Where we stand‎ > ‎News & Comment‎ > ‎


posted 22 Jan 2020, 18:49 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 22 Jan 2020, 18:53 ]
On Tuesday 21st January 2020, the workers of the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) and the National Maintenance Training and Security Company (MTS), members of the Transport and Industrial Workers Union (TIWU) took an action of great significance.

The workers marched from their Laventille Headquarters to the Financial Complex on Independence Square, Port of Spain to protest the delaying tactics employed by the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) in dealing with outstanding negotiations. They were led by their President General Judy Charles and executive members from the Central Executive and the branches,

What made this march significant? The LEADERSHIP in many unions and the various federations have either folded, find themselves hustling to be entrepreneurs in the energy sector, or aiming to become labour supply contractors.

Some imagine that they will hold the balance of power in the upcoming general elections with two seats. The PTSC and MTS workers are showing that in the spirit of Joe Young, their founder, mass united, disciplined action will always produce results more quickly than patiently petitioning the courts, attending meetings and holding tri-partite consultations under the aegis of a former comrade turned Cabinet Minister.

Workers at MTS and PTSC have been in negotiations for the period June 2014 - June 2020 and December 2014 - December 2020 respectively. These issues clearly transcend Party loyalty for PNM assumed the reins of government in 2015. In the interim judges have received increases, Parliamentarians have gotten pensions, Presidents and Prime Ministers have had their accommodations upgraded…if the priest could play, who is we?

To make a point, a child who was a secondary school student in 2014 may be a University student or involved in some type of tertiary level education today. Which parent, many of whom are single parent mothers, can realistically fund that type of study on 2014 wages? Let us be very mindful that in the long waiting period, working class people incur unbearable debt burdens which retroactive pay may not adequately mitigate, that is if the de facto wage freeze does not end up as a de jure wage freeze. Then there are retirees whose benefits remain outstanding, and adjustments to medical plans.

The workers massed outside the Financial Complex/Ministry of Finance, where they presented a letter requesting the intervention of Finance Minister, Colm “dey ent riot yet” Imbert, since the CPO is claiming that instructions from him are being awaited.

It should be noted that the members of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) find themselves in a similar situation, as do the members of the Public Services Association (PSA) and the thousands of health care workers throughout the five regional health authorities, who except for the doctors in the South West Regional Health Authority are not members of a recognised majority union. With their negotiations outstanding over a similar period they are being given an identical run around.

This suggests that the members of these unions should insist that that the struggles of all these public sector workers be conjoined into a unified campaign to push back the austerity policy that is pauperising the working people as the economic and political elites put the burden of the capitalist crisis on the backs of working people.

Union members must put pressure on their leaderships to once more operationalise the slogan coined by the Council of Progressive Trade Unions (CPTU) in the 1980’s - ONE MOVEMENT ONE STRUGGLE; ALL UNIONS DO BATTLE! The initiative must come from the workers and branch leaders and must not be left up to the existing federations and formations, which are impotent and non-functional at the moment.

The members of TIWU are showing the way in a trade union movement where leaders have either sold out, put political allegiance first or simply surrendered. Workers must re-build within their own ranks and reach out and form new alliances without waiting on moribund incumbent leadership.