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posted 7 Nov 2018, 08:31 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 7 Nov 2018, 09:13 ]
The articles under the rubric Industrial Relations published in the Guardian Newspaper every Sunday support the contention that the Joint Chambers meeting in March was called to plan and launch a political and economic offensive against the workers of this country.

It is reasonable to also conclude that the employers knew in advance of the decision of the government to close the Petrotrin Refinery. They knew that the leader of the OWTU had more bark than bite. And so the time was right to make their move. They had good intelligence from their two men who are in the know about the thinking of the leader. That was how their man in government was able to win him over. So that when Wilfred Espinet announced the decision to shut down Petrotrin, they knew that they had delivered a death blow.

The Union countered by filing an industrial relations offence against the company, charging that the company violated an agreement reached between the parties in April 2018, in which it was agreed that a committee would be set up, and over an eighteen month period, discuss ways in which they were to go about resolving the problems facing the company.

This action on the part of the union provoked Espinet, causing him to attack the Industrial Court after the company failed to get a stay of the injunction which was granted by the Court. In order to get the stay of the injunction, the company had to go to the Court of Appeal. But the company did not stop at that; they even attempted through a failed judicial review application, filed in the High Court on or about the 24th October 2018, seeking to derail the Industrial Offence before the Industrial Court.

Their contention was that the Minister of Labour’s office and the Registrar of the Industrial Court were wrong to send and receive the agreement reached between the OWTU and Petrotrin to the Industrial Court to be registered. The fact of the matter is the Industrial Relations Act says at Part V Disputes Procedure Section 51(1) that “Subject to this section, any trade dispute, not otherwise determined or resolved” may be reported to the Minister.

The matter which formed the subject of an Industrial Relations Offence was a collective agreement signed by the parties in which they had agreed to pursue a certain course of action in order to resolve a problem which the company claimed to have had. The Judge, upon hearing the premise from which the application was proceeding, decided to disallow the application, because Sections 44 and 45 of Part IV, which deals with collective agreements, places an obligation on the Minister to register a collective agreement, upon receipt, within fourteen days, whether or not he has concerns, relative to any article(s) in the said agreement.

What the leaders of the trade union movement must get into their heads is that the shutting down of Petrotrin is one of two fronts in
Image result for petrotrin the war which the employers have launched against the workers of this country. The other front which they have opened up is their attacks in the print and electronic media. When they turn their attention to the other important state entities the psychological attacks in the media will continue. Their intention is to win the non-unionised and unionised workers as well, over to their reactionary and backward way of thinking about unions.

This is because some trade union leaders have demonstrated that they are just as corrupt as the members of the employer class, which a few of them strive to emulate. This is a major weakness which is negatively impacting on the confidence of the members in their unions. And the employers have already homed in on that. As a result they have decided to milk that for all it is worth. That is what the hitman who writes in the Trinidad Guardian Newspaper every Sunday is aware of. He realises that there is a body of negative public opinion floating about in the consciousness of some members of the working class and he intends to make maximum use of that information by testing its reliability.

That is why he is in the Sunday Guardian of 5th November 2018 in an article entitled Of unions and dinosaurs, once again peddling his poison. The truth is that while he purports to be interested in having a frank, open and constructive discussion about industrial relations, the type of industrial relations which he wants to talk about, is not the type in which the rights of workers are currently covered by Conventions of the ILO. Not at all!

What he wants is a law which gives a false sense of equality to the individual employee, thereby misleading him/her into believing that as an individual he/she can negotiate a fixed term contract to his/her satisfaction with any employer. This may be only possible where the individual is a highly skilled professional. To say that the non-unionised worker does not have access to representation, in the event of the existence of a trade dispute, arising out of a dismissal or suspension, or any other matter, affecting their terms and conditions of employment, is furthest from the truth.

But what is even more cynical, is the pretence that the employers have no problems with trade unions because: “all successful economies in the Western world have highly active trade union movements and robust laws designed to protect workers” What he omitted to mention is the fact that, were it not for the bitter struggle waged by the workers and their trade unions, these robust laws would never have been enacted. In fact in France, Spain, Germany and other countries that are members of the European Union, those very robust laws, as he described them, are currently under attack.

German industrial workers on strike last January
That is why the workers and their unions had to go on the war path, in order to defend and protect their hard won rights. And this is because the workers learned from the experiences of workers in the USA and the UK during the tenure of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher when a vicious attack was launched against trade unions in both countries in the period of the 1980s to the 1990s.

That was the period when Mr. Emile De La Grenade of the Employers Consultative Association (ECA), a functionary of the employers, declared that the employers must take the fight to the workers. There is no safe haven for the workers, he said, the battlefield is everywhere.

As it turned out the unions and the workers fought them every step of the


Hiding behind the occasion of a natural disaster pretending that employers care about workers in their time of need, is the most cynical and pretentious display that one can inflict on workers. Because, as part of their accounting practice, all companies have at their disposal, the tax allowance which they can claim for such charitable gestures. The claim by these companies goes into the column on their tax return form as a claim for tax reduction.

So while they normally get a nice write up in the newspaper which they own and the public is misled into believing that they are concerned about the welfare of the affected communities, in fact they only see the disaster which has befallen the various communities as an opportunity to engage in public relations stunts.

The employer’s hitman attempted to take the moral high ground by boasting about the good work which the named companies and prominent individuals of the employer class have done, by providing relief to the flood victims. While I commend them for their display of charity, my advice to them is that such displays of charity would have found greater appreciation if it was done quietly and if that was the usual practice of the employer class.

But what was most despicable was the pretense that the interests of the workers and those of the employers are one and the same. The fact of the matter is that in the process of production, the conflict between labour and capital is ever present. This is a natural law of the production process. Just as it is a natural law of the jungle that vampire doh eat rice!

The objective reality is that employers are in business to make profits and in order to achieve that objective; they must employ and exploit labour, at the cheapest price possible. That is how the process of the exploitation of the labour power of the working class begins in order for the employers to make their profits. What the workers were being paid for, were it not for the formation and intervention of unions, was for the necessary labour time it took to produce the particular items. With the ability to mass produce, the workers’ labour power was producing far in excess of what they were being paid for.

What the employers would like to achieve, is the complete emasculation of the trade union movement and also to be able to dictate to the Industrial Court how it should treat with matters involving companies belonging to certain conglomerates.

The attempt to pretend that employers are capable of good deeds and can be trusted rings hollow especially when they choose to do so in a time of crisis. Please do your hollow good deed and shut up. You can afford it. Pass the kakada!
way, so it would appear that they have decided to launch their attacks under the different conditions that exist today. And so they have embarked on a two pronged offensive: claiming that trade unions are like dinosaurs and, like them, they too will become extinct.

Suddenly, they are now championing the cause of women as if it was because of the generosity of employers why some women have been able to break the glass ceiling. In fact it was because of the relentless struggles waged by the women’s movement, supported by the international movement of trade unions, which led to the break through, which allows this cynical individual to pretend that he is now rooting for women, to become leaders of trade unions in this country, as if women never held senior positions in the trade union movement in this country.

The current Minister of Labour was the President General of the Public Services Association and the President of the National Union of
Ida Le Blanc, General Secretary of the National Union of Domestic Employees
Domestic Employees is Ida LeBlanc. Clotil Walcott was the founder of that union. Even in the early days of the formative years of the trade union movement of this country women were in the forefront of the movement. 

Some of these women have since found their way into the history books of this
country: names such as Elma Francois, Christina King and the un-named woman who doused Inspector Charlie King with oil in that junction in Fyzabad and set him on fire. It became known as “Charlie King Junction” following the anti-colonial uprising of 1937.

These women were all leaders of the workers movement in their own right. This cynically; pretentious individual wants to compare matters which violate the rights of an individual to equality of treatment, with disputes arising out of an employee’s terms and condition of employment; whether those terms and conditions, are contained in a collective agreement or in a fixed term contract. This is because he is advancing the view that the trade union leaders are defending the current status of the Industrial Court, where individual employees, who have disputes with their employers, can only have access to the Court through a trade union of which they are members.

But the reality is that the Industrial Court is not the friend of the workers and their unions and one should not confuse the tripartite structure of the Court with the fact that because former Trade Unionists are members (four out of twenty one), this is an indication of a relationship which is prejudicial to the equality of treatment of the matters that are being laid before the Court for adjudication.

In the recent past trade unions have received judgements favouring the workers, whom they represented, was not because the Court was biased in favour of the Unions. On the contrary, it was largely because of the failure or refusal of the employers to follow good industrial relations practices; when they choose not to adhere to natural justice and instead to adopt the attitude that they are the owners of the business, and nobody, but no body, can tell them what to do in their place.

Some employers sometimes take the position that they have deep pockets and if they want to get rid of a worker, it does not matter what it will cost them. The truth about the Steel Mill is that Arcelor Mittal robbed the country of revenue. They left this country owing for natural gas and electricity supplied to them by this country.

That matter is a classic example of how foreign companies have treated with workers in the past. Trinidata, an American company which set up shop in this country, produced computer components and enjoyed the tax holiday which was in effect at the time. When the tax holiday expired, in 1979 the company pulled up roots and left the country. The workers, who were members of the Communication Workers Union at the time, only discovered that they had no jobs when they turned up for work on the Monday January 15th. The workers occupied the factory for six months and eventually forced the payment of severance, but that is another story.

This call for unions and their leaders to be less suspicious of the motives of employers is really a sick joke, one which it is difficult to laugh about, but it is much easier to laugh at the joker; especially since it is precisely because of the treacherous behaviour of the employer, which led to the Industrial Relations Offence matter currently before the Court.

The objective reality in this country today is that employers are not and have never been and will never be accommodating of trade unions. The fact of the matter is that the class interest of the employer class and those of the workers are irreconcilable. The lion and the lamb will never be friends. Like the lion, the employer always tries to cut away an individual worker from the pack in order to feed on that worker. That is the divide and rule tactics. That was what led to the formation of combinations of workers in the first place. Workers recognised that they were weak when, as individuals, they chose to negotiate terms and conditions of employment with their employers. And so, they realised that there was strength in numbers. They recognised that when they stood united they always won. And so the trade union movement was born and even in its weakest moments, it continues to be a thorn in the side of the employers. That is why the hitman is trying everything in the book to pull the thorn from the employers’ backside.