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

ONE PERCENT DISMANTLES LABOUR MOVEMENT, INDUSTRIAL COURT By Ken Howell

posted 14 Mar 2019, 09:18 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 14 Mar 2019, 10:18 ]


I am now convinced that the closure of Petrotrin was a calculated attack not only on the OWTU, but on the rest of the trade union movement and the country as a whole.

I say this because there is a definite connection between the secret meeting of the Chambers and the execution of that plan. The plot becomes even clearer when you factor in the series of articles attacking the trade union movement which appeared in the Sunday Guardian Newspaper.

What is even clearer is that what the employers are seeking to achieve is the scrapping of labour laws which impact upon the relations between the trade unions and employers in the labour market. This was revealed in an article in the Sunday Guardian Newspaper on March 10th 2019 entitled: Of undertakers and midwives.

The article set out to make a case for the government and the trade union movement to recognise that with the introduction of new technology into the production process times have changed and, as a result, certain jobs and job descriptions will change.

Of course in order to make that point it set out to paint a picture of the state of the economy by pointing to the oil crisis and the current fluctuation in the price; the decline in oil revenues; the precarious situation with respect to the National Insurance Pension Scheme as it relates to the shrinking labour force and the fact that people are living longer.

It also pointed to similar situations which Japan and some other countries face. All of this was done in order to justify their demand for change. I must admit that the article was well written by someone who seems to be one of the masterminds behind the assault on the trade union movement. I say this because it would appear that following the psychological assault on the minds of the working class of this country an assessment of the impact was made.

Notwithstanding the intrusion of the Venezuelan crisis into the daily conversation of the population, it would appear that it was decided that sufficient work was done and it was now time to demand change. However, if you should take a look back into the history of the several efforts made by several committees and the many proposals and recommendations for amendments to be made to certain clauses of the IRA and other labour legislations, you would recognise that the employers were never in agreement with the recommendations which were largely those made by the trade union movement.

But now they are calling for amendments to labour laws because they have engineered an environment in which, they believe, they can now achieve the demise of the trade union movement. What they want is the freedom to manipulate the labour force as they see fit. They would like to have the freedom to make maximum use of multiskilling and to be able to write job descriptions that are open to manipulation as and when it becomes necessary to do so.

However, in order to achieve that objective, the organised arm of the labour force must be dismantled, despite the fact that the leaders of that faction of the labour force could not care less about the future of organised labour.

But the Chamber of Commerce is not only training its guns on organised labour. It also has the Judges of the Industrial Court and the Court itself in its gun sight. As a consequence, it has called in some favours from the office of the Attorney General. This fact came to light in an article which appeared in the Sunday Express Newspaper on 10th March 2019 entitled: Al-Rawi: No crisis at Industrial Court.

Attorney General Al Rawi
The Attorney General was responding to questions in an interview with that Newspaper concerning a statement which Mr Devant Maharaj made concerning the shortage of Judges, which resulted from the expiration of their respective contracts of employment. In his response to the concerns raised, he was a bit economical with the truth.

My understanding is that when contracts are due to expire, the President of the Court usually informs the
President of the Industrial Court, Deborah Thomas-Felix
Office of the Attorney General. Such notification is also accompanied by an appraisal of the performance of each of the Judges and a recommendation from the President as it pertains to each of the Judges.

The Attorney General, as is usually the case, will take the recommendations along with the supporting documents to the Cabinet. Following the deliberations at that level and the Cabinet’s approval, the contracts of those judges are renewed or otherwise. At no time in the past was the involvement of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission required or was found to be necessary. This development must be explained by the AG.

In addition, the fact that the views of the Chamber of Commerce and the Energy Chamber were sought, speaks to an unacceptable intrusion into the decision making process as it relates to the appointment of judges on contract in the Industrial Court. This unacceptable development exposed the conspiracy which is being orchestrated against the trade union movement in order to ensure the control of the labour market by the employer class.

What this means, is that the State is currently being swayed by the shift in the balance of forces between the contending classes. This is evident by the fact that more than 80% of the labour force is not unionised and the percentage that is unionised is led by elements
Defenders of the working class or gatekeepers for the employers?
that are under the influence of the capitalist ideology. Because of this, they never saw the need to collectively embark on a recruitment campaign in order to ensure that the balance of class forces in the labour market was always tilted in the direction of organised labour.

They always saw their role as one in which they are the gate keepers of the capitalist class. That is to say, they genuinely believe that the capitalist system will reward them for their loyalty as long as they see their role as one in which they assist in managing the recurrent labour costs which employers must meet from time to time.

So that while the current bunch of trade union leaders still live in never-never land, nurtured by years of indoctrination by the American Institute for Free Labour Development (AFLD), the effects of such a conditioning system have rendered them unsuitable for leadership in the current hostile industrial relations climate.

As a consequence, the members of the trade union movement must act now to salvage what is left of the dignity of the movement. It is time we begin to distinguish the reality, in spite of the smoke and mirrors which the government and the Chamber of Commerce and its affiliated organisations have been emitting in order to mask the attack on the working class.

This latest attack involved the closure of Petrotrin, the emasculation of the CWU, the many retrenchments that are ongoing and those which will happen at WASA, T&TEC, the Regional Corporations and the Public Service. What will trigger these events? Well we know now about cyber attacks on the grids of the electricity company of Venezuela. Could this happen here? Think about it!

CWU MUST RISE AGAIN by Laurence Brown

posted 11 Mar 2019, 15:15 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 11 Mar 2019, 15:17 ]

In its early years, the Telephone Company was privately owned by a local French Creole family. There was the usual colour bar, with black workers having to enter the workplace from the Henry Street entrance with the Frederick Street entrance reserved for the 'WHITES'.

Of course wages/salaries for the Black Workers were abysmally poor and working conditions atrocious. All this led to the inevitable 'strike' when workers were reported to have voluntarily jumped into the police 'Black Maria' to be taken down, such was their defiance and resolve.

It was also the early days of PNM domination of the country and the rule of the 'DOC' Eric Williams. As the strike and workers action intensified, there was a strident call by the upper classes for Dr. Williams to intervene and put an end to the industrial action of the workers. in response the wily Dr. Williams responded with "let the workers strike",

This calculated statement by Dr. Williams achieved the intended result of endearing himself to both the workers and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) their representatives, with the CWU from that time onward becoming known as pnm party group number 13, with its then leader Carl Tull eventually becoming PNM senator Carl Tull.

In 1965 upon the enactment of the Industrial Stabilization Act, the forerunner of the Industrial Relations Act (1972), all avenues for worker action were severely restricted with the CWU led by Senator Tull being complicit in this anti worker act. It was also in this era that the telephone company was nationalized and became known as TELCO.

From that time on the systematic sell-out of workers by their own union (CWU) then led by Carl Tull (tool), was the order of the day and continued unabated until 1977. It was in that year the CWU and the working class of Trinidad and Tobago were gifted with the seemingly 'out of nowhere' emergence and rise of a young Telco central office technician by the name of Lyle Townsend, a revolutionary and visionary, who liberated the CWU from Carl Tull and the PNM.

The PNM never took this lightly and spared no effort at regaining its turf, utilizing all methods at its disposal including two failed attempts at having the CWU de-certified. The Townsend led CWU over the years became a rock for working class struggle and was a key player along with a strong OWTU in the fight back of the eighties.

It was a period when our local trader capitalists, the ruling class and their puppet political parties, embarked upon a plan, not dissimilar to their current action, to seize control of national assets and drive all unions into oblivion. This was not to be, as workers across the board, were prepared and organized/mobilized by Lyle Townsend and other progressive union leaders, into a fighting fit army of warrior workers on the ground, on the streets, before the capitalists had time to properly manoeuvre.

This proactive action by Lyle Townsend and others did give workers some respite, however the ruling class never lost sight of its objective and waited patiently for the right time to re-launch, or as Lyle Townsend often warned workers, "what we have is an armed truce".

Upon the exit of Lyle Townsend from the CWU around 2009 and his subsequent passing, the rudderless CWU, like the PNM after the passing of its founder and leader Dr. Eric Williams, degenerated into 'bacchanal and ole mas', thereby signalling to its ever present adversaries that the time was ripe to secure their long pursued agenda of dominance and the destruction of the trade union movement.

This time around, the unions themselves including the CWU, made it easy for them with the advent of insecure leaderships, with little or no understanding of their true roles as 'leaders' and no desire to learn. Those ascending to leadership positions no longer saw themselves as leaders of their class, but more so as CEO's and capitalists in waiting and acted accordingly.

In the CWU for instance, upon the ill health induced retirement of Lyle Townsend, a group with the mantra "soften the image of the union" filled the leadership vacuum, clearing the way for 'Basil', the harbinger of death, to have his way with what was once the most feared and respected union in Trinidad and Tobago despite its limited numbers.

The ball is now in the court of what is left of the CWU rank and file membership, to commence the revival of our great union. The membership is left with no choice but to intervene on its own behalf and commit themselves to learning about leadership and its role as a class, all over again. 'THE PRICE OF FREEDOM IS ETERNAL VIGILANCE'.

POLITICS IN OUR NAME? By Ken Howell

posted 19 Feb 2019, 09:08 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 19 Feb 2019, 09:21 ]

“People aren’t listening to their labor leaders any longer. It’s become a social movement.”
Abdio Lorenzo
Mexican small,businessman


The government of Trinbago, which is currently led by the PNM, is caught in a vortex of US imperialist geopolitical machinations, without realising that it is already in too deep.

This is because its leaders believe that capitalism is the only political and economic option suitable for social and economic development. As a result they are blinded to the reality that there is a connection between the misdirected decision to close down Petrotrin and the blatant aggression that has been directed against Venezuela.

The attack against the workers of Petrotrin is an attack on the working class in the same way that the attack on the legitimate government of Venezuela is an attack on the working class of that country, because, to a large extent, what is currently described there as socialism is really state capitalism. The economy of Venezuela is a mixed economy. But the aspiration of the social democratic party which is led by President Nicholas Maduro is to create a socialist society in that country.


Had it not been for the revolt led by the NJAC in 1970 and the campaign by the OWTU to nationalise Texaco, we were not going to have state enterprises that we must now fight to defend. 
Here, in Trinidad and Tobago, the aspiration of the PNM has always been to continue from where the colonial masters left off. Had it not been for the revolt led by the NJAC in 1970 and the campaign by the OWTU to nationalise Texaco, we were not going to have state enterprises that we must now fight to defend.

As a consequence, our economy is also state led. In other words, what we have in Trinbago is state led capitalism. But US imperialism will have none of that here in this country or in Venezuela. We are an oil rich country although not as rich in energy resources as Venezuela, who hold the largest reserves of oil and gas in the world. We are just a few miles from Venezuela by sea, and we also share in a pool of oil and gas reserves. Therein lies the geopolitics about which I speak and the basis for the trade unions to engage in a politics, the kind in which they have never been involved before.

But the writer of the Sunday Guardian articles purporting to be about industrial relations continues to pretend that he is concerned about the future of this country. And he claims to be concerned about whether trade unions are complying with the requirements of the Trades Union Act of the 1930s. In addition, he is querying whether unions have set up political funds as is required under the Act and whether members who do not wish for their union contributions to be utilized for political purposes, are allowed to opt-out of the fund.

He is raising all these matters, as if he is concerned about the well being of the members of trade unions, when, in fact, he is really doing the bidding of the imperialist powers, in the comfort of the grip of the local capitalist class.

On Sunday 27th January 2019 in an article headlined: POLITICS IN WHOSE NAME? He went on to a place which they visited in their secret meeting. A copy of a recording of that meeting revealed that copies of the unaudited financial accounts of some trade unions became the subject of discussion and decisions were taken to seek the intervention of the Registrar of trade unions in order to expose alleged misappropriation of union funds by their leaders. That is a line of attack which they decided on.

It appears that steps are being taken to execute that plan. That is why in this article he has chosen to focus attention on the TRADE UNION ACT which came into force in the 1930s. He raises the question of politics and clearly he is pointing to the OWTU and its association with the Movement for Social Justice. The implication is that the union is diverting union funds into that party in order to serve the narrow interests of the union’s President and the MSJ.

Let me make it as clear as I possibly can. It is the democratic right of each member of a trade union, including the President, to belong to a political party of their choice. But what these hitmen of the local and foreign capitalists are seeking to achieve is the destruction of the trade union movement by first planting suspicion in the minds of the members of trade unions, as well as those who are potential members. The strategy is to divide and rule.

But this question about the involvement of trade unions with and in political parties is nothing new. The history of the trade union movement in the Caribbean is one of involvement with and the formation of political parties. Throughout the Caribbean political parties which captured political power as far back as in the 1930s were those which were led by Trade Unionists. It was only in Trinbago where that was not the case. So his concern about trade union involvement in politics is absurd.

In fact the trade union and its leader, whom he is encouraging other leaders to emulate, is one who comes from a tradition of pro-employer union leaders such as James Manswell former President of the Public Service Association, Nathaniel Critchlow former President of the NUGFW, W.W Sutton former President of the Amalgamated Workers Union, Vas Stanford former leader of the Union of Commercial and Industrial Workers and Carl Tull former leader of the Communication Workers Union.

These were all members of the Peoples National Movement. So his concern about the involvement of trade unions in politics is without any basis in logic. For his information, there were also the Workers and Farmers Party and the United Labour Front. What we never had and what we really need as workers is a Revolutionary Democratic Workers Party with a policy and programme which is prepared by and for workers.

Such a party must also incorporate the interest of the farmers and small business people in its affairs. That is the politics which we now need in the workers name. Because if we do not begin to understand that we are in a war and that US imperialism has been using different approaches in their dealings with different targets, then we will never understand the interconnection between the closure of Petrotrin, the assault on the economy of Venezuela and the purported articles on industrial relations which have been appearing in the Sunday Guardian.

You see the Prime Minister led the country to believe that he was the initiator of the decision to close down Petrotrin, when in fact there were invisible hands on the levers of real political power - the kind that reeks of neo-liberalism. In other words, although they know where the PNM stands on the question of capitalism and the direction in which it believes the economy should be pointed, they were not taking any chances.

They ensured that their man, Wilfred Espinet, was there to ensure that there was a smooth transition from state owned to the private sector once again. The truth is that if the US imperialist is successful in overthrowing the government of Venezuela it will end up benefiting the oil giants such as EXXON and Chevron. So when that writer asks the question: “Politics in whose name?” we are certain that the current brand of national and geo - political machinations are not in the interest of the broad masses of working people neither in Trinbago nor in Venezuela.

That is why the workers must begin to fashion a brand of politics to serve their class interests and no amount of attack on the movement or threats to involve the Registrar of Trade Unions in a plan to shake down the leaders of trade unions will change that fact. It is about time that working people come to the reality that they alone can change their social, political and economic reality and no amount of intimidation from the employer class can stop them.

The writer believes that we are fools. He is claiming that he is not trying to be petty, when in fact he is because he does not have any interest in developing the trade unions because strong trade unions are not what the government and the employer class want. His real motive is to devise ways and means to damage the confidence of the workers, unionised and non-unionised, in the integrity and ability of the movement to effectively represent their class interest.

Very cleverly, he sighted the foolish decision of some of the trade union leaders who jump from one pro-capitalist political party to the other pro-capitalist party, from the UNC to the PNM, as examples of the trade union movement’s involvement in politics. If he chooses too he can, but in our view the behaviour of these leaders must not be the yard stick by which we must measure the intelligence of working people. One of these days when the objective and subjective conditions synchronize and the workers are ready to change their social, political and economic conditions, the current brand of trade unionist would be swept away along with the employer class. That is what they are afraid of. Dare to struggle dare to win!

UNION MEMBERS MUST KEEP A HAWK EYE ON THEIR LEADERS by Ken Howell

posted 8 Feb 2019, 05:03 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 8 Feb 2019, 05:10 ]

One of the contributors to the column in the Sunday Guardian which purports to be about Industrial Relations was at it again. In an article which appeared in that paper, on Sunday 20th January 2019 headlined: WHY IT’S GOOD TO TALK, attention was focused on the President of the National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW) and the fact that he presented an award to Carib Brewery (part of the ANSA McAl, Group).

James Lambert
What is interesting about that event is that it is not the first time that James Lambert has done this. But it is the first time that it has attracted the interest of the ruling class. This is because, Lambert’s opportunism has presented a wonderful opportunity for them to parade him as a voice of reason and the kind of leader in whom the trade union movement must place its trust.

Well for those who don’t know the history of the trade union movement in this country, it is necessary to be informed that leaders such as Lambert of the NUGFW and Anisette of the SWWTU belong to unions that were always pro-employer. Therefore it is not surprising that he would have chosen to present the arch-rival of the labour movement, with an award declaring them “Employer of the year”.

Clearly, the intention is to present himself as the one to whom the employers must speak on matters concerning workers. He is anti-worker without realising that he is. And that is because he is only concerned with his own narrow selfish interest. For him the Presidency is but a means to an end. Michael Anisette is also of that ilk. They are the remaining remnants of the pro-employer, anti-worker elements that are hanging around the necks of the members of their unions.

Imagine this! Lambert telling the employees of Carib that there is corruption among the employees. He used the example of the contractual obligation of the workers to report for work at 7:00am and end their shift at 4:00pm, but instead they report at 7:00am and leave at 8:00am. He knows only too well that there are rules and procedures which the employees of that company must follow whenever they arrive late for work, or whenever they wish to leave work on some urgent matter. These are eventualities for which provisions are made in collective agreements.

It’s like Satan trying to correct sin! But his motive is transparent. It is really to present himself as the only leader of the movement capable of delivering what the employers need. And that is the body and soul of the workers, by milking their blood sweat and tears! As result, he is being hailed as the kind of leader which the workers must support. But what he should be fearful of is that when the employers anoint you it speaks volumes about your unsuitability to continue to be a leader in the workers movement.

It does not mean that recognition from Sabga would translate into leniency from the PNM government, because it will not prevent Rowley, from terminating 2,000 workers from their jobs in WASA terminating workers from the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure and the Regional Corporations. The real intention behind the acclaim given to the President of the NUGFW is to pit him against the President of the OWTU in order to continue the divide and rule strategy which was the downfall of the trade union movement for many years. The leaders fell for that trick every time elements from within and without the movement attempted to sabotage the move towards unity by pulling stunts such as the one which the writer/s of this article which he /they have been writing.

Sad to say, however, I would not be surprised, if one of the thin-skin leaders jumps at the opportunity to attack Lambert, because Lambert would be only too happy to demonstrate his loyalty to the Sabgas and the “Brothers”.

Comrades, things are not always what they appear to be! Make no mistake, the ruling class and the Rowley government, who is doing their bidding, is bent on destroying the trade union movement. But if we are not careful this time around, the leaders for their own selfish reasons may cause the movement to destroy itself. That is why we must call on all leaders and second rank leaders to come out and call for unity and solidarity in the movement.

They must also be prepared to condemn any move to promote disunity within the ranks of the movement. They must also call on the National Trade Union Centre to declare its position on unity. Members of the respective unions must become more involved in the day to day affairs of their respective unions. It is important to know how and for what your union contributions are utilized. It has been the practice of union members to be complacent about the affairs of their union. They are just satisfied to pay union dues.

Well times are changing and if the working class wants the movement to remain relevant to its class interest, it must intervene by demonstrating that it has its eyes on the leadership who it is required to vote into office from time to time. It is only through its vigilance that leaders like Anisette and Lambert can be held in check. It is only through the unity of the workers within their respective unions and across the movement, that we will be able to repel attacks from the employer class and from opportunistic leaders within the union movement. Unity and solidarity must become the watch words of the movement.

STEELBAND LEADERSHIP MUST RE-INVENT ITSELF by Rae Samuel

posted 31 Jan 2019, 05:50 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 31 Jan 2019, 05:51 ]

Rae Samuel
I have just finished reading an article from the former public affairs manager of the sponsor of the now 'homeless' Desperadoes Steel Orchestra. The piece sounds like nostalgia for the good ole days a la Mary Hopkins song Those were the days my friend' or Richard 'Nappy' Mayers’ song Bring back the ole time days.

To the writer it seems that the Despers Panyard is a paradise lost as once upon time we could go up the hill and lime in peace, with the statue of the Virgin Mary protecting us.

Yep: Laventille was a tourist paradise where the natives were happy to welcome visitors to the sounds of Rudolph Charles's hammer or Hilanders’ "Let every valley be exalted'. What we must not take away from reading the piece is that this is a fate that has befallen just Desperadoes.

Two years ago the Birdsong was evicted. In 2018 it was the Old Tech being ejected from a school compound. All these have antecedents. Even the mighty Phase II has had to brave these dangers.

While the circumstance may vary from scenario to scenario, the story is the same. Some bands with visionary leadership such as the Southern Marines secured tenure and can sing Short Shirt’s Nobody go run mih. Others have strong sponsorship or iconic brands and are safe. One thinks of Exodus or Trinidad All stars respectively. Or Skiffle Bunch

In the case of the Desperadoes it is the enveloping social circumstance and its attendant ills. Contrary to what some would have us imagine not every Lavantillean can live by pan. Nor is the band a large enough sustainable community economic unit to fill the gaps left by wider State neglect.

In the case of the others there is not enough offering in the pan music industry to have them think in terms of purchasing the space. How many bands able to prosper after Carnival? Okay…okay, how many make it through the carnival season with a large financial partner. N.B Petrotrin has gone. We are seeing real collateral damage in 2019.

Nor is Chairman Gypsy of the NCC trying to ease the pressure.

In short the good ole days as some imagine/d them are gone forever and the new ones are not far behind. Like the trade union movement, the steelband movement which is its historic partner, will have to re-invent itself and come up with new leadership.

The steelband has seen its leadership overtaken by events and pan is really now privatized. Doubt me? Recently I happened to pass on the South side of Victoria Square in Port of Spain where the new headquarters of Pan Trinbago is located…rent 'free'. Oh gorm Scobie, at least y'all had parking space!

Adversity introduces us to ourselves and crisis defines our character. The pan man/woman has always had to be a fighter. Canboulay 2019...what else is new?.

WHO LET THE DOGS OUT? by David Walker

posted 23 Jan 2019, 05:13 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 23 Jan 2019, 05:20 ]

Image result for rottweiler on the attackJust about a decade ago, there was much controversy about the lack of accountability at a State owned enterprise, UDECOTT, that operated as Project Manager for large state construction projects. 

Leading the complaints about the company and its behaviour was Dr. Keith Rowley despite the fact that his party was in power and that at the beginning he was a Minister in Cabinet. To understand what happened and its relevance today, I now share three media reports from the time.

1. “The Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDECOTT) insists that the attacks on the company were political in nature. UDECOTT pro­duced a 210-page report, dated March 1, to Professor John Uff and Commissioner Desmond Thornhill, in which its lead counsel, Andrew Goddard, QC, wrote: "The commission needs to also recognise that a primary purpose of the war on UDECOTT is to damage the Prime Minister by damaging UDECOTT. "The campaign against UDECOTT is thus political in all senses and respects," he said. "Rowley (the former Housing Minister), it is surely obvious to all, is fighting for his political survival. He has staked his whole political future on seeking to damage the Prime Minister.”

2. “Prime Minister Patrick Manning acceded to many calls for the commission of inquiry, the most vociferous of which came from Dr 
Keith Rowley, whom Manning fired as Trade Minister in April 2008, contractor Emile Elias, the Joint Consultative Council, and the Trinidad and Tobago Chapter of Transparency International. Rowley and Manning disagreed over the role of UDECOTT, which is chaired by Canadian Calder Hart, and UDECOTT’s apparent access to public funds without proper oversight.” 

3. “Speaking in the Lower House on the Validation and Immunity from Proceedings Bill 2009, a bill which seeks to validate the Uff
Commission of Inquiry into Udecott and the local construction industry, Rowley unleashed his verbal assault against Manning while at the same time appealing to his PNM colleagues to, “do the right thing” and save the party from being tainted by the UDECOTT scandal.”

The first report illustrated what just about everyone thought at the time, which was that regardless of motive, the political future of Dr Keith Rowley was inextricably linked to his complaints, and the inquiry that would emerge therefrom. He would undoubtedly benefit politically from his actions and that reality must have been a great incentive to attack his own leader and the sitting Prime Minister.

The second report shows that the Joint Consultative Council was a key supporter of Dr. Rowley’s position. In fact, most observers would likely agree that their role was critical. The President of the Joint Consultative Council for most of that time, and a key advocate for an inquiry in his own right was Mr. Afra Raymond. Nobody then or now has ever suggested that his advocacy for transparency and accountability in the UDECOTT matter made him a supporter of Dr. Rowley’s personal political positions or those of his party. One of the other commentators who supported Dr. Rowley’s position quite vociferously was yours truly.

The third report shows Dr. Rowley beseeching his fellow party members to “do the right thing”, meaning that they should act in the party’s and country’s interest by speaking and acting forcefully against perceived wrongdoing by your party and its leaders. Afra Raymond, along with many other independent commentators, myself included, needed no encouragement to do the right thing. We didn’t then and we do not now.

Fast forward to 2019 and we again have the state engaged in actions that merit close examination. In the proposed expenditure of more than 500 million USD, there is an abysmal lack of transparency and accountability and very important questions are left unanswered. Even the most mundane information is only released at the end of a Freedom of Information request followed by expensive legal proceedings.

Despite the challenges, the advocates for transparency and accountability, most notably Mr. Raymond, have managed to prise the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) from the government’s hands. That MoU has now been examined and critically reviewed. Its one-sidedness in favour of Sandals and against the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago has rightly been condemned and brought shame to Sandals and the government, sufficient to push Sandals to abort the negotiating process - to paraphrase Sandals and the government.

Given the many questions outstanding about both the project and the utterances of the protagonists, most especially the Prime

Some of the outstanding questions:

 

1.      Did the Mottley committee ever meet (dates, attendees, venue)

2.      Have they filed any reports (copies if yes)

3.      Who reviewed the MoU before its was agreed

4.      What did the reviewers recommend

5.      Why did the Prime Minister not know that it included a confidentiality clause

6.      Was a Feasibility Study done

7.      Was an Impact Analysis done

8.      How much has been spent thus far

9.      What commitments have been made for ancillary projects like the Power Plant etc. and at what cost

10.  How was this project to be financed

Minister, one hoped for a recognition of the need to provide those answers. Just a few of those questions are listed in the Sidebar. Instead, Prime Minister Rowley responds by speaking about “controlling the narrative”. There is no public recognition of his failure to answer legitimate questions. Rather, he has heralded an intention to continue a policy of “distract and demean”.

In response to uncomfortable questions he has let the dogs out. Already, we see attacks on Mr. Raymond and others alleging political motivation. Such rich irony! Some of today’s sycophants are the very people who attacked Dr. Rowley all those years ago while his position got support from those being accused of political spite now. They are too blinkered to understand their own hypocrisy. They should revisit Dr. Rowley’s entreaties to “do the right thing” of a decade ago.

To my colleague and friend, Afra Raymond, my advice is that you recognise the 
Image result for afra raymondattacks for what they are. They reflect the validity and success of what you have achieved and the impact that you’re having on public opinion, most especially on people who would instinctively support the “party position”. The public is doing what Dr. Rowley invited his party members to do a decade ago and he doesn’t like it. His reaction and that of his supporters in attacking you and others expose their inability to answer the valid questions that have been raised.

Every pointless attack on personality is a further indicator of the power and reach of your research, your arguments and your questions. Don’t expect reasoned arguments, they have none. Instead, view every blunt personal attack as a compliment and a measure of your success. Derive from them the inspiration to continue. The energy that they expend in such futile attacks has already rebounded against them, and that will doubtless continue as long as we all stand firm.

There is today another dimension to this débâcle that I wish to comment on and which was referenced briefly by Mr. Raymond in a recent presentation to a large audience in Tobago. It is the Caribbean perspective. My starting point is that Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) is reputed to have possessed probably the most powerful and dynamic economy in the Caribbean over several decades. It is said that when the American economy catches a cold the world sneezes. The same could be said of the T&T economy in relation to the Caribbean. That is an accolade of which most of our citizens are justifiably proud and which begets a burden of responsibility that we should not shirk lightly.

How sad then that our leaders have brought us to the position reflected by these Sandals negotiations, now mercifully terminated. In attempting to diversify our economy we are seeking to copy what other islands have done twenty years or more after they have done it. We are so desperate to follow in their footsteps that we negotiate with no regard for cost, environmental and other impact or financial returns. We tear up our procurement legislation and procedures and prostrate ourselves before a major corporation who rightly seek their best interests and extract every last benefit that they can. We should be ashamed.

Rather than be the leaders that the Caribbean and T&T desperately need, we’ve enthusiastically joined in the race to the bottom, offering our suitor (or are we the suitors?) any and everything they ask for and more besides. Is this who we are, and what we’ve become? The region needs leadership to ensure that we all benefit when these large companies come knocking. T&T must find the fortitude to lead again in such negotiations whether it be with Sandals or with BP.

I am compelled to pay tribute to the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Mr. Gaston Browne who has taken the lead in recognising that the Sandals problem is a Caribbean one and that it must be addressed at the Caribbean level. I salute his stated commitment to make that happen and his frank disclosure of the nature of the demands and some of the coercive measures utilised by Sandals in pursuit of their corporate interests. I urge all to listen to his speech on the issue and to lobby across the Caribbean in support of his initiative.

PRIVATISATION AND UNION BUSTING By Ken Howell

posted 20 Jan 2019, 11:13 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 20 Jan 2019, 11:19 ]

It would appear that everyone knew that the strength of the trade unions existed in the public/state sector, except the leaders of the movement. If that is not so, then what could explain the complacency which characterised the behaviour of the leaders, from 2006 – 2017.

There is a need for the leaders to pay greater attention to the task of improving the quality of representation at the sections and branch levels of the unions through an aggressive education programme in order to improve the skills and ability of the officers to represent their members.

The ball was dropped by the leaders, when they chose instead to focus on different ways and means by which to ingratiate themselves firstly, with the UNC/Peoples Partnership Party and then with the Peoples National Movement.

In the pursuit of these failed objectives, they expended physical and financial resources which would have benefitted their respective unions had those resources been spent on improvements in the ability of their respective union to serve their members as they are expected to do.

Instead, as a result of their negligence, the weakness of the movement was exposed, and the enemy was provided with the opportunity to deliver a mortal blow. As a result, an” Uncle Tom” who has entered the field of industrial relations and almost all Omes, Helens and Harilals are currently taking aim at the movement in the media. And since they recognised that connections exist between the trade unions and the public/state sector, they know that by disbanding the public/state enterprise sector, the destruction of the trade union movement would be achieved.

As a result, two individuals who are definitely anti- trade unionism and pro-free enterprise (whatever that means) penned two articles in the Newsday Newspaper. The first entitled: STATE ENTERPRISE OR FREE MARKET appeared on Wednesday 12th December 2018, and was written by Edmund Narine and the second appeared on Friday 14th December 2018 and was entitled: UNIONS DO NOT HELP A COUNTRY’S PROSPERITY and was written by Elton Singh.

In his article, Mr. Narine, was responding to an article written by Mr Reginald Dumas, which appeared in the Newsday on November 26
USA Ambassador Joseph Mondello
entitled AN UNENTERPRISING STATE in which it would appear that Mr Dumas was responding to critical statements made by the new US Ambassador Joseph Mondello, who was of the view, that the state of Trinidad and Tobago must get out of economic activity and leave that up to the private sector.

He felt that there was no analysis presented by Mr Dumas in support of the points he made in his response to the US ambassador. I did not see or read the article which Mr Dumas wrote, but I can recall, that the main contention of Mr Mondello was that state enterprises are prone to corruption: as if that is not the case with private sector companies.

Where state sector companies co-exist in an environment where private sector culture and business practices are dominant, it is very difficult for state enterprises to cultivate a culture which is free of contamination from the private sector, especially in a small country such as ours. Such enterprises can only succeed, if and when the government in office is led by personnel who are schooled and are committed to a world outlook which has at its foundation, progressive ideas strongly leaning towards revolutionary democracy.

But Mr Narine also failed to present any analysis for his support of the free enterprise system, except to peddle the propaganda/fake news about the salaries which it was alleged that some employees of Petrotrin were receiving. In addition, he questioned whether the Rowley administration has the testicular fortitude to disband the state sector which he alleged Dr. Eric Williams created to ensure that the PNM continued to have the support of the Afro-Trinbagonian base.

He also mentioned the buy local campaign which Dr. Eric Williams promoted, implying that the call to buy local was as a result of the

The late President general of the OWTU, George Weekes, led the fight for nationalisation
lack of interest, which was demonstrated by both local and foreign private sector companies, to invest in the economy of this country. He ignored the fact that there was an uprising in 1970 which led to the decision of the PNM government led by Dr. Eric Williams to nationalise some private sector companies. And it was Prime Minister George Chambers who nationalised the oil companies in response to the campaign, which the then President General of the OWTU, Comrade George Weekes, mounted demanding that the government nationalise Texaco.

Instead, he argued that it all had to do with ethnicity. He also ignored the fact that both Indo-Trinidadians and Afro-Trinidadians had joined together in 1970; demanding that we want to own our country. In fact the attempted Coup in 1990 occurred as a result of the deliberate subversion, of the mass movement of the people which was led by the Summit of Peoples Organisation (SOPO).

SOPO came into prominence following on the heels of the successful national strike in March 1989 (The day of resistance). Mr. Narine who chose to champion the cause of the free enterprise system also failed to provide any analysis in support of why he believes that the state should not intervene in the economy.

Then there was Mr. Elton Singh who had problems with an opinion poll which Market Facts and Opinion did, in which the majority, 57 percent of the respondents, thought that unions are necessary and 53 percent were of the view that there was a need for the Industrial Court. In support of his view that Unions do not help a country’s prosperity, he went on to refer to a 2010 World Values Survey, in which he alleged that it was found that 65 per cent of populations had little or no confidence in unions.

He omitted to say which population was surveyed and what kinds of questions the survey chose to ask; also how was the sample survey designed and how it was segmented and so on. Clearly, therefore, the intention of both writers was to campaign in support of privatisation and union busting which appears to be the favourite pastime of elements who are the disciples of neo-liberalism.

In Trinidad and Tobago these days, elements from both the middle and upper class, are singing the praises of neo-liberalism, because it is their belief that it is possible to kill two birds with one stone. You see by getting rid of certain state enterprises you would also get rid of some trade unions. The leaders of the movement never saw that one coming. How could they when their heads were always in the rear of the leaders of the PNM and the UNC.

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.

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