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posted 21 Oct 2014, 18:24 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 21 Oct 2014, 19:47 ]

To commemorate the tenth anniversary of its registration as a union (October 14th 2004), the National Workers Union (NWU) held a function at the audio visual room of the National Library of Trinidad and Tobago (NALIS), Hart and Abercromby Streets, Port of Spain, on Friday October 18th 2014.

Comrade Frank Sears

The theme of the function as was displayed on an impressive banner dominating the stage area was: Take charge of the Present! Shape the Future! After the national anthem was played on
tenor pan by Makesi Joseph, President of NWU Comrade Frank Sears
opened the proceedings which he chaired for the duration of the function.

The chairman introduced Comrade Dave Smith, the General Secretary of NWU who spoke of how the NWU came into being and how it developed over the period. In speaking of the early discussions that led to the formation of the NWU he said: “The discussion amongst those founding comrades of the NWU was really how best a small group of committed and experienced comrades could best impact the labour movement with the limited resources at our disposal."

He stressed that in order to get around the prohibition of a union that represents one group of workers in an “essential industry” from representing another such group, the NWU developed the concept of affiliated unions.
Comrade Dave Smith
He stated: "The NWU is, as far as we know, the only union in T&T that has the provision for unions to affiliate to the NWU…By giving the NWU the ability to have new unions affiliated to it and integrated into its ranks, we are hoping we have devised a mechanism to manoeuvre around this piece of anti-union legislation…we are pleased to see the National Health Workers Union and the National Aviation Workers Union in the ranks of the NWU through the affiliation process. 

This is our contribution to building solidarity, organising the unorganised and strengthening the broader trade union movement…By sharing limited resources, the NWU structure opens up the possibility of small and struggling unions having core administrative and organisational services provided for them through affiliation. 

Not only office facilities, but education and research, access to organising and negotiating skills, a central facility for shared office space, membership records systems and accounting. All functions vital to a trade union, but exceptionally difficult for small unions to acquire.”

The feature address was delivered by Comrade Cecil Paul, Deputy President of the National Workers Union (NWU). It dealt with the theme of the anniversary celebration: Take charge of the present! Shape the Future!
In introducing the feature speaker, the Chairman noted that he was: “a comrade who reflects in his persona an amalgam of his contemporaries. He is a comrade who progressed through the ranks as a shop-steward, branch officer, and President of the National Petroleum Branch of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union.
Comrade Cecil Paul
He went on to become the chairman of the north co-ordinating council which comprised all the branches of the OWTU in the north of the country, chief labour relations officer and First Vice President of the OWTU...was central to the development of the Social Wage policy of the union and was a former general secretary of the Council of Progressive Trade Unions…born and bred in the San Juan area…has always been involved in sport (San Juan Jabloteh), culture (various steelbands) and other social organizations.”

Comrade Paul made a detailed analysis of the national situation and the situation in the trade union movement and within the wider working class. He laid out the tasks that had to be carried out so that the labour movement could “take charge of the present” 

He made a cold-eyed analysis of the deficiencies within the trade union movement and stated “We are not armed with the necessary perspective, the overall vision, the requisite strategies, the trained human resources, to beat back the assault from the state, the big capitalists and the employers on the entitlements, rights and benefits of unionised workers. 

The trade union movement must embark on an intensive and extensive education, training and communication drive. Our foot soldiers, the shop stewards and branch officers must be trained to handle whatever is thrown at them from the shop floor to the Industrial Court to the picket line and the strike camp.

But this vision can only work and we can only move forward when we abandon the culture of authoritarianism and embrace a culture of participation and democracy for the rank and file.”
He concluded by making a clarion call to the Labour Movement “to return to the days of struggle, vigilance, strategic planning and direct action in defence of the country and of working people. We must be self-reliant and fierce defenders of working class democracy. We must be tribunes of the people. Our unions must be schools of revolution, both practical and theoretical. It is time we accept responsibility for shaping the future…”
From left: Comrades Winston Edward, Alva Allen, Ramdeo Boodram
The next phase of the function involved the presentation of awards to three trade unionists, none of them members of the NWU. Comrade Sears introduced this phase of the function by saying: “this segment of our programme was the most challenging and fulfilling in bringing it into fruition. Challenging in the sense that when we decided to choose some awardees, the rich history of struggle and perseverance of our eighty year old labour movement had, then and now, unsung heroes who simply worked in the trenches so to speak for future generations to benefit. 

Dozens of names and personalities were listed but our resources did not
Comrade Kathleen Davis
match the numbers who deserved some form of recognition for their sacrifices, sometimes to the detriment of their health and family relations. 

Needless to say how the process enriched us all on hearing anecdotes of past encounters some of which we have started to document in video format by our media savvy Executive Officer, who as a former teacher was a member of TTUTA: Comrade Rae Samuel

This evening we have three comrades who allowed us the privilege of identifying them to receive an award from the National Workers Union..."
The biographies of Comrades Alva Allen, Ramdeo Boodram and Winston ’Man Man’ Edward were read out by NWU official Comrade Kathleen Davis and the awards were presented by Comrade
Carla Walcott of both the National Union of Domestic Employees and the NWU.
The last segment of the evening saw the launching of the booklet Out of Pain. It was published by the Labour Advisory Bureau
(LAB), a non-profit
company owned by the NWU and the author Comrade Gerry Kangalee, Education and Research Officer of the NWU, said a few words about the relationship between the cultural movement
and the labour movement.
Comrade Michael ‘Brother Scobie’ Joseph, former political detainee, former trade unionist, President of
the Southern Marines Steelband Foundation and Chairman of the South/Central region of Pan Trinbago rounded off the proceedings by pointing out the potential economic value of the Pan in a scenario against which our almost total dependence on the hydrocarbon industry was leading us to almost-certain disaster.

The first ten years has been an exciting period of building; will the next ten years be one of entrenchment and consolidation? It could very well be, if we accept the responsibility of assisting the labour movement in taking charge of the present in order to shape the future.

Gerry Kangalee,
21 Oct 2014, 19:28
Gerry Kangalee,
21 Oct 2014, 19:39
Gerry Kangalee,
21 Oct 2014, 19:34
Gerry Kangalee,
21 Oct 2014, 19:39
Gerry Kangalee,
21 Oct 2014, 19:39