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CHAMBER ATTACKS UNIONS, COURT; THEN CALLS FOR DIALOGUE By Ken Howell

posted 20 Nov 2018, 07:27 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 20 Nov 2018, 07:56 ]
The employers’ organisations are pursuing a well thought out plan of attack against the trade union movement and Judges of the Industrial Court. In an article entitled: CHAMBER WELCOMES INDUSTRIAL CLIMATE TALKS in the Trinidad Guardian on Wednesday 14th November 2018, the Chamber made a call for dialogue with all stake holders, on the question of the problems affecting the industrial climate.


Justice Albert Aberdeen
After attacking the Court, on the judgement it delivered in the matter of a Petrotrin collective agreement for the period 2014 to 2017/2018 – the award, was an interim increase of five percent which the Corporation Sole had approved when the matter went to conciliation under Judge Albert Aberdeen who happens to be a Member of the Court and a former Trade Unionist- and because of the strong response from the Industrial Court, the Chamber was forced to apologise to the Court for the unfounded remarks.

The five percent interim was made after the union agreed to accept that offer. The Chamber is well aware that the process of conciliation kicks in only when the parties to a
Chamber President Ronald Hinds
matter before the Court, agree to engage in such an exercise in order to resolve a contentious issues. But the Chamber was more interested in taking the Court to task on that issue of the increase, not so much because of the increase, but because of the judge who sat in conciliation in that matter.

They may wish to deny this, but they are always trying to find ways to make out a case of bias, or to find a connection, between certain judges of the Court, the particular union, and judgements which might have gone against certain employers. The unions must begin to understand that the attack on the Industrial Court is aimed at influencing the government to appoint persons to the Court, as judges, who have an ideological bias in favour of the employer class.

If or when they are successful in that mission, then they will go on to agitate even harder for the number of amendments they wish to have impacting the impartiality of the Court, in the discharge of it’s function in accordance with the IRA.

The call for the commencement of stakeholders’ dialogue is coming at a time when the government as an employer and big business entities are at one in their views, on how they value the importance of the trade union movement. Trade unions are regarded as unnecessary obstacles in the production processes and, as a result, trade union leaders must come to the realisation that the employers have declared war on the workers.

When they say that “the adversarial tone of our industrial relations climate is driving away investment” they must tell us when; how; in which sector, and over what period. Because there have only been three strikes in the twenty first century - the Trinidad cement Strike
TCL workers on strike 2012
of 2012; the IOCL strike of 2016-2017 and the Petrotrin strike of 2017 which lasted for one and a half hours. What we have had since then are instances when workers utilise the provisions of their respective collective agreements, to bring attention to their legitimate demands, during periods when negotiations for a new collective agreement were not achieving any progress.

Another instance, would have been, the massive nationwide road block exercise, which the police embarked upon in 2017. The scale of that exercise disrupted the business of the country by paralysing the road network. So to talk of the current state of the industrial relations climate in a manner which paints a picture of the sky falling down on the country is nothing short of a scandal. That kind of talk is just a smoke screen, behind which they have chosen to launch their attack on the workers.

The dialogue which they wish to have, is one in which they expect, to achieve the capitulation of the leadership of the unions, so that they can have a free hand to decimate the remaining unionised forces of the movement. In their estimation, it is now possible to achieve that goal, because of the weak leadership, now occupying the seats of power in the movement. 

They have arrived at this conclusion, because the overwhelming majority of the labour force is not unionised and that represents a significant number of workers who are not under the influence of the trade union movement because the leaders of the movement failed or refused to embark on a massive recruiting exercise to increase their influence over the point of production.

The Chamber and its members are gleefully aware of this weakness in the movement’s armour. That is why they know that they can attack now because the unions appear to be not in a position to regroup and engage them in combat at the point of production. That is how damaging the treacherous and opportunistic nature of some of the elements who have ridden the backs of the working class has been.

While some of the leaders focused their attention on rubbing shoulders with big business bosses and politicians of the two-face one percenter’s coin, those one percenters were busy planning their demise through the destruction of the unions. So the call for dialogue is in order to test the extent of the psychological damage which they have inflicted so far.

The current crop of trade union leaders never understood that the title General which came after the name President, meant that they were the leaders of the armies of workers employed in various sectors of the economy with the ability to affect production; whenever it was necessary to affect the production process either negatively or positively and that was because their focus was always on their narrow selfish interest.

The evidence of this neglect can be found, in the absence of any vibrant education programmes currently being conducted in any of the unions. Another indicator is the absence of Shop Stewards and Grievance Officers who have received training which fortified them with knowledge to effectively represent aggrieved workers in these unions.

In addition, it is alleged that there is the problem of the absence in some of the major unions in the public sector of functioning Sections with the requisite number of branches and that the leaders of these unions, usually turn a blind eye to these weaknesses in the structure of these unions.

If that is proven to be true, all such occurrences militate against the ability of the members of the unions to participate in the affairs of the unions, in accordance with their Constitution and Rules. These are just a few of the issues which are left to fester and the longer they remain as a scar on the body politic of the union; it becomes a talking point in the workplace. 

Such happenings soon reach the ears of the informers of the employers, providing them with the kind of intelligence they need to undermine the confidence of the workers in their unions. It is clear now that the Chamber of Commerce really had their ears on the ground. As a result they are now in a position to place the testicles of the union leaders in the interrogation draw and squeeze them at will.
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