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MCLEOD AWARD FOR DOING A GOOD JOB by Rae Samuel

posted 1 Sep 2015, 20:20 by Gerry Kangalee
Even as McLeod stepped up to receive the nation's highest award for disservice to labour one could not help but wonder how the once mighty have sold out. Back in the day before and just after he succeeded George Weekes, and he did not need to have his coif done by De Couteau's hair stylist, the Union was powerful and progressive.

That was the era of the book fairs, visits from revolutionaries from Liberia, South Africa, Guyana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Grenada. The O.W.T.U was the headquarters of the anti- apartheid struggle in the region. Free zones, privatisation and wage cuts were the order of the day and would have succeeded completely but for the progressive unions led by the OWTU.

Donna Coombs had built up a first class library and students and researchers were common place. You could walk into the library and meet Ron Ramdin, a well know British based local author or the great Jamaican economist, George Beckford, or the revolutionary Walter Rodney. The feature address on Labour Day was a significant media event. Even George's defection to the other side did not stop the work for which he had laid the foundations.

Sydney "Bullmoose" Knox, king of Neal and Massy and the right wing which Basdeo Panday warned of was on the warpath. Cecil Paul would tell of battles he fought sometimes with Ken Gordon who was in the cabinet helping to run Napoleon Robinson in their direction

The message, then duly recorded not on Facebook or You Tube but laboriously by hand or on tape to be transcribed then was different. It was 'war, war, war’. This writer remembers in his first interview, McLeod saying "They have pacified George Weekes''. More experienced field commanders would advise “General Strike”, as Jimmy Singh labelled him, to pick battles and not threaten to 'shut down the kiss me…. place' every Monday morning. But with Errol Kelvin lyrics were plentiful, but action sparse.

Alas this was smoke and mirrors as this Pee Gee had a clearly different agenda and was indeed uncomfortable with radical, progressive trade unionism. Those closer to him saw and knew it earlier but it became more apparent as his term in office went on. Here was someone who earned the total contempt of that working class icon Joe Young whom he felt he could compromise..

That is why he probably never heard Joe Young's absolutely scornful response to the same offer to which he has succumbed. His response to the criticisms of his former colleagues is instructive. Real people, gave him this award, he said. He had no time with non-entities (including those from the political party of which he was once the leader).

Power in the OWTU was consolidated by compromise agreements, isolation and/or removal of the militants in the Union, promotion of sycophants and persistent talk of reported election fraud. By the time he left on a high note, which included high end car, house and marvellous retirement benefits, the Union had in many ways become its opposite, almost a bureaucracy.

The transition to UNC government and Cabinet therefore was seamless. Freed of the need to appear to be defending workers' interest he assumed what seemed to be his natural self and has spent a quiet five years on the other side. Oh, there were the usual and anticipated anti-worker outbursts or frustrations. After all the promises, domestic workers are still not recognised as workers; contract labour continues to infest the public sector; the Recognition Board, which had no Board for a year, continues to chug along at pedestrian pace;; the Industrial Relations Act still denies basic worker rights, there is no basic conditions of work legislation. His greatest achievement: he increased maternity leave by one week!

After all, the real power lay with Jack and Moonie and Suruj. He was easily placated with gestures, like being made acting Prime Minister more than anyone else.

So as he received his distinguished award from a government often referred to as most corrupt, the other cronies must be crying or cussing or sucking their teeth. He was 'sent to do a job' on the working class and in doing so has done very well for himself. Was the medal offered to him? I think not! Why give it to him? The strong suspicion is that he pleaded for it…to go along with his other accolades.

Is that the end of the story? No! Part two was written at the Hyatt last Wednesday when the 'leader' of the JTUM signed an MOU with the PNM. The ‘leader’ of the JTUM happens to be Errol's successor in the union and lives a similar ‘C.E.O lifestyle' with a significantly depleted membership base.

Are we seeing the rise of Ancel McLeod?
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