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posted 18 May 2010, 02:10 by Gerry Kangalee
The National Workers’ Union submits the following draft proposal for consideration by the COSSABO for inclusion in the short term programme of self defence:

The vast majority of workers in T&T are not organised into unions. This is the Achilles heel of the labour movement. It leaves hundreds of thousands of workers subjected to the most grievous and unconscionable exploitation; is a source of division within the working class and saps the potential strength of the labour movement.

The trade union movement must quickly and systematically invest ample resources on a sustained campaign to organise the un-organised including the thousands of so-called temporary and casual workers who fall within unionised bargaining units.

A minimum floor of entitlements must be legislated to apply to all workers. This must include: an annual review of the minimum wage which should be no less than two thirds of the national average wage; sick pay; vacation leave; overtime payments; payment for public holidays; the right to have a pay slip; the right to union representation inclusive of the grievance procedure; the right to a written contract; service pay for termination of any kind; the establishment of a severance fund to be funded by employers, its coverage should include loss of employment when a company closes down; unemployment relief to be administered by the NIS.

Legal discrimination against domestic workers must be abolished.

Over the years, a web of repressive legislation has been weaved around and entrapped the trade union movement. Foremost among them is the Industrial Relations Act which was passed by the PNM government during a state of emergency. It was designed to cripple the trade unions in our quest to serve our members.

Among the provisions in the Industrial Relations Act that are particularly repressive are:

essential services and essential industries which deny workers the right to strike and deny workers freedom of association

The long, drawn out bureaucratic process of recognition sometimes takes years before workers can gain a recognition certificate. If 20% of workers in a workplace join a union a ballot should be automatically triggered. No recognition claim should take more than 3 months. The Recognition Board should be abolished and the recognition process monitored by the Ministry of Labour.

Restrictions on the right to strike.

Decertification of unions. Neither employers nor the state should be able to initiate decertification proceedings against unions.

Employer challenges to individual workers being represented by unions. This should be abolished.

The Industrial Relations Act should be repealed! The Workmen’s Compensation Act should also be repealed and replaced with the long promised Employee Injury and Disability Act which should bring compensation for work related injury and death into line with contemporary practice.

We recognise the indispensable role played by small farmers in the struggle to develop a situation of food sovereignty which is vital to attaining true independence. We also pay tribute to the historically close relationship of small farmers to the labour movement.

We propose for inclusion in the workers self defence programme: long term security of tenure for those who work the land; adherence to a rational land use policy based on strict zoning of land; reducing the costs of agricultural inputs (seeds, fertiliser, equipment etc.); guaranteeing decent prices to farmers; creating a system of agriculture intelligence; developing a network of access roads, instituting appropriate irrigation, land preparation and maintenance systems; re-activating research facilities and programmes involving the development of seed banks, plant plasma research etc.; using indigenous technology to develop foods that would assist in breaking the stranglehold of the transnational grain suppliers; moving from export oriented production (monocrop) to Caribbean self sufficiency (polyculture).

We propose the repeal of the Summary Offences Act, which is the biggest obstacle to the enjoyment of freedom of assembly as stated in Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association”. Even the neo-colonial constitution of T&T recognises as a fundamental human right and freedom that of assembly and association. Yet the Act which was passed in 1921 to suppress the growing working class movement which had called T&T’s first general strike in 1919 placed in the hands of the police the power to decide who can hold and who can speak at a public meeting and who can hold or participate in a public march or whether such a meeting or march should be held at all..
Gerry Kangalee,
18 May 2010, 02:38