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posted 8 Nov 2016, 11:43 by Gerry Kangalee
When I visited the strike camp of IOCL workers all was quiet as they awaited the meeting carded for the next day. I sat back and listened to their predicament and my mind travelled back in time, in history, as I remembered how it has been for contract workers at Trinmar and elsewhere over the years.

I thought too about the latest developments as it is being alleged that TML, our other main Marine transport service provider, has decided to close up shop and register a new company under which they would re-hire their workers, effectively breaking their service and putting an end to all their hard earned benefits over the last few years.

Contract workers at Trinmar forever face an uphill battle. Their employers tender for jobs based upon the stated minimum rates but then set their prices low so as to win the contract. The result being that they then cut the salaries due to their workers in order to maintain and increase their profitability.

There used to be an oversight committee charged with the responsibility of ensuring that contractors tender in such a way that they can complete the job, earn a profit and pay their workers.

There also used to be a union who ensured that contractors met their obligations with respect to the rates they pay and that all relevant deductions were taken out and submitted. Now we keep hearing of workers being told that NIS will be deducted but not remitted and that if they don't like it, someone else will be willing to take their position.

I thought about what these workers face on a day to day basis, and that their only redress lies in the IRA (long being touted as draconian and against workers interests) or the Equal Opportunities Commission (being narrow in their focus leaving lots of room for discrimination).

I sat there and pondered the history of labour and its leaders in this country and my mind ran back to George Weekes, who was PG of the OWTU. Upon his retirement he went on to become a senator; to Basdeo Panday who rose up to become PM; to Anisette who also became a senator; Rudranath Indarsingh who was a Minister in the Ministry of Labour; Errol McLeod who was recently Minister of Labour right after retiring from the position of PG of the OWTU; Jennifer Baptiste who was head of the PSA and now current Minister of Labour.

What do they all have in common? They all protested for workers rights, all fought the IRA and yet none did anything about it when they were in a position to do so. Not once did any of these pilot a bill to amend this same draconian legislation they so vociferously opposed.

I think now of Roget whose political leaning leading up to the 2015 General Elections makes one suspect that he too may follow in their mould. What then is to become of labour, of the IOCL and other contract workers at Trinmar and elsewhere? Who will defend them against their employer's exploitation when history has shown that these people all serve their own agendas in the end, if not from the beginning. Where were the laws to protect the workers of Arcelor Mittal? Who will defend the workers of IOCL, TML, AR Singh and all the other contractors at Trinmar and elsewhere? I fear for the working class of this nation.

Then when these same so called leaders join the political parties and ask for our votes, we go clapping, waving our flags, our party cards and flashing our red and yellow jerseys with pride. Maybe someday we will learn. I just hope by then it will not be too late.