new fondness for it, demanding the administration of President Nicolas Maduro respect it to the letter in order to push through the sweeping changes they have planned.
The right-wing National Assembly continues to attempt to weaken the Bolivarian revolution and its gains through legislating and the option of a recall referendum is open, it’s possible that further violence may be kept at bay.
It is noteworthy the U.S. influence and its interest of overthrowing the constitutional government of Nicolas Maduro, through lies and slanders using its global media influence.
We have no doubt that the United States is pursuing its old imperial agenda of seeking to control strategic resources in Venezuela and, in particular, to control its oil. The US has not in the past been shy of using the strategies of destabilization and the promotion of military and other forms of intervention in pursuit of what it calls “US strategic or national interests”. One such strategy is now called “regime change” and that is what they are trying to do in Venezuela in coaltion with its lackeys who now control the National Assembly.
Everybody knows that the issue is not “democracy” but oil and other geo-political interests. In the case of Venezuela it must be noted that following President Chavez’s first winning office in 1999 in a landslide electoral victory, the geo-political map of Latin America changed dramatically with progressive parties winning elections and forming the governments in Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Nicaragua and El Salvador, while progressive changes in Paraguay and Honduras were set back by constitutional coup d’etats. A major reversal in Venezuela, therefore, can impact on the entire hemisphere.
We should defend the right of the people of Venezuela to be free of US imperialist bullying and US sponsored disruption. In particular we condemn the recent actions of the US against Venezuela and call for an immediate removal of all sanctions. Regime change is an unacceptable violation of the sovereignty of independent nations and must not be given any comfort.
There is one business in T&T and though it is not formalized, structured and operated as such. It would be most appropriately called Trinidad and Tobago Incorporated (T&T Inc). All other businesses and indeed most other activities - directly or indirectly - depend on the earnings and cash flow of T&T Inc.
These earnings are obtained from a range of petrochemical industries all of which “feed” off the oil and gas. Oil and Gas exists naturally in our twin islands and therefore are the birth right and patrimony of all sons and daughters of this place we call home. Needless to add, and contrary to the belief of Farrell and others on the Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB), it belongs to each of us in equal proportions and so do all proceeds earned by the State from transacting these two primary products and/or their derivatives.
The position of those on the EDAB is argued for reasons that allow those in the public sector to secretly and corruptly transact our birth right and patrimony and/or the proceeds therefrom. This of course allows for the corruption in its myriad forms, incompetence, waste and oppression of the public to proliferate. These public sector officials, their appointees and their surrogates have to be disabused of these false notions if we are to salvage what is left of this country.
Most of the foreign currency that flows into and within the country comes from transactions involving our primary products of oil and gas and their derivatives. There are also other organisations in the country that earn foreign exchange, but most of these either do not return such earnings to T&T or keep it in US accounts locally for the use of the Banks and themselves exclusively.
We all therefore live off the “fat of the land” but this fat, although it belongs to each of us equally, is disproportionately accessed by a few who exist in “financial symbiosis” with those in the Cabinet. The transactions with these few are secretly done by way of several “processes” all of which are a corruption of what can be considered fair, just, equitable, right, patriotic and intelligent.
The control and distribution of our foreign exchange is solely in the hands of the politicians, their appointees/cronies and other public officials. They direct the flow coming into the country, the flow within the country and the outflow from the country; with no input from the rest of us who are co-owners of this foreign exchange. They do so through the Central Bank and in collusion with financial institutions which they select.
The oppression, collusion and control extends to the point of making it illegal for persons receiving foreign currency from family abroad to sell it to another member of their family living in the same house or to do any similar transaction privately. Such foreign currency has to be sold to an institution approved by the Central Bank which then resells it at a profit to members of the public and all of this is allowed in Law.
Politicians and other senior public officials literally function as “sole traders” or executives in Corporations. They run Ministries that are comparable in scale to the biggest local and even regional corporations and control budgets that are bigger than those of many countries in the Caribbean. They seldom if ever get fired, have no performance criteria, have no oversight to their activities, have no training or expertise in running organisations, account to no one, cannot be fired or disciplined, set their own hours of work, ignore the Freedom of Information Act with impunity and are virtually immune from prosecution for corrupt practices as the record of the Integrity Commission indicates.
An economy such as ours functions very simply. It is about i) maximising earnings of foreign exchange from our petrochemical sector, ii) conserving this foreign exchange and iii) redirecting it to areas and organisations that can earn us more foreign exchange.
Our dilemma today is we are failing miserably in all of these three. These failures are compounded by the following i) the public is denied access to information relevant to these matters and others ii) the Press is too corrupt/cowed/compromised/incompetent to even attempt educating and informing the public on the reality so we can learn truth and act on it. iii) the sectors referenced are hopelessly managed by political appointees and public officials whose learning, standards and experience were acquired in public sector institutions and academia.
All we do know for sure is there is a massive drain on our patrimony of forex earnings and it is being argued by Terrence Farrell and others that we do not have a right to know the details as to how our forex gets transferred from our SERVANTS and TRUSTEES in the Central Bank and Cabinet to the foreign accounts of the nameless, faceless and privileged persons they select.
We are even being told that we the public are responsible for this massive transfer of forex to the overseas accounts of public officials and their cronies by our buying habits. To me this sounds very much like a drug dealer who creates addicts by his addictive and deadly offerings, telling his cultivated customer base of addicts that he wouldn’t have to be a pusher earning the vast sums of money he does, if they stopped buying his stuff.
In that scenario, as in all dealings involving forex, there is a chain of selected persons who secretly benefit from the many transactions. The only difference is that in the forex trade these beneficiaries are not hunted down and prosecuted.
In closing I should relate the story of the birds around my home that every morning at daybreak sit on the electrical/telecommunication wires and whistle. Their whistling only end after the sun comes up and then they start to “ramajay” as though they have achieved something.
I am firmly convinced that they believe it is their whistling that causes the sun to rise. Based on our science they are of course wrong but their learning/experience supported by generations of observation, and probably the genetic inscription of the habit, is that their whistling causes the sunrise.
Our leadership in T&T also sit whistling, waiting for our sun to rise (our sun being the price of oil/gas), despite the fact that their learning/experience alone over the decades should have told them that their whistling does not cause our sun to rise. Even the birds would have long ago stopped whistling if their learning/experience regarding their sun was the same as that of our leadership over the decades with regard to oil/gas.
The birds by their learning/experience, which is based simply on observation, have ushered in and will continue so to do over eons of time many sunrises by just whistling. Many more sunrises than our leadership will with their whistling for the repeated rise in the price of oil/gas and the birds have no science/technology, MBAs, PhDs, etc. to assist.
There are a lot of conclusions one can draw from this apologue of sorts and most of them, if stated explicitly, would be quite offensive to our parliamentary representatives and public officials who for decades have done little else but whistle while living off the depleting fat of our land.