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CWU MUST RISE AGAIN by Laurence Brown

posted 11 Mar 2019, 15:15 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 11 Mar 2019, 15:17 ]
In its early years, the Telephone Company was privately owned by a local French Creole family. There was the usual colour bar, with black workers having to enter the workplace from the Henry Street entrance with the Frederick Street entrance reserved for the 'WHITES'.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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