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NEEDED: UNITED FRONT OF WORKERS IN ACTION By Gerry Kangalee

posted 5 Sep 2018, 09:42 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 5 Sep 2018, 10:06 ]
Accompanied by his two “trusty” man servants, Impsbert and Smiley, Emperor GRowley
strode into Marabella, the heart of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union; and did so on a PNM platform. Here he was dealing with what is arguably the most important policy shift since the IMF intervention in the NAR days and he was doing so as leader of the PNM and not as leader of the country.

He called out the PNM troops from around the country to fill the Marabella Community centre, giving the impression that he had support, although only a smattering of the attendees was Marabella residents. There was, of course, a heavy police presence that prevented those wearing blue shirts from entering the meeting hall.

The emperor had two objectives. One was to show the country he was strong, by resorting to the old gambit of renting a crowd and the other was to send a message to the “imps” in the PNM who dare to challenge the emperor’s slate in the upcoming party elections that he was a decisive leader and not the incompetent, bumbling idiot they were making him out to be.

So while thousands of people are worrying about their future, the Emperor was using their plight to score political points and show that he could faithfully serve the interests of the one percent.

Ironically, the emperor violated his own injunction contained in his Independence Day message in which he said: “It is in times of difficulty that the urge to retreat to narrow interests and partisan lines can become the strongest. But we must resist this and seek instead an agreeable guidepost.”

This guy can’t be for real. Seems he is just making it up as he goes along. If you do not support the devastation of the Southland you are not a patriot is his mantra; you want to burn down the country. After all, these workers, in the words of the Emperor in his address to the nation on Sunday September 2nd “who are surplus to the requirement of the renewed effort leave the company with an attractive separation package that should be well received and backed up by the assured pension payments to come.”

Now tell me this, terminal benefits for Petrotrin workers are covered by provisions in their collective agreement negotiated by their union and the company, aren’t they. So if there is an “attractive separation package” it has nothing to do with the government ensuring anything, but it would be the legal entitlement of the workers.

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Marabella and Pointe A Pierre
The question of “assured pensions” is another story, but suffice it to say that if Petrotrin is shut down, the pension plan has to be wound up which involves a host of complications for retirees and for those who are now in employment. These consequences will be examined at another time.

What about the so-called fenceline communities, you may ask. The emperor intoned “The wider population in these fenceline communities will benefit from some deliberate additional government expenditure on infrastructure and social support...The Company will treat every employee with dignity and provide services such as financial advice and employee-assistance programmes for psychological support”

Additional government expenditure? Social support, financial advice, psychological support? What the hell does that mean for retrenched employees and the thousands of workers, contractors, suppliers and their workers and small business people and their workers who depend on the refinery? It’s like removing a proper roof and promising to replace it with carat leaves.

While GRowley was engaging in his flights of fancy, hundreds of workers were gathered at Paramount Building, OWTU HQ, just five to ten minutes down the road. They were harangued by President General Roget and then sent home to the consternation of those who expected that they would have been advised to attend the Emperor’s meeting. It showed that the leadership of the OWTU was not prepared to allow the workers who are at risk to intervene and have a say in their own business.

Ironically, just hours before, the leadership of the JTUM met at Palms Club and made the expected militant statements about Friday’s Rest and Reflection. The leaders clapped and sang union songs and smiled at and hugged each other assuring us, fools that we are, that they were always united etc. and that even after Fyzabad accord with the UNC, memorandum of understanding with PNM, fake moratorium on retrenchment, memorandum of agreement with Petrotrin Board, trade union leaders still feel they can talk their way out of this growing mess.

It seems that union leaders pretend to believe that they can still influence the outcome by trying to convince the government by the strength of their arguments, when it is quite clear that any change, amendment or reversal of the decisions made can only be influenced by the argument of the workers’ strength.

We are in the midst of a tremendous battle; let us not hide the unvarnished truth. When parties at war meet around the table, the outcome is largely determined by the disposition of troops on the ground. If you are strong on the battlefield you will be in an advantageous position around the table and vice versa. If your troops are not venturing out on the battle field, you bring nothing to the table.

While the hesitancy at the JTUM leadership level is becoming clearer, resistance is building on the ground. Reports from Deep South state that on Sunday evening, contractors came together with workers and the business community to erect black flags along the roadway leading to the Marine Base at Point Fortin

On Monday evening, hundreds of workers and villagers gathered at Cedros to hear an address by representatives of the OWTU concerning the real intent behind the impending closure of the company and the impact which it will have on the workers and the wider community.

Let’s see what happens over the next few days in Plaisance Park, Claxton Bay, St. Margaret’s, Gasparillo, San Fernando, Penal, Barrackpore, La Brea, Santa Flora, Palo Seco and other communities of that type

This Petrotrin affair has gone way beyond being a union matter. It has stoked the fires of class struggle and the survival of tens of thousands of nationals is at stake. While this ongoing trauma unfolds, the one percent are smiling quietly to themselves and blessing their favourite son, Keith, in whom they are well pleased.

Rae Samuel has called for developing a workers united front in action, not of federations, not of maximum leaders, nor of election agendas. I think we should take a serious look at establishing mechanisms to make his call a reality.
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