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posted 4 Aug 2017, 06:56 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 4 Aug 2017, 06:57 ]
On 2017/08/04, the National Workers Union (NWU) issued the following statement contained in a flyer distributed during the demonstration organised by the Joint Trade Union Movement, National Trade Union Centre and Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs.


You, the working man and woman; you, the poor and the scrunting, ketching your nennen to make ends meet and keep yourself and your family afloat – no one has to tell you how difficult it is to survive in T&T today. You live it every day. You know the horror modern life in T&T has become.

You know that despite billions of dollars being spent on the public health system, the end result is your money or your life. It’s quite simple: if you can’t meet the costs of private health care you may be playing Lotto with your life according to if the equipment is working; the medicines are available or the doctors who are supposed to be on duty are not raking in millions at their private hospitals.

You know the horror of living in a society that is riddled from top to bottom with criminality. If it’s not consultants, accountants, lawyers, big business people, contractors, politicians creaming off billions of public funds like in the CLICO affair, it’s corrupt police running drug blocks, protecting the narco traffickers, roughing up and victimising citizens. This madness ends up with street wars waged by young short-lived gundoleros who don’t care about human life whether child or adult, whether young or old, and who murder, rob, rape, break and enter as they see fit.

You know the despair and insecurity that comes with the lack of housing. Can’t get an HDC house, can’t afford a bank mortgage, house rent too high, squat at your own risk. Of course if you are in the good graces of the politicians you could GT.

Don’t talk about the grocery: food prices running faster than Usain Bolt. Transportation is unreliable, unsafe and getting more and more expensive. You fraid to lime in the night if you don’t have your own transport!

In order to scramble your way through this capitalist society, you have to look for work that pays scandalously low wages; that on the average, really can’t keep a household running in a decent, civilised manner. The employers don’t care about the working conditions and the ridiculous wages you have to subject yourself to. All they studying is to maximise their profit and if you and your family get lick up in the rush, then too bad! They fire you on the phone. They cuss you up and humiliate you. They bully and harass, especially the women. In the fast food sector, they have you working all hours in the night and then you have to find your way home

Now job insecurity has turned a looming horror into a nightmare. No one is safe. If you are a contract worker in the public service or the health service, you are up for the chop. If you work in construction, the services sector, retail, manufacturing, heavy industry, energy you are at risk of losing your job, so that the employer can keep up his lifestyle at the expense of yours.

They tell us the economic situation is bad and we, the working people and the poor have to sacrifice, face reality and band our bellies. They have us saying Wha’ we go do... the economy bus’? It eh have no money! They have us sinking into the quicksand of joblessness, hopelessness and family breakdown, but many of us still believe the rubbish being spewed by politicians of the two race-based parties we support - vote for we and things will be fine! The joke is both of them pursue the same policies; both of them rip off public funds and fatten their pockets at our expense and do the bidding of their big business financiers.

No money? But businessmen banking foreign exchange abroad; professional parasites feasting on CLF! No money, but $23 billion
Professional parasites feeding on the poor
dollars pumped into CLF and more keeps pumping. No money, but banks and conglomerates declaring loud profits while digging out your eye with all kinds of fees and charges. Republic Bank made a third quarter profit of close to a billion dollars. No money, but ANSA MCAL made a profit of over $1 billion dollars. Not bad for the flagship of the 1%.

The fact is those who have power in the society are not suffering a fall in their standard of living. It is the working people and the poor who feel the full force of the economic crisis. They are taking money out of your mouths so that they can keep playing golf, sailing on their yachts and drinking Grey Goose.

Poor people must stop taking the grip. This country does not belong to those who for centuries have exploited our labour. This country belongs to us, all of us: I, you, we, who have sweated and slaved to build a civilised life for ourselves and our families.

If you are not unionised then you have no protection against unjust dismissals. Your wages, sick leave, vacation leave, bereavement leave, are at the mercy of the employer. Health and safety standards are weaker than in unionised workplaces and exposes workers to serious injury or death. There is no job security, no pension nor health benefit. You are, in fact a wage slave!

According to the law, if you are not in a union and you get fired, you can join a union which can take up your matter as far as the industrial court. Employers are now calling on the government to amend the law to allow workers to go to the industrial court without unions. That is because the vast majority of cases being heard and being won in the Industrial Court is for non-unionised workers. They well know that you can hardly afford to pay lawyers to take up your matter. Employers want to treat non-unionised workers like dogs. They also want the law amended so that workers in establishments with less than twenty workers can be de-barred from joining a union. They are quite aware that unionised workers are generally better paid and enjoy better conditions than non-unionised workers.

You must join a union! It is your constitutional right! Non-union workers must face their fears and exercise their right to join a trade union of their choice in accordance with Section (42) of the Industrial Relations Act.

All workers should join in a campaign to get a basic floor of rights for all workers. Some of these should be legislated while others can be won through collective bargaining and union pressure including:

  • Unionised and non-unionised workers must demand Job security and an end to short term contracts;
  • The minimum wage must be reviewed annually and should be no less than two thirds of the national average wage as a measure toward working out a living wage; 
  • The work week must be reduced to thirty five hours with no loss of pay so that jobs can be created and workers get quality home time;
  • The Retrenchment and Severance Benefit Act must be amended so that the calculation of severance pay can be upgraded and companies can be prevented from evading their severance responsibilities by shutting down their companies; 
  • The right to a written contract; 
  • Severe penalties, including jail time, for employers who deduct NIS contributions and do not remit them to the NIB 
  • Sick leave and Vacation leave with pay and payment for public holidays and for overtime 
  • The right to have a pay slip; 
  • Service pay for termination of any kind.
In addition to ensuring improvement at the workplace by joining a union and by pressuring the government for legislated entitlements, it is time that you begin to push back against those who believe that you must forever be slaves to the God of profit.

You must begin the discussion and raise these vital issues and organise in your homes, neighbourhoods, your cultural groups, your temples, your pan yards, your sport clubs, your churches, your political parties and trade unions. Make the politicians know they can’t take you for granted!
Gerry Kangalee,
4 Aug 2017, 06:56