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posted 7 May 2010, 08:51 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 31 May 2010, 06:24 by Dave Smith ]

Comrade Dave Smith, General Secretary of the National Workers' Union made the following remarks in a recent interview with the "Business Guardian".

“It is a myth to suggest that there is a strong labour element in the United National Congress-based coalition. Many in the labour movement, based on their experience, would be anti-People’s National Movement (PNM), but there has been no formal endorsement of the Opposition.

Many people will be anticipating a softer and more sympathetic approach to labour issues, but we will have to wait and see what is actually delivered.

What is going to be really important for the unions will be to see some early changes to speed up the recognition process and repeal some of the repressive anti-union laws we see in the Industrial Relations Act and the Summary Offences Act.

If we can achieve these immediate goals, it will help the movement to organise those 80 per cent of workers who are not covered by union collective agreements and increase our ability to protect workers against exploitation. This will also help to rebuild the industrial strength necessary to demand proper increases in the minimum wage and other social improvements.

And it is important to remember that all the major parties are essentially financed by the business sector, so we cannot expect any of them to take fundamental decisions against the interests of those who finance them.

These elections will not change the class relationships in society. The capitalist class, whether national or foreign, that own and control the economy, will be the same after the election.

It is nothing new for trade unionists to be Members of Parliament. From Buzz Butler onwards, trade unionists have, with varying degrees of success, been in Parliament as MP’s or senators.

That trade unions are political organisations cannot be doubted. Unemployment, poverty, distribution of wealth, for example, are all political issues. The central question for trade unions is what is the most effective avenue for unions to express their political aspirations.

The long-term solution is for the development of an independent workers party. This will require plenty of discussion within the ranks of labour and will also mean that workers will need to learn and understand from their own experience that they need a party of their own.”