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LA ROMAINE LAND GRAB: ONE PERCENT, CATHOLIC CHURCH, GOV’T MOVE TO DESTROY ST. BENEDICT’S COLLEGE by Laurence Brown

posted 20 May 2019, 08:19 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 20 May 2019, 08:34 ]

Laurence Brown
In September of 1956, there was a significant development in what was the marginalized Hamlet/Village of La Romaine, South Trinidad. This tiny settlement, a legacy of European Colonialism and its attendant exploitative systems of Slavery and Indentureship, was about to be placed on the National Radar.


Driven by his passion for learning/ education and a vision for making this ideal accessible to the children of the poor and dispossessed, DOM BASIL MATTHEWS set about the establishment of the Community styled Boys Secondary School of ST. BENEDICT'S COLLEGE LA ROMAINE.

The unique curriculum of Dom Basil's brainchild, in essence, was to ensure that it became the very first COMPREHENSIVE Secondary School in the then Colony of Trinidad and Tobago.

In order to realize his dream of educating the children of the poor classes in the South of Trinidad and Tobago, Dom Basil Matthews was able to convince the landowning LUCKY family of the La Romaine area to make available portions of their considerable holdings to house (1) The proposed physical structure of the College (the current location), which also accommodated the La Romaine R.C Primary School; (2) A piece of land on which stood a Colonial type building to house priests along with himself, on which spot the current La Romaine R.C Church stands; (3) A piece of land on the Gulf of Paria coastline for the establishment of a playing field, which became known as COLLEGE COMMONS LAROMAINE- ON-SEA.

Having taken vows of poverty as a priest, these lands could not be vested in the name of Dom Basil Matthews and were therefore conveyed into the hands of the CORPORATION SOLE of the local Catholic Church, COUNT FINBAR RYAN, the Archbishop of the diocese of Port of Spain.

The first indication that the Dom's vision and concern for the children outside the fold of the established privileged and elite was not necessarily aligned with that of the local Church, came when his request to establish his brainchild of a college, was not acceded to by the hierarchy of the local Catholic Church.

Not to be daunted however, Dom Basil Matthews literally went over the heads of the local Archdiocese and presented his case directly to the HOLY SEE at the VATICAN in ROME. The visionary Dominican Priest not only succeeded in obtaining the blessings of the VATICAN, but also a sum of money which would go a long way in helping him establish his dream.

This development not only ensured the construction/establishment of St. Benedict's College La Romaine, making it to this day the only
VATICAN assisted College in the English speaking Caribbean, but fomented deep rooted resentment within the chambers of the historically upper class aligned local church: a development which in the ensuing years would haunt both Dom Basil Matthews St. Benedict's College La Romaine.


NATIONAL PROMINENCE 


In recognition of the fact that he was coming from behind in terms of capturing national attention along the lines of the established colleges of privilege, Dom Basil Matthews drew upon his experience garnered in the U.S.A. and utilised sports, particularly (his passion) Football, as the launch pad to catapult St. Benedict's College into the hearts and minds of the national community, with emphasis on the young men he sought to attract to his newly established educational institution.

As part of his strategy, in contrast to the practice of the established secondary institutions which more or less concentrated on the recruitment of young students from middle and upper class backgrounds, Dom Basil opened the doors of the college to talented young men from lower class communities in the South and Deep South, to create and develop the formidable and feared St. Benedict's College Football Teams of the 1950's and 1960's, which in turn ushered in a golden era of national football. This never sat well with the status quo of the ruling elite, of which the Catholic Church was an integral part,


THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK 


In 1967, at about the time when Dom Basil was poised to guide St. Benedict's College into its great leap forward as the foremost all-round Secondary School of the era, disaster struck. The long deep-seated resentment and class contradictions manifested in open conflict, and Dom Basil Matthews was unceremoniously deposed as leader of the college of which he was the founding father. He was deemed to be a person no longer suitable to be a man of the cloth on the strength of rather spurious allegations. Thus began the slide down the slippery slope for the 'college of the poor people'.

The College was openly treated as a poor distant relation of the local church. Little or nothing was done to enhance the original infrastructure of the College; football was initially banished by the incoming leadership, the College Commons La Romaine-on-sea was put up for sale, an act which was successfully challenged by the College ALUMNI who came to be known as the 'Dom Basil Boys'.

The famous Benedicts football team. 1967
This group of Past Students which had been formalised in the early 1960's as the St. Benedict's College Past Students Association, was galvanized into action and publicly and aggressively confronted the then College authorities and the Church, on the unprincipled proposed sale of the COLLEGE COMMONS LA ROMAINE-ON-SEA, in the mid 1970's. Even as the College authorities and the Church were forced to retreat on the issue, their agenda remained intact and the facility was virtually left to rot, with the apparent intention to deliberately rundown same in order to justify sale at a later date.


In the early 1970's, as a direct result of the ARAB Contrived dramatic hike in World Oil Prices, the then Government of Trinidad and Tobago benefited from an unexpected and unprecedented OIL BOOM. The country was awash with oil dollars, with South Trinidad the Island's Oil Belt becoming focal to the country's development.

All lands along the Western Gulf of Paria Coastline between Point Fortin and San Fernando, witnessed a steep appreciation in worth and subject to obscene speculation. The lands between Coconut Drive (Green Acres), heading South from San Fernando along the Bye Pass, rapidly transformed into Gulf City Mall and Gulf View upscale residential holdings.

This also signalled the beginning of the end for St. Benedict's College La Romaine at its long established site, as well as its Playfield College Commons LA ROMAINE-ON-SEA on the coastline. All three parcels of property i.e.: College Commons; the Manse which housed Priests; and the site of the college, which at the initiative of Dom Basil Matthews, was in 1953 vested into the hands of the Corporation Sole of the Roman Catholic Church, now became objects of SPECULATION and a potential source of great wealth for the CHURCH, with reports of lands within said locations bordering upon four hundred dollars per square foot.

In all the opulence ushered in by oil wealth to the areas surrounding the three named properties, the physical structure of St. Benedict's College itself and the Commons, retained the state of dereliction arising out of endemic neglect by the Church, and is to this date a manifestation of what it is to be a 'poor distant relation' of the Church. This, in sharp contrast to the modern well kept structure of the La Romaine R.C Church and Parish Hall, on the site of the original manse housing Dom Basil Matthews and other priests.

It was during the first incarnation of a UNC Government led by Basdeo Panday, there arose unconfirmed reports of a deal being struck between the Roman Catholic Church and the then UNC Government (with the big business elite discreetly orchestrating), whereby the Government would swap fifteen acres of Leased State Lands (Caroni Ltd), on the M2 RING ROAD, for the site of St. Benedict's College as well as the College Commons La Romaine-on-sea. Following the tied elections and the seat of Government being handed to incoming Prime Minister Patrick Manning, talk of swap subsided, however there were persistent and consistent rumours of the College Common's being sold or of such a sale being in the making.

By January 2019, emanating from reports out of the Catholic Church via its newsletter, the St. Benedict's College Past Students Association was engaged in discussions with the La Romaine Parish Priest about the rumoured relocation of the College. At these meetings no definitive information was forthcoming to the association; there were vague reports of an offer being extended by the Government to the Church on the one hand and a request being made by the Church on the other hand.

As the Ex Pupil Body during discussions insisted upon transparency and full disclosure, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago played its hand. By way of correspondence captioned AGR: 24/17/2 Vol. IV, dated February 25, 2019 addressed to 'The Most Reverend
Archbishop Jason Gordon
Charles Jason Gordon; Archbishop of Port of Spain”
; re Grant of an institutional lease to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Port of Spain in respect of a fifteen (15) acre Parcel of State Land (former Caroni (1975) Limited Land), situate at La Fortune Estate, South Trunk Road, La Romaine for the relocation of the St. Benedict's College La Romaine.


The letter went on to advise that “Cabinet has approved the grant of an institutional lease to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Port of Spain, for the relocation of the St. Benedict's College, La Romaine." This piece of correspondence which makes no mention of College Commons La Romaine-On-Sea is the clearest indication yet that it is a done deal and has been so prior to the Past Students Association being invited to discussions with representatives of the Church.

DECEIT AND DECEPTION 


At all meetings with representatives of the Church, the St. Benedict's Alumni carefully outlined its objections to the apparent agreement, viewing it as the desecration of the Heritage Site that is St. Benedict's College, and its unique relationship with the COMMUNITY of La Romaine.

The Church, for its part, decried the dilapidated state of the College while not accepting responsibility for same; in addition citing some damage resulting from the earthquake one year ago, as its main reasons for the relocation of the College. The Church steadfastly refused to entertain the argument that the College can be rebuilt over time on the very spot it has occupied since 1956, citing lack of space and possible displacement of students.

Notwithstanding the fact that since the relocation of the Catholic Primary School many years ago, additional space was made available along with the fact that many schools were rebuilt on less space than the College currently occupies, and the reality that there was always the option of having taller structures, the Church insisted that the current site was no longer suitable for the needs of the College.

All this in face of a preliminary assessment of the project undertaken, whereby it was made clear that due to the nature of the soil structure and lay of the land along the proposed M2 RING ROAD, the costing of such a project would run into hundreds of millions of dollars, with excavation and foundation responsible for a large portion of the cost. In this regard it was outlined that it would be cost effective to upgrade the college at its present site on a phased basis, while at the same time maintaining the Community College Status of St. Benedict's College.

Every reasonable argument raised by the Alumni was rejected out of hand by the Church Representatives, in a most hasty and arrogant manner, suggesting that there was much more in the mortar than the pestle.

Dom Basil Matthews
It has always been the position of the Ex-Student Body that it is willing to work with the Catholic Church Authorities toward enhancing the conditions of the School for the benefit of current and future students, as well as the PEOPLE of La Romaine with whom the name St. Benedict's College is synonymous. As the Church Authorities baulked at every attempt to keep the legacy of Dom Basil Matthews and St. Benedict's College intact, it became quite clear that the move to relocate the school has its origins not in what is best for the school, but the ongoing grab for prime commercial property on which the College sits, with huge monetary gain for the entity in which the property is vested.


The intrigue continues as throughout discussions on the proposed relocation, despite the probing of the Alumni, authorities were unable to advise where the funding for such a large undertaking would be forthcoming. As a matter of fact the representatives of the Church were quick to admit that the Church was not in a position to finance such a project. At the same time the Government has gone on record as being cash strapped and in no position to embark on such a costly project.

This being the case, the question was repeatedly posed as to the financing of the building and relocation exercise with no positive response from the key players. In apparent response to increasingly vocal and public statements by the Ex-Students, a new unconfirmed report has surfaced, whereby the sitting Government has assured the Church that it will absorb the Construction/Relocation costs.

This development, if it is indeed factual, tends to suggest that the stakes in terms of acquisition of the PRIME commercial property on which the College stands, have risen sharply and the true movers and shakers are moving swiftly to have the sweet heart deal legally tied up before the upcoming general elections exercise, when there is a possibility that all can be lost.

The welfare of St. Benedict's College and its Student population comes before ALL. In the period commencing 1967 when Dom Basil was ousted as Principal of the College he founded, to the present day, there has been nothing to suggest that the College ever received the attention it deserved from both the Roman Catholic Church and a succession of Governments. Given this history of inattention and neglect, the current flurry of activity concerning the School cannot be viewed as a sudden acquisition of conscience, but rather the lure of monetary gain, with St. Benedict's College being once more thrown under the bus.

The Catholic Church, along with the sitting Government, must rethink its position and ensure that St. Benedict's College which is an integral part of the community of La Romaine, not only maintains its current location, but also proceed

TOBAGO RHA LAUNCHES VICIOUS ATTACK ON WORKERS

posted 9 May 2019, 12:34 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 9 May 2019, 19:37 ]

The Tobago Regional Health Authority has been embroiled in issues of nepotism, squandermania, extremely poor industrial relations practices and political interference to the detriment of providing decent health care to the people of Tobago. It is now faced with resistance from workers who are now saying enough is enough.

The National Workers Union has reported a number of trade disputes to the Ministry of Labour involving workers employed at the Tobago Regional Health Authority.

One report to the Ministry deals with the unilateral reduction of a worker’s established rate of pay and refusal to confirm the worker in a vacant position, after several years of continuous employment under a series of allegedly fixed-term contracts dating back to July 28th 2010.

The worker’s established rate of pay was at a level consistent with that of the position of Human Resource Assistant, dating back to November 1st 2011, was unilaterally reduced to that of Clerical Assistant by letter dated 15th October 2018 and effective November 01, 2018.

As well, the management has thereby refused to confirm her in a vacant position after many years of continuous employment under a series of allegedly fixed-term contracts, dating back to 28th July 2010.

The Union met with the employer on February 1st, 2019. A promised response, within two weeks of that meeting date, never came, despite the Union’s follow-up correspondence and phone calls. The matter therefore remains unresolved.

Another worker’s matter has been reported, again involving unfair and unjustified salary reduction, and the Employer’s refusal to confirm the Worker in the vacant position in which she has been acting since September 12th, 2011. As well, there is an expressed intention to lower the Worker’s substantive duties and status accordingly.

The worker’s salary, as Human Resource Assistant, was unfairly reduced to the level of Clerical Assistant. This was communicated via letter dated 15th October 2018, and took effect 01 November 2018, notwithstanding her continuing to perform the duties of Human Resource Assistant, and which duties she has been continuously performing since September 12th 2011.

The Employer’s correspondence, of October 15th 2018, conveys the expressed intention to lower the Worker’s substantive duties and status accordingly. As with the other matter reported, the union met with the employer who despite promising to respond within two weeks has not done so.

Another reported matter involves unfair and unjustified salary reduction, whereby the worker’s salary, as Human Resource Officer, was unfairly and unjustifiably reduced to the level of Human Resource Assistant, via letter dated 12th November 2018 and effective 01 December 2018, even though her substantive duties, dating back to her promotion to the position of Human Resource Officer on November 01, 2011, have been retained.

The Employer’s correspondence, of 12th November 2018, conveys the expressed intention to lower the worker’s substantive duties and status accordingly.

Like with the other matters, the management off the Tobago Regional Health Authority has refused to respond. The matter, like the others, remains unresolved and has been reported as a trade dispute.

It seems the Tobago Regional Health Authority has joined the crusade launched by the business elite and the state against workers’ rights, benefits and entitlements. There is only one response – FIGHTBACK!

CASTER SEMENYA: DOUBLE DISCRIMINATION? BY Rae Samuel

posted 7 May 2019, 07:32 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 7 May 2019, 07:49 ]

Caster Semenya
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has thrown out an appeal by double Olympic 800m female gold medallist Caster Semenya of South Africa against a ruling by the International Association of Athletic Federations/IAAF.

Track and field's governing body had ruled that it could restrict/determine the acceptable levels of testosterone in women athletes. This would apply to women who showed 'differences of sexual development/D.S.D.'. The ruling is a split decision and has ignited a fury that will continue to resonate across cultural and especially racial lines. Even before the Court's decision, human rights groups and the United Nations weighed in on the matter, calling it discriminatory and a violation of human rights.

Hyperandrogenic athletes must now take medication for six months before they can compete and then must maintain a lower level of testosterone. How this procedure is to be applied, by whom and under what conditions has not been spelt out. Given individual physiological and psychological profiles, given how each individual responds to therapy, it is clear that further problems are going to arise.

The Court itself recognized it could not give a concise, water tight verdict. CAS found that ''the rules for athletes with DSD were discriminatory but discrimination was necessary, reasonable and proportionate to protect the integrity of female athletes''. The judgement stated further "The side effects of hormonal treatment experienced by individual athletes could with further evidence, demonstrate the practical impossibility of compliance which could turn into a different conclusion as to the proportionality of the DSD regulation.”

Just imagine in any other court of a law, such a verdict being pronounced. Discrimination is ''necessary, reasonable and proportionate'' to protect integrity. But then the United States Constitution said that the Negro is 3/5 of a man.

Those of us who follow athletics and long distance running in particular, know that middle and long distance running is dominated by African athletes at home and abroad. Go look at any event in the Diamond League, Worlds or Olympics, especially 5000m and up. One notices that midway in the event the field spreads out and the Africans, be they Kenyan, Ethiopian, Moroccan, Somalian have moved to the front with the Europeans left behind. Even England's Mo Farah, 4 time Olympic gold medallist at 5000m and 10000m, is Somali born.

At the Rio Olympics, Lynsey Sharpe one of Britain's strongest medal hopes, finished 6th trailing the 1/2/3 of African women, led by Semenya. She broke down and protested after the event, suggesting she had not been beaten by fully female athletes. Paula Radcliffe, a British perennial also ran at the Olympics, has suggested that hyperandrogenic athletes take medication “... have an operation...or choose not to compete''.

One now wonders if the next group in the sights would be the power events such as javelin, shot and discus. At the moment this area is dominated by Asian and European/American women. It used to be owned by the Hungarian and Russian women. Those were the days before coaches and trainers developed techniques which allowed less powerfully built athletes to become competitive. When West Indian cricket ruled the world, there came the 'front foot rule' and limits on the number of bouncers per over.

Dutee Chand
It is worth noting that Duttee Chand, a then 19 year old Indian sprinter and national champion, was the first female athlete to have to face this type of challenge. She won her case but 'felt as if I had lost all my honour, having to prove that I am a woman'

The reality is that the traditional European power houses in many sports have lost their domination. The 'invasion' has occurred in all sports from gymnastics to golf, from soccer to boxing, led by Africans in most cases. Even the lily white domains such as golf and Formula 1 motor racing are dominated by "Black' superstars, Tiger Woods and Lewis Hamilton Sport is now global and perennial and through the federations, athletes from all countries have opportunities to compete and excel. Many are in fact not based at home or fly the flag of adopted homelands.

What next? This clearly goes beyond the stadia, to paraphrase CLR James, and is going to resonate for a long time, given that this is seen as aimed at the 'third world ' athletes. We will see how the ruling is implemented and measured. If the present processes to fight drug abuse are to be a guide we are in for something of a mess. We can only wait and see.

LAME DUCK GG by Rae Samuel

posted 2 May 2019, 04:50 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 2 May 2019, 05:35 ]

Has a strong resemblance to Batman's nemesis The Joker
A President of the United States, serving a second term is referred to as a "lame duck’. He, (sorry Hilary, can't say he/she) cannot be re-elected, is more concerned with going out 'looking good' and looks on as his party nominates a successor, who, hopefully will retain the White House. What is this all about? I am wondering if for the first time in our law enforcement history, we are looking at a 'lame duck' Commissioner of police.

His halo, illuminated by 'body counts/one shot one kill', multi-coloured alerts: red, orange, amber, all except white and a dazzling array of outfits has begun to fade very fast. The gentleman has begun to collect an array of opponents/enemies, some of whom initially welcomed him and his rapid fire, motor mouth PR and pledges to kill cockroaches, en route to not respecting due process.

Have we noticed that there are never ever any 'white alerts’? White as in Westmoorings and such places where there are big raids but no arrests? Colour has largely reflected and conditioned class in the Caribbean so these white i.e. ruling class areas are not to be ‘alerted'

No matter how many wagons one wants to circle, in this 'war on drugs', one does not alienate the law association, the media, civic society groups, university guilds, en route to protecting 'law abiding citizens', even as the body count rises with significant contributions from the police officers themselves; as hapless David West of the Police Complaints Authority looks on in frustration and impotence.

Whatever one thinks of the 1% owned media, however one perceives one's 'popularity rating', one does not go up against a front liner like Dominic Kallipersad armed with sarcasm and impatience. He carries a certain amount of 'gravitas' in the profession and he skilfully dismantles the unwary. It happened with Anand Ramlogan under the People's Partnership administration.

What next in the wake of the Buju Banton side show? And apologies followed by explanations re raid/search/enquiry at the Hilton? Or
WHITE COLLAR CRIME

The roll of dishonour of those convicted of “white collar” crimes is replete with names of some of those who frequently made the society pages of the newspapers...Charles Warner, attorney general for the thirty formative years of the post-emancipation society...was forced to resign as a result of his inability to deliver and account for inheritances entrusted to his care as the trustee and guardian of a minor...

...the names of other legal luminaries was added to the list – magistrates, justices of the peace, clerks of court, other lawyers. The list included the ex-chief of police, L. M. Fraser, who embezzled court funds while acting as a magistrate, and C. W. Baker, the inspector-commandant of police, who misused funds from the police canteen....

Many never came to trial – those who held senior positions either were transferred or promoted to other positions outside the colony, or they simply absconded, very often with the connivance of the authorities and  the assistance of their friends in high places. Many who came to trial were never convicted.

(Excerpt from the book CRIME IN TRINIDAD CONFLICT AND CONTROL IN A PLANTATION SOCIETY, 1838-1900 by David Vincent Trotman)

the 'intervention' at Radio Jagriti pursuant to a sedition enquiry? Sedition? Really? I suspect we shall see an increased number of operations in the coming weeks, some of which may just prove deadly. This will be to demonstrate that the business of policing is once again taking priority, regardless of what the media say or what results it produces.

This situation will continue to spiral downward. Successful policing is about building confidence in the population, putting them at ease rather than startling them with all these paramilitary posturings. What is this about advising communities to check with their M.P's before blocking roads and burning tyres? It is because they have been checking with their M.P's that they understand the need to take that type of action.

This Commissioner is a divisive personality and will become a figure that will foster political wrangling. He is clearly very close to the Minister of National Security who seems only too willing to follow his every lead.

At the end of the day, like others before him, he will be forced to see that crime is a response to social circumstance; that we cannot lock away or shoot a social problem, regardless of how many are killed in those shoot outs, where no police officer is wounded and just two handguns are found; that the frustration within the service/force will build much like it does for those soldiers involved in wars of intervention on behalf of the USA.

Within a few weeks we will 'graduate' some 10 000 from the secondary school system in a wilfully contracted economy (read the closure of Petrotrin, Steel mill, retrenchment at TSTT etc). .Just a month ago this writer did an interview for NALIS with a former director of a Youth Camp about the decision to close them.

It was very instructional to learn of how visionary that was and the kind of contributions the graduates made to our country's development. But that is another door closed, slammed shut by the incoming administration in 1995. So, many of the classes of 2019, competing with ex-Petrotrin workers may find themselves in Gary's law and order arms or shot by some 'off duty' police officer..

Even as one hears Valentino's dogs bark

HEARING WITHOUT LISTENING By Ken Howell

posted 26 Apr 2019, 06:31 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 26 Apr 2019, 06:44 ]

Image result for trinidad police in action
"Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you
But my words like silent raindrops fell..."

The evidence is clear. The population is under severe stress and as a result, our ability to hear or listen is compromised. A few examples will be sufficient in order to make the point. Following a police involved shooting in Laventille, and the uproar which erupted, the Commissioner of Police issued orders to the effect that the police officers must exercise the one shot one kill policy in situations where it is believed that their lives are threatened.

Then there was the commentary by the Member of Parliament for San Juan Barataria, Dr Fuad Khan on the plus size Carnival reveller. He said that he described the lady as a fat Tub, because he wanted to cause people to become more aware of obesity and to cause them to do something about it.

But it is also necessary to add to the mix, the protest action which occurred in the depressed community of Laventille over what they perceived was an execution of the young men which the police had carried out. I cite these examples to make the point that in all of these instances, what we heard was the Commissioner telling the police to kill them, Dr Khan call she a fat Tub, and those people in Laventille supporting crime. Because we did not and do not listen anymore.

Even if we don’t agree with what we are hearing it is still important to listen. By listening, we are able to arrive at a deeper understanding of the underlying issues which might have led to the individual or organisation forming the opinion or arriving at the conclusion which they have.

If politicians listen, they will learn much more than they have been able to. But they fail to listen because of the desire on their part to constantly tell us what they think we want to hear. The Commissioner of Police and Doctor Khan are politicians. They both believe that they have the solutions to the social problems facing the nation. That might be the case. But in order to determine the correctness of one’s position, it is always safer to test it on the constituency that is likely to be the focus of the particular enterprise.

This is achieved by holding discussions with the people in order to get their views on the particular programme. But what we have in this country is the tendency to hold consultations; instead of public conversations in which the views of the population are taken seriously by ensuring that the conversation begins at the village level, so that all the concerns of the population are taken into account. But from the premise from which the two gentlemen proceeded, clearly the Commissioner believed that since he had the right in law to issue orders, he is under no obligation to listen to any other voice but his own.

In the case of the goodly Doctor, since in his last incarnation as a Minister of Health he had initiated a campaign against non-communicable diseases, all he had to do was to unleash an attack on an unsuspecting plus size female reveller and the population would rally against obesity. That is precisely the attitude which those in authority display on a daily basis. That is the attitude of the ruling class, some of the trade union leaders and politicians on both side of the political divide.

For example, when they go into the depressed communities, what they hear is the cry of the residents concerning the fear of the prevalence of crime in their respective communities. But they do not listen for the voices which propose practical solutions to their respective problems. If they do, they will hear of the high incidence of poverty; of the single parents; of the children who are unable to go to school because their parents are unemployed; of the fact that unemployed families are trapped in a web of dependence on the Drug Lord, who controls the lives of the members of the community.

By listening, they would begin to understand why the youths who experience these conditions, in trying to find a way out of the state of
Image result for poverty in laventille poverty, are sucked into a life of crime because they form the view that they have been abandoned by society. As a result they see themselves in opposition to everything which the society represents. That is why they place no value on life; including their own life. By cultivating such a mentality and combining it with an involvement in the illegal drug trade, it culminates into a life of crime.

And because of the nature of the society, crime is seen as a business. It is characterised as the underground economy. And while the underground economy continues to destroy the lives of the youth, it acts as a brake on the development of any progressive or revolutionary ideas among the youths. That is why there is a lot of controversy concerning the provision of government contracts to Gang Leaders. So instead of providing lasting, viable solutions to the problems facing these communities; one shot one kill, is the only solution that the government can come up with.

Because we do not listen, we are unable understand that the old system of government cannot meet the needs of the citizenry. If we only listen we will begin to understand that although the electorate gives to the elected members of the Parliament a mandate to govern and to manage the society, it is always necessary to tap into the wisdom of the population to ensure that the action of government is providing the necessary solutions which the population is expecting to receive.

If the politicians would only listen, they would hear the level of dissatisfaction which the citizens are expressing, because of the inefficiencies which they have been experiencing when they visit public institutions. They would also hear the concerns of their supporters who believe that they are entitled to be rewarded for their vote, because, in their view, it was their votes which put the politicians into government.

They would hear their supporters saying: the government not doing anything for us. Therefore, because of their failure/refusal to listen to the cry of the population, they do not know that a hurricane of dissatisfaction is likely to engulf the country because of their failure to listen. Because of this defect in the DNA of pro capitalist politicians and the world view which we have been nurtured to accept that capitalism is true democracy, we continue to elect into office crooks and vagabonds. We have been thought to hear but not how to listen.

GOOD FRIDAY RUMINATIONS by Rae Samuel

posted 24 Apr 2019, 14:43 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 24 Apr 2019, 14:48 ]

I was thinking of the significance of Good Friday to Christians and to Donald Trump. First to the Christians, of whom I shall speak with more respect than Sat Maharaj, that eminent publicist and spokesperson, does of/to Tobagonians and school principals with high panty waists.

According to my research, Good Friday marks the day Jesus was crucified to “save us all from sin.” There was no Pratt and Morgan then to give him a 5 year reprieve or anti gang legislation to enable them to hold him/Him without bail. So, over his wife's supplications, Pontius Pilate signed on the dotted line for the crucifixion. Pilate's wife was the Leila Ramdeen of that era. She pleaded for the stay of execution, according to reports, but it was of no avail.

It's just that one finds it interesting to call the day one's CEO is crucified a Good Friday. Easter I can understand as a day of rejoicing, but the Friday, when according to the hymn, 'he hung and suffered there'. Check the hymn. ”There's a green hill far away/ without a city wall” in the Anglican hymn book. Yes I did go to church, was confirmed and attended mass at times, before I fell in with the wrong crowd. They know who they are.

But give the Christians their due. Their CEO has been dead for 2019 years; their logo is a corpse hanging on a cross in a loin cloth but they can still mobilise global funding to re-build the Notre Dame church in Paris. God knows how many churches, mosques and temples the French ruling class has destroyed in places like Libya, Cote D’Ivoire, Algeria, Mali and Haiti, then and now.

What does all this have to do with Donald who is now so 'Trump-hant' with the findings of the Mueller report? I am thinking that Donald must be most thankful that the report came out before Good Friday. Had it not, the liberal establishment who feels that Donald is an interloper, would probably have tried to tell us that Donald had something to with the crucifixion.

They would have, I am convinced, tried to hang the crucifixion on him. They would have said that Pontius Pilate was appointed to the Roman consulate in Palestine by Donald in a previous life. They are desperate, folks, really desperate. This failed attempt to "Russify" him has created a blow back that could win him a second term. Not that it matters. One /two/three terms of him or anyone else changes little

By the way, Oliver Stone has an interesting take on President Trump. He believes that George Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama cleared the way for Donald Trump. Stone says that George Bush committed war crimes and walked free. Clinton was morally defective and brazened his way out of impeachment in the face of clear, strong evidence. Obama did not punish anyone for 2008 financial scandals and pursued/initiated wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya.

Stone suggests that someone with Trump's ethics and values would be increasingly optimistic about winning the White House after viewing such behaviours.

But back to our local homey, Sat the Chat. Here is a religious leader in the twilight of his religio/political career still able to push the buttons of his twins on the other side. Sat makes some carefully timed, well worded ugly remarks, a la Vernella Toppin and ...voila...he is all over the media again.

Why are some behaving as if they are meeting or hearing Sat for the first time, I do not know. Sat is the late Morgan Job in a kurta. He knows he no longer commands votes on the basis of religious loyalty, but knows he can provoke ire and create mischief, which to his endless glee, he is doing.

I, sometimes, wonder whether Sat is not a closet PNM agent, assigned to provoke the sycophantic faithful to circle the wagons in the face of increasingly hard to defend government policies and actions. When in trouble appeal to hair texture and skin colour. Aah well, it is an old playbook, which we pretend to read for the first time every five years!

And what of the local “progressive” labour movement? It has really become more MSJ than JTUM. It is clear that the present leadership has thrown in the towel along with their napkins from the Hyatt and the Normandie where they were seduced and screwed.

May Day is around the corner and June 19th follows 7 weeks later. Maybe they could send out a Mayday signal to their membership? What would those events be like? Maybe MSJ will mobilise more members than they do.

A CRITIQUE OF NICOLAS MADURO’S OPEN LETTER TO THE PEOPLE OF THE USA By Matthew Quest

posted 23 Apr 2019, 12:49 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 23 Apr 2019, 13:24 ]

Nicholas Maduro’s
“Open Letter to the People of the United States” raises crucial
Image result for matthew quest
Dr. Matthew Quest is a scholar of CLR James. See his essay on the Haitian Revolution in The Black Jacobins Reader.
questions. We see the boiling pot bubbling in world affairs. We should ask: “what is in it?” We should wonder what socialism or anti-imperialism might mean in Maduro’s worldview as we are concerned and act against US intervention in Venezuela.


Maduro appeals to the “good soul” of the American people, as distinct from their leaders, as he speaks in defense of the self-determination of Venezuela. Why do our anti-imperialists not speak to the Venezuelan people distinct from Maduro’s government?

We should never rally around American empire under any terms, including in this instance in the Age of Trump. Still, part of teaching global solidarity to ordinary working people in the US is not misrepresenting historical development or political economy. Instead we should be illuminating it by the questions we ask.

We should be anti-imperialist, if not socialist also, as we relate to how these unleash the self-governing power of the unemployed, care givers, workers, and the post-colonial world. We do not live in a world after the empire of capital. But we live in a world where the political class in nations or communities of color looks like us, claims our heritage, claims authenticity, and on this basis asks for our loyalty regardless of the actual policies or world outlook that is maintained.

For those that insist the complexions of Chavez and Maduro go against the grain of racism in the national history of Venezuela, we should have a retort to that. In the last 50-60 years, US government officials with this color have facilitated police murder and mass incarceration of people who look similarly. Let’s pay attention to the program of politicos and not just their color, or the resentment that white racists feel toward rule of people of color above society. Let’s ask why we are not opposed to the “black” political class or mis-leadership class at home and abroad.

Anti-imperialist solidarity can have self-interest. If we support social revolutions abroad, one would think we should advocate and be for one at home. Is Maduro’s government in Venezuela a beacon of social revolution in the world? What can we learn from it?

We must be on guard against professional scholars and experienced political observers of Venezuela. Even those who are critical of empire can still be mistaken. For those who are not sufficiently informed to implement a people to people foreign policy, we should consider the arguments in support of Venezuela’s government as leading a certain type of social revolution, and ask is the criteria they use for making such an evaluation sufficient and credible?

1. Maduro’s Venezuela demands a stop to the US aggression which seeks to suffocate “our economy.” While we should agree with an end to any and all U
Image result for map of venezuela
S aggression or military interventions, what type of economy is the Maduro government in Venezuela presiding over? Does the Venezuelan economy include self-governing workers, property relations, and relations of wage labor and capital they do not control?

2. Maduro claims to be a “man of the people,” someone who grew up poor, who was a trade union leader. Is the US familiar in its history with statesmen who claim to represent social change but in fact do not? If someone grows up poor does this make them opposed to the state and capitalism, hierarchy and domination? Are trade union leaders always rebellious or democratic minded? Why does Maduro wrap himself in these thin identities if anyone with a grasp of radical history (if only by the experience of struggle) knows these mean little?

3. Whether the question of usurpation of power by Maduro in Venezuela is as false as the claim that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and this should not lead to the people of the US allowing for a false war, this argument has a peculiar logic. It accepts that there are good and legitimate wars and “peace” can be facilitated under international law. Why do so-called socialists and imperialists share the same terms of war and peace? Why is Maduro, the anti-imperialist and his advocates, arguing to the empire about his legitimacy?

4. Maduro questions why the forces of empire always move in the name of “democracy.” He is right to underscore that this is disgusting. Further, thinking democracy is minority rule through periodic elections is also ghastly. We need not be concerned with the terms of elections in Venezuela other than to say undoubtedly the US has colluded to undermine fair elections in many countries and assassinated and overthrown leaders they did not wish to hold power. Yet this should not write Maduro a blank check.

Is government by minority rule under some other circumstance desirable? What does Maduro’s Venezuela offer the people of the US, in his open letter, in terms of majority rule as the direct self-government of working people?

Some scholars of Venezuela have noted popular assemblies or councils of the caregivers of some kind distinguishing what is termed the Bolivarian Revolution. How come Maduro doesn’t offer this model to the world or the people of the US, if it is indeed central to the social revolution he supposedly is leading?

Incidentally, if “participation” has so broadly been expanded, why are the popular classes not conducting foreign policy with us independent of Maduro’s state? How come Venezuelan toilers are not self-managing in their workplaces?

5. Why does Maduro speak of a noble dialogue initiative led by Mexico, Uruguay, and CARICOM (the bureaucratic federation of Caribbean nations)? None of these nation-states and ruling classes is anti-imperialist or anti-capitalist. Do they even represent the national sovereignty of their countries? Not if Maduro is an advocate of ordinary people being central to government.

To be clear, a people’s republic or a workers’ state, even where such exist, are contradictions in terms. Why would the majority permit a minority to rule in the name of social revolution unless this was a historical mistake? Every country’s ordinary people should be asked the same democratic question. Do you govern? Are you preparing to govern? If not, why not?

6. Maduro makes references to human rights and development indexes that are not informed by any historical radical philosophy but one shared by both the imperialist and peripheral governments in the capitalist world system. What should this mean to the ordinary people of the US or any country?

Image result for chavezTo say that Maduro’s government pays attention to the most vulnerable sectors of society, when his predecessor came to power in 1999, is remarkable. That means for 20 years a “social revolution” is being conducted, a form of popular power, where the poor and powerless, the unemployed and marginal toilers still exist. This is despite the fact that in some substantial way the popular classes are said to hold the reins of power.

Is the whole point of social revolution to implement an enhanced welfare state under capitalist hierarchies and wage labor? Maduro’s Venezuela if it is really distinguished by popular assemblies and councils, not rubber stamps of his party, should have a public record of disagreeing with the state on some issues, while still maintaining principles guided by opposition to hierarchy and domination. There is a record of autonomous self-organized resistance, independent of US empire, but the Maduro groupies will not tell the world or wish to malign its credibility.

7. Maduro speaks accurately enough of US efforts to blockade the Venezuelan government’s sovereign effort to independently trade on the capitalist world market. He even says he wished to maintain the business relationships that Venezuela has long held with the US throughout its history and even since Chavez came to power. What kind of socialism and anti-imperialism for 20 years has friendly trade relations up to recent times with the emperor of the world?

Certainly, the Age of Trump did not begin the Age of US empire. How come our socialists and anti-imperialists have not explained this to the ordinary people of the US? If some believe “a long revolution” is happening in capitalist Russia and China now, is this how they see self-determination in Venezuela or in the US?

8. Maduro’s reference to John F. Kennedy as someone who said “let’s not negotiate out of fear, but let’s never fear to negotiate” and who desired to pull back from the brink of catastrophe is opportunist or stupid. He believes part of making an anti-imperialist appeal to the ordinary people of the US is to appeal to their ruling class’s best intentions, the phony image of our elites that they have manufactured for themselves.

Maduro’s reference is disgusting exactly because it was Kennedy who presided over the Bay of Pigs invasion before the Cuban MissileImage result for missile crisis cuba Crisis, which was resolved by disarming Cuba. Kennedy promoted an “Alliance for Progressthat actually used the premises of trade and human rights to destabilize Latin American regimes. 

Nelson Rockefeller, the close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, strived to implement similar imperial policies in Latin America before and after the Kennedy years. How intelligent an anti-imperialist could Maduro be in evaluating Kennedy, who was also responsible for the overthrow of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo and after using Moise Tshombe to steal the mineral wealth from Congo? 

If imperialism is a predatory system one does not negotiate out of it or delink from it. A peripheral nation-state might preserve its sovereignty for a little longer. Not fearing to negotiate with the empire, even while trying to preserve a strong stance, is real politique but also bourgeois politics. Is Maduro looking for permission to sustain his power or return to power like the U.S. gave Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti? 

9. Whatever Maduro’s mistaken notions, or the foolish arguments of certain of Maduro’s dissident friends in the US who see themselves as socialists and the State Department in exile, this is no way to rally ordinary people in the US to an anti-imperialist cause. 

It should be clear by this open letter and the concerns and critiques I am raising that the Maduro government in Venezuela is not a socialist government. The working classes of Venezuela do not directly govern, whatever dependent forms of participation exist under the 1999 Constitution and his political party. The Maduro government’s vision of economic planning, however much Venezuela has expressed solidarity with many nations by providing oil under market prices or in difficult circumstances, is not a challenge to the accumulation of capital. Trade relations as facilitated by many types of governments (the US, China, Cuba, Russia) pursue ultimately new opportunities for capital accumulation for the sphere of commerce they represent by at first offering token and diplomatic gestures.

Venezuela asks us to rally around its “self-determination” as presiding over an aspiring independent bloc of capital in the world. We should never forget that the primary bloc of capital that Maduro’s Venezuela manages is not the commodity oil. It is the hides of Venezuela working people.

It is working people that produce wealth under arduous conditions not nations. Critics of neoliberalism who tell us wealth is produced by nations wish to reorganize capitalism to be more humane. Next, they will reorganize bears to not have fur and drool dripping from their sharp teeth.

Image result for no to US aggression venezuelaThere is no question we should oppose any US intervention or aggression against other nations in the world, even where those nations have less democracy (or even socialism) than we would wish. Wherever authoritarian government is present (in Russia, China, Syria, Israel, or Iran – I didn’t forget the US like the “anti-imperialists” who wish to lobby this government on behalf of Venezuela in the name of international law), we should wish for each nation’s toilers to overthrow them and directly hold the reins of those societies.

It’s a simple premise but a profound ethic. Why do most anti-imperialists avoid this? Is it because they are not against the empire of capital but in fact work for a bloc of capital?

This stance, that mass democratic forces should overthrow authoritarian regimes can and must be separated from the machinations of imperialism. If we don’t think ordinary people can grasp this than our end goal is clearly a regime that they will never preside.

10. When we misrepresent socialism and anti-imperialism to ordinary people in the US or any nation, it is a foolish mistake and undermines the self-directed, and self-liberating actions necessary for a future socialist society.

Imperialists who are aggressive in the name of “democracy” damage the fight for genuine democracy. But this is to be expected. Socialism without democracy (direct majority rule) not welfare state planning under property relations is also a degradation.

We need to begin expecting that progressives and “Jacobins”, regardless of color or gender, who are on the side of permanent slaughter, will mislead us about the meaning of a socialist future.

This state planning functions like “progressive” fugitive slave laws. In the name of national development, it seeks return of rebel toilers who have run away from alienated workplaces and economic relationships. I have no doubt ordinary people in Venezuela, like in the United States, desire to run away from such exploitation.

We should oppose US imperialism in Venezuela while writing no blank checks to Maduro’s government. We should also reject any worldview that thinks direct self-governing workers are fairytales. This is a widely held disposition among all the competing blocs of capital, whether imperial or peripheral, in the world system. Even those folks who tell us they grew up poor and are “men of the people.”

WORKER SUSPENDED AFTER NOT BEING PAID FOR FOUR MONTHS

posted 17 Apr 2019, 19:25 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 17 Apr 2019, 19:30 ]

barrybidaiseetrinidadhotels
Does Barry Bidaisee, bossman of Banquet and Conference Centre believe that workers should work for free?
Ronald Phillip is an employee of the Banquet and Conference Centre Ltd. This company is situated at the Cascadia Hotel in St. Ann’s, although its registered address is 22 Riguelt Street, Belmont, which is the home address of Barry Bidaisee, who is one of the three directors of the company. The other directors are Sheldon Bidaisee and Paul Gajar. Barry Bidaisee is the General Manager of Cascadia Hotel and Conference Centre Ltd.

For the period January 2018 to March 2019 Ronald Phillip has only been paid on time on three occasions. He has not been paid on time on any occasion since July 2018. During July 2018 he was paid his salary in tranches and both of those payments were late.

The last salary he received was in January 2019 and this was for the month of November 2018. He has not been paid for December 2018, January 2019, February 2019 or March 2019.

Ronald attempted to give Managing Director Barry Bidaisee a letter on 17th January 2019 complaining about his non-payment of salary and indicating that this was presenting him with some practical problems in getting to work. Bidaisee refused to accept the letter.

On March 7th 2019, Ravi Ganesh, Food and Beverage Manager wrote to Ronald stating, among other things, that he “has been absent from work at critical times.'' He did not explain why it was critical for Ronald to be at work during the “critical times”, but it was not critical to pay him so that he could come to work.

The letter also invited him to give reasons why disciplinary action should not be taken against him for “gross misconduct”. Gross misconduct is an action that goes to the root of the contract, meaning it is an offence for which his contract of employment can be terminated. This from an employer who has failed to pay a worker his salary for the last four months! It is the Company that is in breach of contract; not Ronald!

The employer gives the worker “the opportunity to state why disciplinary action should not be taken against…” him. This is back to front industrial relations and exposes the incompetence of the employers’ representatives in industrial relations matters.

Inviting Mr. Phillip to say why no disciplinary action should be taken against him implies that a decision has already been taken that disciplinary action is warranted and the invitation given to Mr. Phillips is to present arguments for mitigation. Yet there has been no disciplinary hearing.

On March 25th 2019, Ganesh wrote another letter to Ronald, complaining that he had not responded to the letter of March 7th and accusing him of tardiness/absenteeism which are actually not the same thing. The letter also accused him of gross neglect of his duties and once again invited him to state why disciplinary action should not be taken against him.

These employers do not seem to accept that slavery ended in 1838 and in 2019 workers do not do voluntary work for employers. Once the employer fails to pay a worker his salary he has ceased paying for his labour power and the worker, therefore, has no labour power to exchange.

On March 27th 2019 a letter of suspension was issued to Ronald. It does not indicate whether it is an investigatory suspension or a disciplinary suspension. If it is an investigatory suspension what is being investigated needs to be stated. If it is a disciplinary suspension the presumption would be that it is without pay, which is no different from the current position that Mr. Phillip has been in for the last 4 months. The matter which is being handled by the National Workers Union is at the Ministry of Labour.

Those who believe it is an exaggeration to claim that the employers want to take us back to the days of slavery should ponder on the grievous exploitation that Ronald has been subjected to and think again. It is clear why working people, like Black Stalin, have to say Bun Dem!

WOMEN AND THE LABOUR MOVEMENT by Cecil Paul & Gerry Kangalee

posted 3 Apr 2019, 15:31 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 4 Apr 2019, 15:26 ]

Using the power of their cash and position 
Waiting to abuse and exploit any woman
Singing Sandra

The Sunday Guardian published an article on March 31st titled United But Unequal written by someone who styles herself/himself Industrial Relations (go figure!). 

This article which deals with the major issue of women’s lack of equality glosses over the oppression and exploitation of females in all areas of society in all countries; but targets the Trade Union movement, as if the issue of women’s rights and gender discrimination has been largely resolved except when it comes to the trade union movement.

What the writer tried to do was to separate the question of women’s liberation from the question of class oppression. The writer states “…it is no shock to anyone seeing women in senior roles in politics, government, the judiciary and business.” That is the nub of the question. All those sectors mentioned are not the turf upon which working c
lass women operate. In the Caribbean, class, gender, race, complexion and ethnicity have always been intertwined. 

The writer goes on to say “the trade union movement seems to be operating almost as if still in its infancy…when most women had either domestic roles or were excluded from positions of power when in employment (and for a long time, without the right to vote).”

What the writer implies is that most women, today, no longer have domestic roles and are not excluded from positions of power when in employment. The fact is that in addition to selling their labour power for a wage, women in employment are, generally, still saddled with “domestic roles” where they engage in the unwaged labour that subsidises the capitalists and without which their profits would be down

“Positions of power when in employment” this anonymous cowardly writer says! Positions of power? Hundreds of thousands of working
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Anonymous writer promoting the interests of the one percent
class women are at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to employment, particularly in the service industries, where there are no unions, where minimum wage and below is the norm; where workers are routinely sexually harassed by the one percent owners.

In an article called The Productivity Scam, Gerry Kangalee states “the vast majority of the labour force operates in a master-servant relationship with their employers. Yet these workers are expected to display a high work ethic, to bow
, scrape, grin and say: yes Massa, we will not take sick leave; we will work overtime and public holidays at straight time; you can feel me up anytime you want, after all you are the boss; we don’t mind having to hustle transport after leaving your fast food job after ten in the night, we does pray and the Lord will protect us against bandits and raper men.”

What the anonymous writer who calls herself/himself Industrial Relations does not say is that men also were for a long time excluded from the right to vote. When that exclusion, for men, came to an end in 1925 (the first general elections in this then English colony), there were specific qualifications that candidates and voters had to meet.

Women, of course, were excluded from standing as candidates and from voting. Candidates had to be property owners with property of a value of $12,000 (remember that was 1925) or income of $2,000. Voters were also subject to property and income qualifications. This ruled out more than 90% of the population. Interestingly, universal adult franchise was only introduced after the great anti-colonial uprising of 1937, led by the maturing labour movement. 

The great Elma Francois
Since the founding of the movement in the early 1900’s women such as Elma Francois, who was charged for sedition by the colonial authorities and Christina King, both leaders of the Negro Welfare Association, played leading roles and were in the forefront of workers struggles for equality of all genders and for peace, justice, economic improvement and against British colonialism.

These were women leaders of working people forming Trade Unions and leading workers struggles. Their contributions together with other women leaders were well documented by Dr. Rhoda Reddock the well known academic and Bukka Rennie a renowned historian of our country and by other historians. 

So that the myth that women are subservient in Trade Unions exposes a gross ignorance of the leading roles of women in the struggle for Peace, Bread and Justice for working people. Women were the foundation of the Butlerite movement. The women of the oilfields were in the forefront leading and beating back the military and police in their attempt to put down the 1937 uprising in colonial Trinidad and many of them were not even employed by the oil companies.

The labour movement in those days was not restricted to employees who sold their labour power for a wage, but also included those unwaged women whose contribution to the struggle was part and parcel of the development of the trade union movement.

In the early days women were very sparse in the workplace which was dominated by manual labour and were consigned to domestic duties. and were not formally part of trade unions until the OWTU formed women auxiliary organizations linked to Trade Unions. The writer clearly betrays a gross lack of knowledge of the workers struggle in Trinidad and Tobago and is an insult to the workers movement and the history of the role of women in the advancement of the economic conditions of the working classes in Trinbago.

A little research by the writer of the article would reveal the leading role of women in Trade Unions; women like Daisy Crick, Thelma Williams, Elvira Roberts, Carolyn Sampson, Monica de Matas and many other leaders of the OWTU over the years. In the 1970’s and 1980’s many of the leading branch officers of the manufacturing sector in the East West corridor were led by women at Lever Bros., Metal Box, T&T Printing and Packaging. Caribbean Packaging Industries, Nestles Trinidad, Holiday Foods and several industries represented 
by other Unions. 

During the late 1970’s the OWTU Northern Area launched a struggle named “Equal Pay for Equal Work” led by mostly women in the manufacturing sector. This struggle resulted from the discriminatory practice of employees’ job titles being named “male clerk and female clerk,
 male quality control checker and female control checker” with female workers receiving some 15% less than their male counterparts. This was a practice instituted by employers which exploited and discriminated against female workers.

After an intense struggle the employers were forced to equalize the pay and conditions for all workers. The Trade Unions forced employers to grant maternity pay to female workers before the introduction of the NIS. This is in addition to many other benefits applicable to female workers today.

The trade union movement, like other institutions in the society, suffers from a culture of discrimination and prejudice, which is often
reflected in the lack of female bureaucratic leadership in the unions. This is not restricted to trade unions, but plagues all institutions in the country: ask AMCHAM and the Powerful Ladies of T&T. What distinguishes the labour movement is that it has a history of struggling to improve the conditions of working class women, the vast majority of women in the society.

Employers had to be pressured through militant struggle to end discriminatory practices against female workers while the Trade Unions waged constant battles and won equal pay and equal benefits for women workers after long and fearless battles led by heroic women of the Labour Movement. Today that battle is still being waged in all areas of our society.

If Ms. /Mr. Industrial Relations is so concerned about the status of women, she/he would realise that the trade union movement represents a small and shrinking minority of working people and would call for the repeal of laws which make it difficult for all workers, including women, to organise themselves into a recognised majority union.

Image result for trinidad women at work and at home
VOICE OF THE ONE PERCENT
She/he would also join the chorus, led by the National Union of Domestic Employees, founded by the indefatigable Clotil Walcott, which for years has been calling on the government to enact legislation to ratify ILO convention 189, which would remove the legal ban on domesti
of the one percent.c workers being considered as workers under the law. This largely female sector cannot access the normal remedies those considered workers under the law have access to.

But, why bother! The writer expresses the view of the economic elites who are on a roll with their attacks on the trade union movement, the source of all evil. The Guardian newspaper seems well pleased with this anonymously skulking columnist – after all it is the voice 

CABRERA: TRADE UNIONS AND THE FUTURE OF WORK

posted 27 Mar 2019, 06:52 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 27 Mar 2019, 07:23 ]

Vincent Cabrera, President of the Banking Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU) deliverd the following 
address on the occasion of the presentation of certificates to participants of BIGWU's education programme at Kapok Hotel 23rd March 2019.

Comrade Chair and Deputy General Secretary, members of the Central Executive, invited guests and participants in BIGWU’s Education Programme, let me add my words of welcome. Today we will award Certificates of Participation for comrades who have participated in our education programme for 2017 and 2018; a programme which has been a regular part of our annual list of events since the inception of this trade union.

I have been asked to address you without any specifications as to what I should speak about. Since I have been given this wide berth, I have chosen to focus on the future of the trade union movement but will also mention some matters which I think warrants some measure of treatment.

Firstly, let me congratulate the Union for continuing with the example set by the Union’s founders who from day one had always placed an emphasis on building the consciousness of our members. Allow me to congratulate Cde. Alva Allen our Education and Research Officer who has excelled at leading the education effort in BIGWU. But most of all I want to extend my personal congratulations to you the forty participants who have been awarded well deserved Certificates of Participation in relation to the 2017 and 2018 programme.

Comrade Chairman, comrades all, many organisations worldwide have been engaged in discussions concerning the future of work. UNI our Global Trade Union Centre and the International Labour Organisation are among those which readily come to mind. In fact the ILO recently held a forum, here in Trinidad titled “The Future of Work We Want”. Nevertheless whether we speak to the future of work or to the future of work we want, my criticism of the discussions held so far, is that they seem to have omitted a discussion on the future of the trade union movement itself.

Work existed before trade unions. In fact work and the employment relationship existed for a very long time in one form or another before workers began responding by forming themselves into worker’s organisations. In Trinidad, and throughout the Caribbean, colonialism organised the brutal genocide of the indigenous people, and transported people from many destinations but most importantly from Africa and India, to participate in the plantation system. In those days, slaves, indentured labourers and a sprinkling of free men performed work in the colonies, for the exclusive benefit of European contries and the European bourgeoisie.

Emancipation and the end of Indian Indentureship provided the major building blocks for the Caribbean working class. Alfred Richards, Elma Francois, Arthur Cipriani, Uriah Butler and Cola Rienzi provided the leadership for the early working class organisations and I encourage our participants to research the contribution of these comrades in a deep and fundamental way. Too often workers in the contemporary period possess only a superficial understanding of this important period in the development of the trade union movement.

I challenge you also to research the contributions made by George Weekes, Joseph Young, Nathaniel Chrichlow and of course Basdeo Panday in the development of the trade unions which many workers take for granted today.

Comrades, the future of work lies in the present. Any analysis of the future of work will inevitably have to take into consideration, the
BIGWU General Secretary, Trevor Johnson presents a token to Industrial Court Judge Gregory Rousseau
future of neo-liberalism, climate change, robotics, artificial intelligence and the rise of right wing ideology. There are those who question whether trade unions will survive. And if we survive, in what forms will the functions and operations of trade unions change to suit the times.

There is evidence that since the 1980’s trade unions have been on a decline. Yes, trade unions are under siege; the future is uncertain and it is uncertain whether trade unions have a future. Do we still hold the capacity to shape our future? It is evident that the effects of neo-liberalism is the real cause for much of the decline that trade unions have experienced. I wish to state categorically that trade unions are not to blame for the decline of trade unionism but if we do no respond locally, regionally and internationally to this state of affairs, history will blame us for our demise. Let me be clear. No one will save trade unions from eventual obliteration. It is only the trade unions themselves that can save the trade unions and ensure their survival.

In our local distribution, unions have experienced a dwindling of their membership primarily because of retrenchments occasioned by both restructuring and company closure. TIWU lost over a thousand members when the vehicle assembly plants were closed. The SWWTU lost thousands of members when the Port was restructured. ATGWTU lost nine thousand members when Caroni (1979) was closed. SWUTT lost nearly their entire membership when Arcelor-Mittal closed the plant and departed our shores without paying any severance pay whatsoever to the retrenched workers. CWU lost all of its members who were employed with TIDCO when the enterprise was closed down in defiance of established labour legislation. Most recently OWTU suffered the loss of almost half its membership when over five thousand workers were retrenched with the closure of Petrotrin.

The CWU again suffered a loss of a major chunk of its membership when TSTT began to outsource work to AMPLIA. Unions have not been able to replace their lost membership. While some trade unions have been able to recruit new members in new establishments, the level of recruitment has been far outstripped by the numbers lost through round after round of retrenchment.

A disturbing feature of the present industrial relations landscape is the practice of employers with deep pockets placing legal challenges in the path of trade unions. Judgments of the Industrial Court and decisions of the Registration, Recognition and Certification Board have been increasingly subjected to High Court reversals in the interest of employers.

In addition, Certificates of Recognition issued br the RRCB are being challenged at High Court level. The main example is the decision of the High Court to quash the Certificate of Recognition issued to BIGWU in relation to the Royal Bank of Canada. This notoriously anti-union employer successfully argued that the union had not followed the requirements of the law in seeking recognition status.

The fact that the Union had been granted more than 60 certificates prior to the RBC certificate based on the same method of organisation and the same accounting procedures was completely ignored by the High Court. The fact that even after the RBC matter BIGWU has continued to be certified on this exact procedure may also be similarly lost on the High Court whose composition is unlike that of the Industrial Court where there exists competent industrial relations expertise.

Kochan says that we cannot look into the future without calculating the trajectory of the past and the present. In this connection, we must take note that collectivism as a societal value has been watered down by increasingly dominant free market oriented values. Trade unions have become defenders of particular vested interests with many no longer maintaining any essential links with the broader community. Few parliaments are willing to uphold progressive labour legislation. In numerous jurisdictions many items of labour legislation do not meet the requirements of international labour standards.

Globalisation and neo-liberalism have seriously compromised the stability of national industrial relations systems founded on the tripartite principle. Hyman says that in part this involves the intensification of cross-national competition. The internationalization of production chains within multi-national companies detached from the regulatory framework of national industrial relations systems are increasingly assertive in redefining industrial relations. The visible hand of the multi-national companies interacts with the increasingly coercive and invisible hand of finance-capital and currency markets.

The internal challenges to trade unionism stem from transformation in the union’s own constituencies; the changing world of work and, as part of this, the erosion of the employment relationship of the past. The world of work now manifestly has two genders, is occupationally and ethnically diverse, and involves highly differentiated patterns of activity. Class boundaries have become more diffused and there seems less willingness than in the past to submerge particular interests within a more broadly defined class identity.

With the increase in atypical forms of work and with the normalization of some forms of atypical work, trade unions must become more concerned about a strategy for survival rather than a constant emphasis on immediate economic relations with employers.

Trade unions must extend their boundaries of operation. Unions need to sharpen their operations as a sword of justice defending the weak and disadvantaged. There will be an ideological onslaught presenting unions as being partly responsible for economic adversity.

Unions must aim to operate in the future with an increase in membership, power and influence. However, many of us will have to learn to wield power and influence without the traditional large membership base to which we have become accustomed and in some cases a bit too comfortable. It is imperative that trade unions adopt the Organising Model. This organising model cannot be a rehash of the traditional model but one which has new features to serve the interests of the working class which operates in a very new environment and in a very new context.

Trade unions need to strategically plan to decide exactly who they will be representing. We will need to determine exactly what issues around which organising campaigns will be focused and most importantly how we will ensure survival in the first instance and how we will grow in numbers and strength in the 21st Century.

Neo-liberalism, globalization, weak labour legislation, restructuring and retrenchment, the atypification of the workforce and the loss of traditional trade union values are factors which have contributed and will continue to contribute to the decline of trade unions. It is how we manage the impact of these issues on the trade unions that really matters.

The future of work we want cannot be assured if the trade union movement itself does not take steps to fully understand and respond
BIGWU Education and Research Officer, Alva Allen
to the dilemma in which trade union are presently situated. The future of work we want will continue to fall short of the standard established by the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda and Programme unless the trade union movement itself addresses the future of the trade union movement.

Unions must take immediate steps to promote the broadening of the coverage of trade unions within the society. Our Agenda can no longer be limited to adjusting the workers’ status as an employee, but must include: addressing other facets of personal and social existence, the environment, the sphere of consumption, the institutions and facilities of the local community. The trade unions of the 21st Century inevitably would have to be an identifiable part of a broader social movement and therefore the trade unions will have to begin to operate in new ways.

I have seen many reports where corporate bodies and legislators characterize trade unions and industrial relations as political problems. Of course I do not agree that we are a problem because we are part of the solution but it is ironic that so many workers still believe that political activity must be conducted only by political parties. Let me make this pellucidly clear. Trade unions have no choice but to take up popular political issues otherwise they would lose all relevance and be consigned to the garbage bin of history. We cannot continue to leave political issues for treatment only by the traditional political parties and the Chambers of Commerce. Appropriate political interventions can win the trade unions new friends and allies and remember that we have no permanent friends; remember that we have no permanent enemies; but we do have permanent class interests and we must defend those interests because no one else would.

Comrades, the discussion as to how we ensure our survival have only just begun. Of one thing we are certain. If we are to ensure our future our members have to be much more than merely a dues paying member. The payment of dues is where an individual begins in the trade union. Sadly it is where so many of us remain for our entire lives as trade union members.

Our education programme is one attempt to ensure that our members realise that paying dues is just the beginning; it cannot be the end! Comrades we have no need for members who are not conscious of themselves as members of the working class; we have no need for members who have no concern beyond the next wage or salary increase. For us to survive, we have to make a qualitative jump. We have to engage in a rethinking our strategy; we have to adopt a progressive world view otherwise attorneys will end up as trade union representatives because trade unionism will be reduced merely to industrial relations representation. To ensure our survival we have to move beyond our comfort zone where we confront a problem with a picket or a demonstration and then go home to watch TV.

And so the review of our Strategic Plan must be looked upon as a strategy for survival. BIGWU must not assume that simply because we operate in the service sector that we are immune from mass retrenchment. Look at what has taken place at CLICO and Clico Investment Bank. Here today and gone tomorrow. There are computer applications which are being used to grant loans and other forms of credit to applicants. There are computer applications that allow an individual to apply for a mortgage or to seek insurance without interfacing with a live body. Please remember that there is no institutional policy which regulates the introduction of new cutting edge technology. The world of finance-capital is full of examples of mergers, hostile takeovers and the like. Labour is shed without the shedding of any tears.

As I conclude I wish to make one final point. We cannot hope to competently defend the interests of working people if we fail to read; if we fail to gather the relevant knowledge. We need to examine the extent to which BIGWU possesses or has access to specialist expertise in research, education, information gathering and the means to disseminate knowledge throughout the organisation. Knowledge must be seen as an essential component of union power.

Comrades, this trade union must devise a methodology whereby dues paying members can be transformed into full-fledged, conscious, progressive and disciplined trade union activists. What is needed in a phrase is large and adequate investments in our future! If we fail in this task, organised labour will become an anachronism as dated as the dungeon-like workplaces of the Industrial Revolution in whose crucible the working class was moulded.

Finally I again congratulate all recipients of certificates. Let this be only the beginning of your journey into the future, a future which will and must contribute to the survival of the trade union movement. I thank you all.

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