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FRACTURES AMONG THE RULING ELITES: WORKERS MUST SEIZE OPPORTUNITY By Rae Samuel

posted 4 Jun 2021, 13:23 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 4 Jun 2021, 13:24 ]
The real funny part of watching Ms. Donna Hadad, Head of the Tobago Chamber of Commerce (how did that happen Tobagonians?) on T.V 6, rant, rave and fulminate about a meeting the various chambers of commerce had with a Minister/Ministerial team to discuss the way forward in these Covid. Times

The first point she made, in between being constantly reminded by the host that 'we are running out of time...in the short time we have left...' which itself runs out the time) the first point she made was that the various Chambers did not have common positions. So their JTUM was not ready, did not seem to be harmonised or have a coherent agenda.

She seemed to suggest that there was never a dialogue, but, rather, delegates were being advised of decisions taken ‘’a priori’’ and asked to comment. When asked, she mentioned that there were 5 Cabinet ministers. A large ministerial team, but not all were participating.

None of this is new to most trade unions and worker organisations - the mamaguy of consultation. We know all too well of the Chief Personnel Officer claiming that s/he is awaiting instructions/guideline from the Minister; that they have to go back to the inter-Ministerial team; of the long waits between meetings. Even when a matter reaches the Industrial court it takes years to process and employers still appeal decisions, resulting in further delays and frustrations. Worker frustration and victimisation, like poverty, is well thought out in this country.

The problems of the inter-island ferry service, of the air bridge all have been exacerbated by the Covid panic. What Ms Hadad and her 'comrades' are seeing now is what workers have suffered for generations not just in Trinidad but in Tobago. She and her kind have yet to suffer the privations of having, as a Tobagonian, to come to Trinidad to study, do business and/or seek medical attention.

What has happened in Tobago is that Covid has brought economic and commercial activity to a halt. The lifelines of the Tobago chamber, which are inter island and international tourism, inter island commerce and related business activity, all have stopped, which leaves their sector comatose. This is why they can only think in terms of opening up the economy in the same old way, regardless of the perils, much like the IOC and the Japanese government seem hell bent on doing re 2021 Olympics. ‘’Source vaccines and open up the place’’ is their mantra. Some of them clearly think Idi Stuart President of the TTNRA is a prophet of doom and gloom

Ms. Hadad seemed to be saying that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues were making us more afraid rather than providing encouragement; that there was a lack of leadership and a clear strategy moving forward and that the endless rounds of media conferences depresses us further. I kept wondering if she read/s our NWU Facebook page. I thought so, because she and her 'comrades' are calling for a national dialogue. Now that is a new normal for them

The fractures among different sectors of the ruling elites and their watchmen in the government over policy and the way forward are coming to the surface with a vengeance. Things are falling apart in traditional ruling circles. Summoning Prime Ministers to private meetings won't cut it this time around. Their strategies from vehement calls for re-opening up of the economy to private sourcing of vaccines to subsidising small and micro private enterprises have not found government support. The medical authorities are seriously warning against private importation of vaccines The workers and marginalised in this country are in an even worse situation, given either the corruption or destruction of the trade union movement. Covid remains the common all pervasive, ever present enemy. A united front in this sector is a necessary strategy, particularly now where those who run things are snarling at one another.

I hold that workers, in and out of a job, community organisations and the like must work out positions that serve their interests. At the heart of it would be to clearly state what we want in terms of improved labour and industrial relations, public and welfare services - health, education, transport, infrastructure, culture. Working class groups must sit down and work out positions and make demands. At the moment, THEIR RELATIVE WEAKNESS IS ONE OF OUR GREATEST STRENGTHS.

We must choose our own representatives. Even if they come out of the present workers’ organisations it must not be those misleaders who currently hold rump office. Let us be honest. Some aspired to be the new Thackwray Drivers and have failed in their bids to enter the energy sector; others wanted to hold the balance of power in the political arena in Tobago. Yet others have continued to sail along as labour supply contractors, becoming employers of the same type whom they are supposed to be fighting. To have such speak for us would be suicide.

Workers’ organisations should participate in such consultations with THEIR demands, arrived at after broad consultation. It was done during the 70's, and in the lead up to the 1989 general strike and it must be done again. We have trade unions, village councils, community groups, COSSABOS, cultural organisations. We must go to the Round tables as equals and fully empowered. To be fully empowered we must be able to hit the streets, if necessary.

Covid, as any crisis, provides opportunity. If we are not vigilant, if we are not organised, if we do not vaccinate ourselves against the existing corrupt leadership and drive them out we will go back to the old order and end up like Haiti or even Jamaica where the daily life of a worker can be hell. Franz Fanon forever points out this frustration and anger, if it is not spent, we will turn it on ourselves.
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