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

EVERY COOK CAN GOVERN By Rae Samuel

posted 21 May 2017, 18:24 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 21 May 2017, 18:25 ]

Recently, a representative of the intellectual class was on a talk show discussing elements of the acute crisis which is gripping us on all fronts here in Trinidad and Tobago. He was suggesting that a major factor that has contributed to and will continue so to do is the belief/ideology of the ruling class and their elected/appointed representatives that government/governance is the business of the political parties.

That 'ordinary, everyday' people are merely to be gestured to or given handouts. Thinking, organising, mediating in the process of government is seen as interference, subversion and sedition.

Those who challenge existing thought, methodologies, perceptions, are threats to the social order. Take your pick from Butler then to now: 'dangerous negro, communist, radical, subversive element, threat to public order, rabble-rouser, fundamentalist!'.

So the established and entrenched governors seek to defame, marginalise, ostracise and when necessary imprison those who think out of the box, or 'go left', seeking to spread disaffection among His/Her Majesty’s subjects who are really content to be slaves or an underclass

CLR James
Listening to this, I thought how late in the evening this is coming. C.L.R James popularised the phrase and sought to develop political consciousness on the basis of "Every cook can govern.'' Very few of this generation are aware that Eric Williams moved to restrict James's movements and activities in the mid-sixties after James had sought to make P.N.M an open organisation. See (Party Politics in the West Indies/Modern Politics). James would state that people are not 'hogs to be fattened'' who, in turn, would show gratitude by applauding with votes.

One of the mantras of George Weekes, as leader of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union, was that 'workers have brains they ent touch yet'. Anyone who was a member of the union in that era, has/had worked with/in the OWTU would know what made it the people’s organisation that it was then.

Ordinary, everyday workers who were elected officers had direct knowledge of the leading thinkers of the world through education programmes and conferences. C.L.R James, Tariq Ali, Walter Rodney, John La Rose, Abdul Alkalimat, Mohammed Babu, Maurice Bishop, Cheddi Jagan, George Beckford, Tim Hector, representatives of the African National Congress, George Moonsammy, Lennox Pierre – these were some of the people with whom officers of the union interacted.

What has prompted this late admission/concession? There is no one at the helm of the ship of state. In fact, the captain is off on vacation again, as people rot in jail and have their houses torn down. Water or no water, he is off to secure and celebrate personal family success.

The divisions within the ruling strata are no longer concealed or concealable. I think the commentator is trying to tell the political class that the only way to retrieve the status quo is to engage the people who are burning tyres and blocking roads.

It may be too late for that however. Like the judiciary, the political structures are fractured. These activities are simply the ordinary people beginning to break free; to find a way 'every cook can govern’ in the cooks' interest.

FINAL NAIL IN JUDICIARY’S COFFIN? By Eugene Reynald

posted 19 May 2017, 19:05 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 19 May 2017, 19:06 ]

Whenever Attorneys enter a public discussion I am reminded that the most expensive and monumental buildings in any society are those constructed to facilitate and encourage “quarrelling” and grandstanding by Attorneys in their display of ego and self importance which is supposed to translate into Justice for citizens – and I include parliamentary buildings among these.

Image result for hall of justice trinidadIn my opinion their “quarrelling” and grandstanding should be confined to those places and not be conducted in public places where citizens are looking for practical and urgent relief from their daily challenges.

The quarrelling going on over the Marcia Ayres Caesar and Chief Justice matter involves largely Attorneys – and it is all carried out from a Legal perspective – with no concern as to how and whether their quarrelling will ensure justice will be delivered to the public on time and at a cost they can afford. At the root of all they are saying will be found a mix of sentiments including race and life style preferences – all “fig leafed” and obfuscated by meaningless rationalisations.

The many problems with our Legal and Judicial Institutions (JLI) and every other institution in the country cannot be solved by the same persons who created the problems – which is what we are hoping and expecting will take place.

Attorneys occupy all top and even middle level positions in the JLI and indeed most of our Institutions and the hierarchical structure of the profession requires them to first protect and serve the interest of the profession (even while appearing to do otherwise) – and to take the lead in doing so from the select group who adorn themselves in local stuff they call silk and who – in further emulation of our colonial masters, ape the affected speaking style of the British better than the British themselves (even while using green verbs) – all while claiming support for a CCJ as independence from the same colonials they ape.

The CJ and others made a blunder - as is the norm for every public official, every hour, in every public institution (just look at the attempt to roll out the Property Tax). The CJ’s attempt was admittedly done reluctantly and belatedly but it was a rare occurrence among public officials (including those in Cabinet) to see the CJ and others eventually admit to their bungling…and even try to mitigate the impact of it on citizens. If most Lawyers were to be imprisoned for their mistakes and/or bad advice they would all be deservedly in prison.

The CJ has done this while those neo-colonials in imitation home spun silk have argued for him to resign or - for all kinds of reasons over which the “home spun silks” cannot themselves agree, to not take the corrective action he decided to take.

The latter is one of ensuring that Marcia Ayers Caesar return to her position in the magistracy where she is made to focus on completing all her outstanding Matters. Hopefully that should clear the way for her to be elevated to the High Court – if the local silks do not introduce another issue to “fig leaf” their hidden agenda. Any rule or practice preventing the aforementioned from being effected is for the obedience of fools.

Having said that I think the CJ has been allowed more than his share of permissible blunders and continues to exhibit worsening symptoms of excessive hubris…and “unresponsibility” relative to what is taking place within the sphere of influence covered by his office.

If he does not deal with these flaws in his character and engage the public in aggressively effecting change in the disaster area of Legal and Judicial affairs, the cabal in opposition to him will – even though they personally and collectively lack the moral authority to do so, have good reason to call for his removal - and that will put the final nail in the coffin of the Legal and Judicial arm of the State.

He is the last bastion of hope because the Law Association and its succession of Presidents have failed in their constitutional privilege which requires them to, inter alia, protect citizens from the greed and corrupt practices of their members…..and their members are all Attorneys at Law.

ALL AH WE...? by Gerry Kangalee

posted 18 May 2017, 11:26 by Gerry Kangalee

Underlying all the divisions of ethnicity, region, gender, complexion, race, in T&T, the growing class divide is fundamental. The more the crisis of capitalism deepens and the IMF-inspired, Rowley-inflicted austerity programme damages working people and the poor, the clearer it becomes that all ah we is not one!

Those who hold economic and political power see T&T through different spectacles to the poor and the working people. It is as if we are living in two different countries and I don’t mean Tobago and Trinidad.

That this is not peculiar to T&T, but is the basis upon which capitalist exploitation is based, can be gleaned from a statement made by Benjamin Disraeli about England, (of which he was to become Prime Minister) in a novel Sybil or the Two Nations, published in 1845.

He stated: “Two nations; between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other's habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets; who are formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws…the rich and the poor.”

Let’s look at the “debate” that took place in and out of Parliament recently about the proposed salary of the Procurement Regulator. The salary is too low, thundered former President of All Trinidad, Rudy Indarsingh. Base salary of $50,000 plus perks of $35,000 is not enough when compared to the salaries of those who run NGC, Petrotrin etc., continued the former Minister in the Ministries of Labour and Finance.

Indarsingh said that the regulator must be “fiercely independent” and not be subject to political bullying. Eh? So does this mean that the higher a salary the State pays a public official, the more independent and free from political bullying that person would be? Dat making sense? It seems that independence is inversely proportional to one’s income.

One commentator insisted that “integrity and probity” are the characteristics that one must look for in a Procurement Regulator. Yet he also insists that the salary is not enough, as if to suggest that like the law, “integrity and probity” stoops to the highest bidder.

Senator David Small claimed that the proposed salary “may not allow us to get the type of candidate we are looking for who can bring a fresh perspective.” Again, it seems that whether a perspective is fresh or stale depends on the income of the one with the perspective. The higher the salary, the fresher the perspective!

While these leading members of the chattering classes argue about astronomical salaries for their compères, MTS workers have not had a wage increase since 2011. Although MTS management and the Transport and Industrial Workers Union have agreed to a new collective agreement, and, thus, a new wage structure, the Chief Personnel Officer is said to be the one to sign off on it and he refuses to do so.

The workers have to resort to marches and demonstrations to get the attention of the government. The Procurement Regulator, on the other hand, will waltz into a job, with or without a fresh perspective, which pays in one month more than the vast majority of MTS workers will earn in a year without having to lift a placard in the hot sun. Talk about class bias!

Image result for judiciaryThe latest jhanjat in the judiciary is another glaring example of different narratives as seen through the eyes of the privileged and the exploited. Lawyers and columnists are having a field day. Everyone is holding his head and bawling that the Ayres-Caesar/JLSC affair undermines confidence in the judiciary, which is the last bastion of defense of the rights of the people blah, blah, blah! Are these people for real?

The vast majority of working people and the poor do not have and never had “confidence in the judiciary” We know that the judiciary is integral to the structure of repression. We know it is not necessarily the criminal who ends up in prison or the innocent who “win their case”. We are quite aware that the surest route to acquittal is to be able to pay the best and most expensive lawyers. How many of us can afford silk?

In the eyes of working people and the poor, the judicial system is a monstrous, alien power which utilises strange, incomprehensible rituals to browbeat and intimidate the ignorant, the financially challenged and those who lack “contact”.

The judiciary has very little to do with justice. As Luta said, “The system works for the rich. It doesn’t work for the poor”. Equality before the law is a myth. The law does not protect the citizen from infringement on his rights etc.

Along with the police and the prisons the judiciary carries out the essential function of the state which is to guarantee the dominance of ruling groups by having the capacity to apply severe sanction to those who cross the line. Of course, you can cross the line and suffer no consequences, if you plunder the public purse, but woe be unto you if you cross the line by stealing twenty dollars worth of groceries or by using “obscene language” or smoking a little ganja. Confidence in the judiciary...when prisoners are on remand for eight, nine, ten years? Gimme a break!

WE HAVE TO BRING IT By Rae Samuel

posted 16 May 2017, 19:11 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 16 May 2017, 19:17 ]

Maybe if events were not unfolding as rapidly, without adequate response from the leadership of organised labour, I would have gone ahead and suggested that Shame-less could have called Comrade. Remy first and saved herself some embarrassment. I am sure talking to the CWU at home does not cost $50 000. Who’s 'in charge' of her phone anyway?

But when Mariano, interim leader of the National Right Wing political movement, goes on the television and smilingly agrees that, maybe, we should follow the “benign dictatorship model of Singapore'' Shamfa could wait.

Yes folks: that was Mariano on a morning show earlier this week. I do not know if it was intended as 'gallows humour' but this former CLICO hotshot virtually has a radio show on a Party station where his line is the same. "Take on/down the unions; privatise water, lights and transport; lower subsidies''. He must be speaking for some body.

Across the media pond, yet another lawyer was speaking about the imbroglio re: the appointment of Marcia Ayres Caesar to the bench. Folks, there is no way this lady who has publicly confessed to misdemeanour in office can be re-appointed. This is not Bourse Report where an insider trader who once held and has lost public office, picks up where he left off with his morning show.

Beyond Madame Justice, what about the VICTIMS of this 'pas de deux' who remain in legal limbo, either in jail or on bail? What happens TO THEM while this legal body organises petitions, this legal luminary proffers that the lady may have in fact acted under duress or we are told what a fine legal mind Archie has, silk or no silk.

Is 'rioting' the only way that they are going to be heard? Maybe Impsbert hit the nail on the head. What would YOU have done if it had been you? Wait for the Prime Minister to perfect his golf swing?

Worse yet, the leaders of the establishment of the labour movement appear to be unwilling or unable to deal with all these issues. Some claim to be heirs/owners of the Butler legacy while other claim to be carrying on in his spirit. My reading and understanding of those traditions tell me that Butler would have known that the issues of unemployment, poor housing, starvation wages, inequality before the law, landlessness, waterlessness all spring from a common source. That he would have mobilised and organised on community into nationwide basis.

Comrades Weekes, Joe Young, Raffique Shah, Boodram Jattan were not going to sit around discussing 'tri-partism' or 'new labour federations.' They knew and understood that the strongest federations were those on the march in the streets in an organised fashion.

Some might want to suggest that come June 19th 'we shall see' (A tradition started by Errol McLeod). Look comrades, let us be brutally honest. A mighty press conference will be called claiming labour unity and threats to the PNM administration will be hurled. Dillon will mobilise the military and para-military to ensure 'a safe labour day and deal with all possible threats.'

None of this now or then will deal with the issues facing the Guave Road farmers, the sinking sea bridge, the 'squatters' in Sangre Grande, the 'waterless' in communities across the land and the farmers under threat from Taurus Ltd and the Agricultural Development Bank.

Comrades: the change is not 'gonna come'. We have to bring it!

IDEOLOGY AS AN AGENCY OF CULTURE by Rafiki Morris

posted 12 May 2017, 02:36 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 12 May 2017, 03:16 ]

Rafiki Morris
It is often put forward that in our effort to move forward we must choose between this and that: Malcolm vs. Martin; Garvey vs. Dubois, Sobukwe vs. Mandela; Black Power vs. Civil Rights; integration vs. separation, etc.

The presentation of these dichotomies supposes that one is right and the other is wrong. That one course leads to freedom and the other to our continued domination and subservience. The idea that our struggle follows a single path, will succeed in this way and be diminished in that is an example of analysis separated from the historical process out of which the stated options emerge.

That is to say we seek to impose our understanding onto history and culture instead of drawing
Robert Sobukwe
conclusions from an understanding of history and culture. The examples cited above should show clearly that each line of struggle has both positive and negative aspects. They also show that the opposing perspectives are intimately tied to one another and develop in contradiction and cooperation with one another.

My view here is that ideology as an agency of culture must be based in the reality of that culture. The reality is that Africans do not move forward in this direction or that. We do not follow Sobukwe or Mandela or Biko, rather we follow all. We do not move in one direction or another but rather that we move in all directions simultaneously. Often one direction leads to and/or gives rise to another direction and, more often than not, apparently opposite directions develop in direct contradiction or interaction with one another.

We know for sure that we followed Garvey and DuBois. That DuBois who attacked Garvey ended up pursuing Garvey's Dream and died in Ghana under the protection of Nkrumah whose greatest influence was Garvey. Malcolm X was killed seeking to build a united front with the very forces he became popular for criticizing. Martin King became more militant as he aged and died engaged in economic struggle against the very capitalist system his Civil Rights Movement sought to integrate into.

The point is that we proceed along every possible course. What determines the value of the course taken is the interest to which it is welded. A reformist movement welded to the interest of the masses can and does become a revolutionary movement over time and a movement claiming to be revolutionary, motivated by elitist interests, can and does become reformist and reactionary.

Kwame Nkrumah
Positive and negative actions are not separate things that are disconnected from each other and distinct in their manifestations. Positive and negative actions are two aspects of the same thing. They are part of one interconnected whole. Thus Nkrumah can correctly say that, “The seeds of neo-colonialism are to be found in the process of decolonization.” It is also why neocolonialist leaders quite often start out as revolutionary leaders of national liberation movements.

One united African people includes our internal enemies as well as those of us who are infused with the ideas of our enemies. Our liberation struggle includes the struggle among ourselves as well as the struggle against our external enemies.

The aspects of our reality (reformist and revolutionary) have varying probabilities of success and must be developed with a view to directing ourselves along those lines most likely to address our needs. The determinant factor is the objective and subjective interest of the mass, as opposed to the studied conceptions of the learned elite (or as we prefer to call ourselves, the revolutionary intelligentsia or vanguard).

For all our claims to scientific thought the vanguard remains confined to archaic methods of analysis. Mechanical materialism; classic physics (Special Relativity); Hegelian dialectics; Newtonian theory of gravity; narrow nationalism; sectarianism, and classic Marxist conceptions of class, modernity, imperialism and socialism are all ideas that have contributed to our understanding of the world we live in; yet none of them have been able to answer all the questions we ask or solve all the problems we have. They are all partial theories incapable of meeting all of our needs.

Of particular significance is the Marxist/Leninist vanguard theory of organization. Almost all so called revolutionaries embrace some permutations of this theory. This: in spite of the vanguard theory's historical short comings.

We embrace these ideas, while often ignoring their critics within the world socialist movement. More importantly, we do so while ignoring the practical experience and theories of Kim Il Sung (Juche), Ho Chi Minh, Sobukwe (Africanism), Castro, Mugabe, Seku Ture
Kim Il Sung
(People's Class), Gaddafi (Third universal theory), Nkrumah (Consciencism), and Afwerki who all adhere to and advocate some version or another of a Mass Theory of organization. In this we look back to flawed models and ignore the evident interest and needs of our future, that being the establishment and maintenance of Mass society.

The point of emphasis here is that our conceptions must be subservient and permanently tied to the quantum reality of an active mass. There is no linear approach to our unity and liberation. In fact, there are meaningful spiritual, ethical, cultural, social, emotional aspects to our struggle that cannot be measured and which may well be determining aspects when taken into account with our empirical material conditions.

The answers we seek may well reside in unknown, insignificant, immeasurable considerations that no one has yet properly considered. We do not know what real African Unity looks like or what form international African organization will take. Nor can we pinpoint the mechanism through which we will collectively confront international capital, destroy imperialism or, drag the Zionist state into the murky depths of the Mediterranean Sea.

We can say that the determining consideration is the emerging and varying consciousness and conscience of the people, which is always a consequence of their culture and level of organization.

What we do know is that the answers we seek are in front of us and not behind us. Of the available options the only things to be drawn from the past (beside particular strategies and tactics), that are of permanent abiding value are the principles that emerge from our culture of resistance and the interests that these principles serve.

Our future efforts have to have a permanent reference to the masses of the people and be permanently tied to their collective consciousness and interest. We move forward not by any means necessary but rather by every means necessary and do so in service to the masses and in solidarity with all suffering humanity.

WUK AND DEAD? STRUGGLE INSTEAD! TRADE UNIONISTS REFUTE ECA ON RETIREMENT AGE

posted 9 May 2017, 18:38 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 9 May 2017, 19:14 ]

Image result for retirement age increaseThe question of increasing the retirement age is front and centre on the agenda of the class struggle. Employers across the core capitalist countries attack workers’ pensions by cutting benefits, raising workers’ contribution rates and by trying to force an increase in the retirement age.

It is part of the strategy of neo-liberalism as it pursues its futile bid to save capitalism. According to Asbjorn Wahl, Vice Chair of the Road Transport section of the International Transport Workers’ Federation: “big parts of the trade-union bureaucracy have stagnated in a social-partnership ideology that no longer has any meaning, since capitalist forces have withdrawn from the historic post-Second World War compromise between labor and capital, and gone on the offensive to defeat the trade-union movement and get rid of the best parts of the welfare state.”

Like faithful neo-colonials, employers and their professional spokespersons in T&T want to trump and follow suit.

Economists, like Roger Hosein, urge the government to increase the retirement age and the Employers’ Consultative Association (ECA), that old nemesis of the organised working class, not surprisingly supports this position.

During an interview with this website, Dave Smith, President of the National Workers Union (NWU) made a wry comment: “If the ECA supports an increase in the retirement age then, almost automatically, it is bound to mean that it is against the interests of the working class.”

The ECA claims that because life expectancy between, 1960 and 2014, increased by almost ten years from 62.66 years to 72.29 years, there is a case for increasing the retirement age. Kathleen Davis, the leading health, safety and the environment practitioner in the labour movement stated: “It seems that the ECA is determined that workers should not have any retirement. In the 1960’s, most workers would seem to have died before they reached retirement age or just a couple years after. Now that, on average, a worker would seem to get just over seven years of retirement they want to take that away.”

The ECA stated: “When we look at the current state of the economy and factor in the uncertainty surrounding our future, we have 
Dave Smith
all agreed that it cannot be business as usual.

Dave Smith responds: “Arguments about the “current state of the economy” or “uncertainty surrounding our future” are short term arguments. Even if there was an economic boom they would not want to concede any improvements “It cannot be business as usual” is a euphemism for “we want to find a way of exploiting labour more than we are at the moment”. “We have all agreed” means the employers have developed a common position.

The ECA puts forward: “From the government’s perspective, there is a growing need to rationalise expenditure to compensate for the significant fall in revenues. By increasing the retirement age, this reduces the demand on the Government’s coffers via social services.”

Dave Smith counters: The fall in Government revenues is largely as a result of the drop in oil prices. The cost of this should not be borne by workers. It is not accurate to say increasing the retirement age will reduce the pressure on social services.” He added it is not clear what the ECA means by social services and how increasing the retirement age will impact on this. 

Smith continued: “There is a possible argument that increasing the retirement age might increase government income from income taxes and the ability to spend more (hence increasing income from VAT). However, this would only apply if workers were in jobs where they earned enough to pay income tax. (The first $72,000 annual income is non-taxable)

The ECA stated: “This reduction in the provision of social services such as pension and the National Insurance System (NIS) will extend the life of these services to benefit future generations.”

Smith argued: "There needs to be a clear distinction between NIS and social services. NIS is the product of payments made into the NIB and benefits that are therefore accrued. Like any plan, payments in and benefits out can be varied to make the scheme viable in the long term.

Social services would probably cover old age pension and health care. Although it could be argued that the concept covers education, the police and all other provisions provided by the state. Old age pension is a gradually decreasing expenditure as more and more people are entitled to their NIB pension. Increasing retirement age would not seem to impact on this.”
Kathleen Davis

Kathleen Davis added: “Health care expenditure will increase as the population ages. Increasing the retirement age would not seem to impact on this. An aging and ill population is the joint product of better living standards (increasing life expectancy) and a poor life style (unhealthy food, little exercise, working too long hours, poverty). It is difficult to see how increasing the retirement age would impact on this.” Health care, she added, is a class issue.

Waxing warm, Davis stated: “Is this a good reason for increasing the retirement age … future generations benefitting at the expense of present generation? There seems to be little connection between the issues raised by the ECA and increasing the retirement age. What is their projection of increased profits? If we are to look at the costs of maintaining or improving the social wage then we need to also look at the question of profits and how the capitalist class can be made to pay for improving the social wage.” 

The ECA stated: “This is especially important given an April 2015 actuarial review of the NIS scheme, which concluded that the system will be completely bankrupt in 24 to 25 years.”

Smith argued: “Actuarial reviews can ensure that national insurance schemes can plan ahead. The NIS will only be bankrupt in 25 years if nothing is done to review income and expenditure. This is just the ECA laying the groundwork for attacking the social wage. Increasing income to the NIS would probably mean increasing NIS payments which the ECA would oppose. They would rather see reduced benefits than increased funding. It might be possible to make a link here. Reduced NIS benefits would put pressure on workers to want to keep working beyond retirement age, in order maintain their standard of living.”

The ECA stated while most companies might be reluctant to hire people older than 60 years, the propensity to retain existing employees of that age is much higher and can be beneficial. It will assist in minimising the skills gap in the labour force, as older employees have more time to teach younger ones.

Davis countered: “In some countries it is now illegal to discriminate on grounds of age. This means that there would be no such thing as compulsory retirement at a certain age. Some workers might like this, but this option may be the product of trying to get some sort of liveable income during older age. Who would desire to carrying on working would be the subject of an interesting discussion. We need to have a broader discussion about the quality of work/private life.”

Sylvan Wilson
In an interview with this website, Sylvan Wilson, former Chief Labour Relations Officer and Vice President of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union stated: “The rationale put out by the employers really does not hold. The NIS financial position is not due to the retirement age. It is primarily due to the change in the demographics because women are having fewer children.

Social security was founded on the principle of "pay as you go". In some cases it was premised on five plus contributors to every recipient. In T&T we are fast approaching a one to one ratio. Increasing the retirement age primarily delays the primary crisis unless the retirement is increased to the day before death. In most countries the State does not contribute to the social security.”

Wilson, acknowledged as the foremost expert in the labour movement on pension plans and other social wage issues, added: “It is important to note that some plans do not build up a huge savings fund; those rely on cash flows to finance their operations. Those plans are never funded to cover ALL liabilities Most of those with savings funds underperform because of inherent weaknesses of capitalism, poor investment decisions due to political manipulations and outright corruption.

The issue of increasing the retirement age really rests with the purpose of this life. Is it to work till we dead or is it finding a balance between the need to work and enjoying the many wonderful things in this life. The value of our production at the workplace allows for a reduction in the retirement age.

The trillions of dollars allocated to arms and war, funding insatiable greed, consumption of narcotics etc. Why must training of young workers be done by persons after age 60? Is it not that employers see this as a cost savings mechanism at the expense of young workers?" 

Cecil Paul, Head of the National Issues Committee of the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Retired Persons (TTARP), weighed in on the ECA position:”This is an old position rehashed due to the economic climate. Its purpose is to increase workers’ contributions to retirement incomes and reduce employers’ liability to fund pensions.”

Paul, former First Vice President of the OWTU, said workers again are being called to bear the burden of decreasing private sector and
Cecil Paul
government revenues due to economic decline. “Pension funds are a major source of finance capital so by delaying workers’ pensions by 5 years a larger pool of funds will be available to the ruling elites. There are no significant benefits to workers by this extension of the retirement age to 65. In fact the ECA position admits this.

The increase in life expectancy is no justification for longer working years which deny the workers of retirement enjoyment. When the retirement age was 65 many workers died a short time with a sizable portion of their pensions staying in the plan.

Reducing pensions will not extend the life of the fund and provide for future workers. Pensions are based on joint contributions and a factor of wages/salaries. In most cases the employer has the larger contribution liability. The employer is looking at ways to reduce his liability or to either have harmonization with NIS or insured plans, both of which will reduce their liability.”

The veteran trade unionist argued: “The argument of bankruptcy of NIS is empty fear mongering to justify their liability to workers’ NIS and a old stale argument as hundreds of millions of dollars go into NIS monthly with pensions payments less than contributions. The fact is NIB money is a pad for government programs and a bed of questionable projects by NIPDEC.

Actuarial Valuations are basically projections by firms; in most cases feeling that they owe the corporations loyalty for the high fees
Image result for retirement age increase. Recently NIS contributions were increased. Does that not count for something? In any case Actuaries always predict a bad future and increased contributions to safeguard against bad projections.” 

“Many workers” Paul said “stay in the workplace for some 35 years at age 60. It is punitive to have them work beyond 35 years unless it's voluntary. Leisure time and voluntary work is a factor of humane societies. They argue that retirement at 60 years will facilitate training of young workers. Why can’t this training begin when the trainer is 55 up to 60?

What most do is keep out the young worker and have the retiree work at lower rates. In the case of the young worker, a contract is given with no company pension, inferior wages/salaries and no job security. So the training argument does not hold. Extending the retirement age to 65 will delay and deny young workers job opportunities.”

There are many corrections to be made to pensions in the country but extending the retirement age is punitive without any benefits to workers and seeks to benefit the corporations and ruling elites.”

When the employers try to force us to wuk and dead, we must put aside the rhetoric and struggle instead!

GOOD GOVERNANCE! NOT PROPERTY TAX! BY Gopaul Ramroop

posted 7 May 2017, 09:44 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 7 May 2017, 09:49 ]

Gopaul Ramroop works at Yara (formerly Hydro Agri; formerly Norsk Hydro; formerly Fedchem) and is a member of the OWTU Yara District Committee
Let me first disclose that I am not an Economist and I thank God every morning for not punishing me into such a profession. At best, an economist, in my view, is simply a professional “guesser” with the intent to solve some economic problem.

Every economist knows what caused the problem after it happened but could have never seen it coming and only knew the solution after the problem has been rectified. Nevertheless, everyone seems to know how to solve this country’s economic problems, both economist and non-economist alike.

I will admit that I may not know for sure if my economic opinions and plans can solve this country’s problems, but I am certain that corruption and misgovernance since 1962 has played a significant role in the “economic gobhar” we, as a nation, have found ourselves in; despite the fallen oil and gas prices in a predominantly energy driven economy.

As long as there is corruption which is an expression of lickrishness (greed), no economic plan or taxation, especially property tax, will save this nation.

Is it fair or not? Imagine a person is caught speeding on the highway and instead of the perpetrator paying the fine the judge orders you who were driving lawfully and obeying all the traffic regulations to pay the fine.

Outrageous, isn’t? Well, this is exactly what the law abiding citizens or working class is facing right now in this country. We are paying or about to pay for corruption and misgovernance perpetrated by every politician, government and political party from 1962 to present.

I cannot say the future will be any different but the working class has to be awakened and mobilized for the long struggle ahead. The working class being awakened and mobilized is another issue by itself; since our so called labour leaders’ heads are so far up the political crooks’ backsides.

Governments manage and regulate the nation and its affairs accordingly. It provides goods, services, infrastructure, etc. generally from using revenue derived from taxation.

Perhaps if many of our energy sector operators such as BP, privatized businesses such as TCL/Cemex and transnational companies were nationalized, then taxes on the working class could have been much less since repatriation of profits is just leakage of revenue.

If we reduce or altogether stop the repatriation of profits by multinational corporations operating in Trinidad and Tobago, then we may have enough revenue to balance our budget and even have something to save for rainy days. Never mind that! It just easier to rape the working class, isn’t it?
Image result for corruption in trinidadLet’s assume we can’t guarantee no corruption, misgovernance and no repatriation of profits will happen overnight and therefore there is no other option but to raise revenue elsewhere, sad to say, via taxation. Why? Why? Why?

Why property tax? From my analysis, property tax is the fastest, largest sum of revenue from tax and the easiest means of taxation. This tax can be collected almost overnight, it will result in a large sum of money entering the treasury, and it is simple logistics.

Why not put a little tax on the vendors, taxi-driver, lawyers, private doctors, etc, all of whom are not paying or avoid PAYE? This would be fairer. But even this would trickle down onto the customers.

Here is what property tax really is: it is the government technically taking ownership of your property and then telling you that you have to pay tax/rent to use your own hard-earned property. And if you don’t pay the tax/rent you will lose your property. This is an infringement on a citizen’s property rights.

I have to pay to use my own property. This have to be madness! Even though many may argue, including the Prime Minister, that most countries in the world have property tax that does not make it right. Revolutionists argue that taxation is theft. It’s hard to disagree since politicians actually just pocket our hard earned money through taxation.

To put all of this into perspective, it is all but capitalism hard at work while the working class is fast asleep. It is amazing how amongst the bourgeoisie/ business community there is no race, colour, creed, gender, religion, or any kind of division that obstructs that class from collaborating to oppress the working class; but the working class will find or make any division to prevent it from fighting off this attack on itself.

Why hasn’t the trade union movement taken to the streets and shut down the country to demand a halt to this oppressive, terrorizing and unfair tax being shoved down the throats of workers? Property tax is theft. This country needs good governance, not property tax.   

FREEDOM OF (FROM) THE PRESS by Rae Samuel

posted 5 May 2017, 07:31 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 5 May 2017, 07:39 ]

Rae Samuel
Even as King Archie continues to show his fondness for old time calypso, (“Who want to go could go up dey/Me ain't going nowhere'') comrades and friends who should know better seek to make me cry.

Some of them, two in particular,(names withheld so I can have their matters 'part-heard') have suggested that my being still at large on "World Press Freedom'' day is proof of democracy in the media, and, by extension, Trinidad and Tobago.

I have told them that Lasana Liburd, Earl Best and Raf are in the line ahead of me. Besides, I have an iron clad defense strategy. I will do all in my power to appear before real or imagined magistrate Ayers Caesar. Of course I must ensure bail. By the time the matter is called, I will be on the other side conducting interviews with Joe Young, Mao Ze Dong, Claudia Jones and the late Lord Fluke

Every day now we are being made aware that the stench from the judiciary is not coming from the toilets and cells from the holding bays, but rather from the hallowed, now hollowed out, halls of justice. Madame Justice must not only be blind but her nasal passages must be seriously clogged if she has not yet fainted.

Please, please let us not forget that in this 'justice system', the role reserved for the working class man or woman remains constant. It is not the lawyer, police officer or court clerk who has to find more money or spend more time behind bars because court officials are not ‘functus'.

Re: a comment being repeated on the loudspeaker on May Day. It was a claim that none of the major daily newspapers mentioned much about the march. I asked myself if that was expected to be taken seriously. Would the Vanguard carry an ad from the Chambers of Commerce calling for the privatisation of WASA and NGC in the name of "freedom of the Press?" The speaker was at one time reminding that we are engaged in serious class warfare and on the other stating this. Was he confused? What was this supposed to suggest…"Freedom' of the Press?

All serious struggles feature a newspaper oriented to put forward the ideas of those seeking change. Russia had Pravda, China had the People's Daily, and our Cuban cousins have Granma. Liberation, Vanguard, Hold the Fort, Caribbean Contact, the Torchlight were local and Caribbean progressive publications.

Unfortunately there was not one flyer distributed during the May Day march. If that is the approach, how are we going to win the battle of ideas which is so important at this point? Facebook? Twitter? Have the Guardian, Express NewspaperS gone out of print? Not the last time I looked. Media forms a critical part of the mobilisation process

n closing, might I refer to the latest debacle by the present administration? A drunken man or woman who rises after a fall will again lurch. So the State cannot organise sea transport. Then that same State cannot decide if a magistrate is a judge, was a judge and whether said individual is/was/or shall ever be a magistrate again.

Therefore I am expressing no surprise that they cannot import Tendulkar. The truth is that while Brian preferred to have Sachin come for the opening, is that it was not put out to tender, denying Sammy, Ben Stokes and Darren Ganga the option to bid?

Nor could they risk sending an official from the Ministry of Sport and have him/her bring back the captain of the Indian hockey team. Was Michael Phillips a victim of the fall out? Maybe, maybe not! No biggie. He and cycling got their big velodrome. Me, I would have avoided this by naming the main stand after Manohar Ramsaran.

P.S. And if I am not invited to the official opening it would be entirely my editor's fault.

TAKE A BOW SPOKEN WORD! By Andre Moses

posted 5 May 2017, 06:24 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 5 May 2017, 06:29 ]

Andre Moses is an educator and prominent cultural activist; 
former president of the Pan in Schools Co-ordinating Council
The prerogatives of competition can be a catalyst that propels us to strive for excellence, but the flip side is that the focus on one’s competitors can sometimes dilute the integrity of one's inner voice.

The 2017 First Citizens National Poetry Slam was a competition, but as I sat in the audience I tried to enjoy each performance in its own mutually exclusive space.

The poets dealt with a broad spectrum of social issues, including: education, parenting, child abuse, technology, selflessness, artistic integrity and discrimination. Some performances were in the first person, sharing a ‘personal’ experience as a way of vocalising the ‘unsaid’. Others were more philosophical, in the third person, inviting the audience to perceive ‘the familiar’ in ‘unfamiliar ways’. There were also performances that took aim at us, the audience, as a collective, and addressed us directly as the second person in the conversation.

Some thematic presentations were more detailed and more literal than others while others used onomatopoeia and repetition as symbols of patterns that have become so all-pervasive we tend to not ‘see’ them any more.

As a career educator and a bit of an introvert myself, I admired the self-confidence and bravery with which young people were creating a space to express their own voice. It can’t be easy. First, you must have something to say. Then you must decide how you want to communicate your thoughts. Finally you must have the self-confidence to believe you can connect with your audience.

Just thinking deeply about issues is a plus in itself in today’s context, where so many of us have sub-contracted ‘thinking’ to professional opinion leaders, who set our discussion agendas and channel our thoughts into binary, oversimplified options that have much more to do with them than us. So much for our stereotypical generalisations about the shallowness of our young people, the NAPA auditorium was filled to capacity with young people and they were fully engaged.

The Spoken Word is a relatively new voice and I am sure both its form and content will develop as its practitioners themselves grow and develop. In the meantime, for folks like me, it is food for the spirit and the fortification of hope in what is to come.

Congrats to all the competitors. Congrats to those in winners row. Nice to see representation from both genders; that is how it should be! The young lady who forgot some of her lines was a true inspiration. She came to do a job and she did not leave until she had completed it. Forgive me but I can’t help but feel a special pride for Michael Logie and Idrees Saleem. It’s a Gustine (St. Augustine Secondary) thing ‘eh Ziggy?’ The Bocas Lit Fair, First Citizens Bank, the 2 Cents Movement, De MAD Company, Freetown Collective (inspiring opening set!) and all the Spoken Word groups, practitioners and supporters, take a bow!

OSHA, EMA WATCH ON AS PETROTRIN COLLAPSES! By Raphael Fyzabad

posted 3 May 2017, 07:02 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 3 May 2017, 07:32 ]

Image result for petrotrin pollutionSerious questions arise with Petrotrin’s latest oil spill. First let us clear up some misconceptions propagated by Fishermen and Fiends of the Sea. Gary Aboud clearly does not understand the hierarchy of the workplace.

Most likely the workers are who first identified the leak. The worker can only report the situation. The decision to repair, costing, scheduling, emptying the tank, purging et al resides at management level.

There are numerous reports made by the workers and their union about the poor state of plant and equipment at Petrotrin; in E&P and refining. Most of these are dismissed by the employers and the media. Look at the response to the issues off-shore with Lennox Petroleum, Labidco etc. The Chambers of Commerce, Employers Consultative Association and, indeed, media houses dismiss these as theatrics by workers and the union.

The parlous state of Petrotrin, given its massive contribution to government coffers, selected senior management and contractors is a grave indictment. Additionally, when the billions of dollars squandered in the disastrous escapades of World GTL, Gas Optimisation Project, the Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel plant etc., are considered, then it crystal clear that the company’s failure to achieve its full potential is no accident.

RECKLESS INDIFFERENCE 

PETROTRIN's top management is guilty of the criminal action known as “reckless indifference.” Any evidence-based risk assessment of its aged and collapsing infrastructure indicates that leaks, spillages and other incidents on the installed plant are guaranteed because of its present condition. It’s Murphy's Law operating with utmost vengeance!

BP was fined billions by the US authorities for the Deep Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This disaster occurred even as BP was using equipment and plant that was the apex of the current industry technology. PETROTRIN continues to do what BP did in the Gulf of Mexico with no significant cost to the company or its management.

The equipment, plant and even procedures they use sometimes date back to the TEXACO era so we are sure that shit is bound to happen. This is why they continue to poison the ecosystems in our forests and the Gulf of Paria and get away with it.

The difference here is that while in the US the regulators and institutions go to work when this type of thing happens and hold companies and persons accountable, the institutions in T&T which are tasked to do the same are either too corrupted, compromised or weak to get the job done, because of either political control by the Government or just plain incompetence (which is also due to political control of those appointed to lead them).

TWO STORY IGNORANCE 

Very often the explanation in this country of why Murphy's laws continue to wreak havoc on our society is simply because of plain ignorance, stupidity and incompetence on the part of the "professional" leaders and others in charge of our operations. Many times they suffer from 2-story ignorance - they don't know and they don't know that they don't know!

If you spent time moving around Goudron, Beachfield, Trinity fields and other forest areas like in Moruga you would know oil spills and leaking pipelines were commonly ignored for decades. Contaminated surface waters in the forests where the lines pass is normal. When you pass the seawall in Guayaguayare or by Pilot, Lizard and other rivers you see and smell the crude oil polluting them.

POLLUTERS MUST PAY 

There are international Codes, Standards and Procedures that govern what we do in the industry here, but no one to strictly enforce them. For example in the US gas pipeline workers cannot even turn a valve in a transmission/distribution network unless they have been certified and /or licensed by the federal regulator for their energy industry. Violations are deemed criminal actions and carry significant penalties including jail time.

Image result for petrotrin pollutionWho trains, certifies and licenses our operators here? Which agency enforces codes, standards or procedures to ensure we are not poisoned, blown to pieces or burned by the likes of PETROTRIN and other operators in our industry as has happened too many times before?

The Federal regulators in the USA are powerful agencies and enforce the statutory and regulatory envelope that exists to safeguard their industry. They punish the reckless endangerment and lawlessness that pervades the TT arena because if they fail to do what they are mandated to in the US it will cost lives and billions in property.

Ultimately, since no one is ever held accountable for the shit that happens here, we will continue to operate in a downward spiral that our children and future generations will pay for. The Environmental Management Authority, Occupational Safety and Health Authority and the Ministry of Energy must do what their mandates and our tax money pays them to do. They must vigorously enforce the statutory and legal requirements we have in place and seek to strengthen them as necessary. If they don't Murphy's Laws will continue to work every day to cost us lives and billions and the people of the fenceline communities, in particular, and the country in general, will continue to suffer the fallout.

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