Our history clearly teaches us, that the will of the ruling class is exercised through the use of
The recent state of emergency, the brutality meted out on the Trinidad Cement workers and the assault on the offices of the Transport and Industrial Workers Union are examples of this. We have had similar situations in the past. The police attack on the workers assembled at Charlie King Junction in 1937 which led to the burning of an infamous Policeman by that name, the attack on the demonstration in San Fernando in 1975 (Bloody Tuesday) and the state of emergencies of 1970 and 1990 are clear examples in our history of the brutal display of the power of the ruling class.
Those who have eyes to see will see that the battle lines are drawn. Those who pretend not know - on both sides of the divide - better know now that the struggle is not just about 5%, 9% or more money for the workers currently locked in battle with their respective employers.
The issues that confront the working class at this very moment are about political and economic power. This is so, because the concerns of the trade unions that are spelt out in the “Workers Agenda” can only be achieved through united, concerted action. The issues are about deepening the democracy so that the workers who produce the wealth could have a meaningful say in the governance of this country.
But, try as you may, you will never hear this from the conventional media. The owners will never allow them to express views which are diametrically opposed to those of the ruling class.
So while Trinidad Cement Limited mounts it's propaganda campaign in order to break the strike and mobilizes support from misinformed members of the public and employees of the company who are members of the Union; the trade union movement is yet to respond by amassing it's forces on the streets in a show of force in defence of the rights of the movement to represent the interest of its members.
In addition to this the country is not aware of the hazardous nature of the industry in which the workers work. These are matters which the country must know about. The country must be made aware of the fact that, while the workers are the ones who produce the cement which the Company sells to earn an income and make a profit, from which the workers are paid their incentives in accordance with the Collective Agreement, they have no say in the matter, when it comes down to how the remainder is distributed.
The issue is not about whether a labourer in TCL is earning $13,000.00 per month; it is about the right of every worker in this country, unionised and un-unionised, to earn a living wage. We must not fall in the trap set by the ruling class who thrives on the exploitation of non- unionised workers, that there are workers in the country earning far less than TCL workers, so they should be satisfied with the wage offer currently on the table.
That is how they try to put worker against worker. Another line is to cry that the Company is losing money, because of the economic downturn and the fact that the markets for cement in Jamaica and Barbados are depressed and as a consequence the TCL has to carry these two entities. Well, it is the business of the Board and Management of the Company to be pro-active and far sighted in forecasting market conditions so as to determine how to position the company in stormy weather.
There are certain procedural facts which are important in order to understand the action of the Union and the Management in the current impasse. Firstly, the Union whether rightly or wrongly, felt that it was not serving any useful purpose to continue conciliatory talks at the Ministry of Labour so, it refused to sign any further extensions to continue talking. Therefore it chose to exercise its legal right under the law, to serve strike notice on the Company within the seven (7) days period allotted to it. At that time the Company was 7% and the Union was at 16%.
Secondly, the Company in turn chose to serve lock out notice on the Union outside the legal period provided for in the Industrial Relations Act. What is important here is to understand the action of the Company. A close look at this move of the Company tells us that it is digging trenches and preparing to go the distance (the ninety days).
Another important thing to understand is the fact that TCL is not taking on the OWTU by itself. The rest of the business class has an interest in this battle because, if the OWTU is defeated the trade union movement as a whole is defeated. That is how important this strike is to the rest of organized labour and to the unorganized.
That is how important this battle is to the right wing elements that are bent on privatizing the whole economy. These issues are all connected. So whether we like it or not a heavy burden is placed on the shoulders of the TCL workers. It is my view therefore, that they must not be made to carry that burden by themselves.
This is a time when the leaders of the movement must mobilize the forces of labour in defence of the TCL workers and in their own defence. This is a time when the leaders of the movement must come to the understanding that no sacrifice is too great to be made in the cause of the working class. While those who dare to struggle may sometimes lose the battle, they will always win the war in the end.