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posted 11 Jul 2011, 21:16 by Gerry Kangalee


By Cecil Paul

The massive July 7th workers demonstration to the PM’s office and the ultimatum letter are tactics normally used by trade unions in struggle but what was very noticeable were two contrasting reactions to the protest. One the approach of former OWTU President General Errol McLeod, now the leader of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) and the Minister of Labour in the PP government and the other of Dr. Bhoe Tewarie, the PP’s Minister of Planning and Development.

While Dr. Tewarie looked calm, collective and conciliatory. Comrade McLeod appeared bitter, angry and nervous. Without calling names he scolded his former colleague and his anointed PG and successor Ancel Roget, members of his MSJ who participated in the protest demonstration and his former trade union colleagues. He told them among other things to “get off their high horses” and that while he struggled in the past like them the situation now was different. These are strange words indeed.

Let’s put into perspective the Labour Minister’s position on the need for labour leaders and workers to dismount from their high horses. Then let’s deal with the Planning and Development Minister’s promise of a reopening and possible change of the PP Government’s Industrial Relations position on the 5% Wage Suppression Policy. Finally, let’s try to answer the question: why has the PP Government gone into panic mode, as demonstrated by the two ministers, on the possibility of sustained anti-government street protests by a united labour movement?


Is the angry call “to get off your high horses”, by the former PG of the OWTU to his former labour colleagues and present MSJ comrades a demand to stop their protests and go to the low ground and accept the 5%? Or is it a signal from the anointer to his anointed to remember who made him PG of OWTU and gave him the great OWTU horse to ride?

Is McLeod also telling Roget to know his place in dealing with me your Godfather? Or is he saying:  have you forgotten Comrade Roget that the MSJ directly and the OWTU indirectly is part of the PP Government and we must toe the Party Line and not embarrass the PP? Did Senator Abdulah not educate you on the real role of the OWTU and FITUN in the period of the PP Government that the role is to play bad but only with plenty militant talk but never, ever call any strike, far less a national strike? You mad or what Comrade Roget?

You want to make Kamla fire me? Remember I fight the election on a UNC ticket. You want them UNC people to get rid of me. You must know Ancel that, just like NJAC, we in MSJ can’t win no seat on we own.  Is The Minister of Labour telling PG Roget to get off from his high horse and get the workers to understand that this is not the good old days of struggle but a different period and get them to accept the 5%? 

Remember we got Duke to sell out for 5% and he got nothing. You Roget got the powerful job of PG of OWTU. What more do you want?  Remember one hand can’t clap. You want to call unnecessary and half supported-strikes like me in Petrotrin, Dunlop, Metal Box, and cause workers to lose their jobs? You feel you dealing with Trinmar management? We is the Government Comrade!  Is me, the Great McLeod, you dealing with. I am the horseman, not you!  Is McLeod telling Roget to behave himself, come in and talk; we will do a DUKE, hurry up Ancel?


Dr. Bhoe Tewarie, Minister of Planning and Development (COP member), was forced to open the door for further dialogue with labour on the 5% wage suppression policy of the PP Government only because of the massive workers demonstration.

Let us look at Dr. Tewarie’s history in public life, education and business. Together with Dookeran, Rambachan and others, he was part of the NAR Government policy to cut workers wages by 10% and take away their COLA. He was also a Director of CLICO (nuff said) and former principal of UWI. Many rumours were circulated about ethnic problems in relation to admissions while he was principal, to the extent that articles were written in the media on the issue of discrimination at UWI.


So Dr. Tewarie wants to re-open talks on the Duked 5%. Will he offer 30 houses per Union and 5% or will he move to a respectable rate of increase for workers? If he moves from the 5%, what about Duke and the public servants? Will the PP betray the Duke sell out? Is Dr. Tewarie together with Labour Minister McLeod (assisted by Senator Abdulah?) planning to set a trap for the workers by dividing the unions? Will government workers be isolated from state enterprises workers?

My experienced guess, is that a divide and rule tactic with an Industrial Court element is on the PP agenda. There is also the possibility of an interim settlement with an eye teasing backpay. In addition, the issue of exploiting the differences between NATUC and FITUN and getting one or the other to settle may be the intention, causing isolation and disunity.


 Finally, the ancestor of the PP Government is the anti worker, pro-big business NAR government of 1986-1991. This Government was forced out of power by sustained industrial actions of workers, farmers and the working poor of Trinidad and Tobago. These actions included the Day of Resistance of March 6th 1989 which was the most complete general strike in T&T since the general strike of 1919. So too was the PNM in 1981-1986 on a wage restraint policy.

In 1986 NAR lost every seat in Trinidad and only survived in Tobago. The PP’s ancestor in 1986 to 1991 unleashed a reign of economic terror on working people, subverted the trade unions and violated their rights to collective bargaining, all in the interest of their big business financiers.


The massive workers demonstration of July 7th is the beginning of the PP’s worst nightmare. Their major aim before capturing Government was to compromise and neutralize all major opposition to their rule: hence their strategy to forge a compromise and alliance with individuals of militant labour and NJAC to facilitate their Big Business agenda.

They found the perfect individuals in a waning, isolated and frustrated Dagga of NJAC and the opportunist and self seeking McLeod and Abdulah of FITUN; so that the major security objective of the PP at this time is to pacify the Labour Movement. With the united demonstration they are fearful that another 1989 is approaching and that their labour pacification strategy has failed.

Their agents in the labour movement are unable to deliver the pacification they require to implement their pro Big Business Agenda. Is Roget his own man or will he be manipulated by his MSJ colleagues? He seems to be charting an independent course, but only time will tell.

The major question is whether the labour movement, in general, and OWTU, in particular, is able to break loose from the compromising interests of McLeod and Abdulah and mobilise the workers on a programme of sustained action in defence of their right to reasonable wage increases and benefits in a wealthy Trinidad and Tobago.