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STOP TAKING THE GRIP! by Sylvan Wilson

posted 22 Jan 2017, 18:08 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 22 Jan 2017, 18:12 ]
It is really sad to see so many members of the working class adopt positions spewed by the business class without examination for accuracy or clear examples of double standards and class bias.

This error on the part of the working class is most heart wrenching when responding to the statements and actions of other members of our class; however when they themselves are confronted by the same issues they question the absence of understanding and solidarity.

The recent situation during the stand-off between oil workers and the management of Petrotrin showed just how much we can be our own worst enemies. The ECA, Chambers of Commerce, spokespersons for the business class (economists et al) have condemned the much celebrated cleaner who allegedly earns $10,000.00 per month and is seeking a 10% rise in pay over a three year period. Many of those who criticise earn more than ten (10) times that amount and yet they seize every opportunity to carry up their prices and fees.

The business class has presented the argument that it is unreasonable for any worker or trade union to expect an increase from a company that is in a loss position. They say that the company “buss”, “it have no money”, “you can’t get blood out of stone”. The same argument applies to the Government; once there is a budget deficit then public officers must not expect any increase in wages and salaries and the poor is deemed unpatriotic to expect state subsidies. There are many questions to be posed to this “logic”; let’s look at the “no-money” concept.

Petrotrin earned $16 billion in 2016 and spent $1.9 billion on salaries and wages including those of management and exempt staff (those not covered by OWTU negotiations). This amounts to 11.8% of its revenue.

Well the company that “buss” and “have no money”, spent $14.1 billion on items other than its employees. In 2015 this company which is called a “drain” on the treasury by some of the “experts” paid $6 billion to the Treasury in taxes and royalties. It was the third highest contributor to the country’s foreign exchange earnings.

This means that the State, the 2,100 private suppliers of goods and services to the company, the more than 500 contractors, its creditors etc. received $14.1billion (over 88% of company’s revenue) from the “buss” company. Petrotrin also borrowed money in that year.

The same applies to the State. According to the Minister of Finance this bankrupt economy will spend some $54 billion in fiscal year 2017. When the expenditure of T&TEC, WASA, PTSC, RHA’s etc are totalled then one gets a clearer understanding of the importance of spending by the State, State Enterprises and Statutory Bodies.

It is this expenditure, in the main, that is the source for the creation of the thousands of millionaires produced in T&T over years; none of whom are the non-management employees on whose behalf unions negotiate. Yet the beneficiaries of this State largesse are quick to label the working class as having a State dependency syndrome.

Petrotrin had insisted that it could not afford to pay its employees any increases for the period 2011-2017. Did the company insist to its suppliers of goods and services that they too must keep their prices at 2011 levels? Did the various chambers castigate their membership when they increased prices? Did Government mobilise the armed forces (as it did to deliver fuel if the strike did take place) to take action against businesses that carried up prices on each occasion that gas prices were increased or when the T&T dollar depreciated?

Why didn’t the Chamber of Commerce and the ECA point out to their membership that Public Officers are subsisting on 2013 wages and salaries? Not a word was heard. It seems that it is only increases to wages and salaries that are harmful to companies and the economy but high prices are good. Indeed one spokesman for the business class bouffed the Attorney General for suggesting that they could take a loss. He proudly proclaimed that they were in business to make money. Workers on the other hand must be satisfied with being patriotic, the joy of sacrifice and dedication to duty.

It is also noteworthy that the T&T dollar traded at 6.30 to the US dollar in 2011 when the “new” contract period started. Today our dollar trades at best 6.75 to the US dollar (if ordinary people can get it) - a 7% depreciation. Petrotrin earns 75% of its revenue from export sales done mainly in US dollars. The company sells its US dollars to pay local costs including salaries and wages. This means that EVEN WITH THE 5% INTERIM INCREASE THE COMPANY IS PAYING LESS IN 2017 ON SALARIES AND WAGES THAN IT DID IN 2011.

This is why it is imperative that unionised workers must keep their collective agreements current. There is no compensation for loss value of our dollar. The business class doesn’t ever miss out on the need to carry up prices and it explains their relentless war on indexed Cost Of Living Allowances (COLA) paid to their employees.

The working class needs to wake up, understand the futility of this divisive partisan politics and get into our section. The business class fully understands this.