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posted 3 Sep 2015, 14:12 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 29 Nov 2015, 07:08 ]



In April 2010, a broad grouping of the trade union movement at a Conference of Shop Stewards and Branch Officers developed a document called the Workers Agenda, which clearly stated the position of the movement on a number of critical issues. Soon after, a small section of trade union leaders, operating under the MSJ, joined the People’s Partnership under the guise of utilising their position to have the Workers Agenda implemented. Not surprisingly that adventure ended in tragedy.

In 2015, under the guise of representing the Joint Trade Union Movement, an ad hoc grouping of a few trade union leaders, Ancel Roget signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOU) with the PNM which MOU speaks of bringing an end to the “cycle of confrontation” and calls on business, labour and government to operate within a framework of “mutual respect and collaboration.”

The MOU is actually just a pious pie in the sky wish list which does not have a snowcone’s chance in the hot sun of bearing fruit. The tragedy of the Workers Agenda has now degenerated into the farce of the PNM/JTUM MOU.

In 2010 the National Workers Union (NWU) supported the Workers Agenda, but did not support the position that the MSJ represented the labour movement in government. In 2015 the National Workers Union views the MOU as a symbol of the continuing surrender by many trade union leaders of the vital interests of the working class in the hope of advancing their personal interests in this eat a food, crony capitalist system that passes for a political system in T&T. Those who shout “good governance” the loudest are the very ones who dribble and drool at the prospects of feeding at the trough.

The NWU congratulates the Communication Workers Union (CWU) for its principled stand on the issue of the MOU and points out that for the PNM to address in the workers interests those vital issues spelt out in the Workers Agenda, it would have to be born again and contradict its history as the chief architect of the anti-worker repressive legislation that has hobbled and bedevilled the trade union movement since the 1960s.

The National Workers Union respects the right of all citizens to vote for whatever individual or party they deem fit, but we also point out that to expect that a change of government is going to result in a new dawn for the trade union movement is either naivety at best or a con game of gigantic proportions at worst.

It is clear why some trade union leaders insist on hitching their star to the wagons of the political parties that represent the interests of the employers, the contractors, party financiers, banksters and boardroom big shots in the conglomerates. They relish feeding from the scraps of Massa’s table. They want to hobnob with who Errol McLeod calls “real people” and do not want to be considered “non-entities”.

But why would the PNM sign this MOU? What is in it for them? Whichever party wins the general elections is going to be faced with an economy which is already in free fall. T&T’s economy is totally dependent on the fortunes of the hydrocarbon industry over which as a country we have no control. Government revenue and, critically, our ability to earn foreign exchange are totally dependent on the fortunes of the hydrocarbon industry.

If the PNM wins the general election, given their acceptance, like the UNC, of the neo-liberal agenda of wage suppression, privatisation, de-regulation, repression of union activity, widespread use of contract labour, transfer of income from working people to the pockets of the capitalists, their mantra is going to be austerity, austerity, austerity!

The MOU with the JTUM provides the PNM with political cover when they impose their inevitable austerity programme on the working people. The trade union leaders who support the MOU will provide that cover which will keep the trade union movement divided in the face of the austerity programme. The irony is that some of these very trade union leaders gave the People’s Partnership the very same political cover for two and one half years until the wheels fell off.

The National Workers Union warns honest trade unionists not to be conned into confusing the personal and political interests of certain trade union leaders with the interests of the working people as a whole and not to allow themselves to be used as watchmen for the government and the employers. 

The National Workers Union calls on all working people to band their bellies and prepare for the imminent assault on their standard of living as the economy continues its race to the bottom and to be very clear that none of the political parties in the election race are going to defend the interests of workers and the trade union movement when the mess hits the fan.


Gerry Kangalee (National Education and Research Officer.  Cell: (785-7637)