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posted 10 Aug 2012, 05:45 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 10 Aug 2012, 05:49 ]


by Sylvestre McLaren


Comrade Sylvestre McLaren, a well-known stalwart of th
e trade union movement since the 1960’s is the Treasurer of the National Workers’ Union. He joined the movement as a result of being involved in left politics.

In 1961 he joined the Union of Foods Hotels Beverages and Allied Workers, which later changed its name to the Union of Foods Hotels and Industrial Workers.
Subsequent to the Bus STRIKE OF 1969, in which he was involved, he became a member of the Transport and Industrial Workers Union (TIWU) and was instrumental in causing employees of Trinidad Paper Products Ltd to join TIWU.
He became an Officer in TIWU in October 1978 being elected to the position of Chief Organiser with responsibility for recruiting and organising branches into the Union.

He held the position of Education and Research Officer and was an Executive Officer until 1997.
In that same year he became an employee of the National Union of Government and Federated Workers and served that Union for 7 years
The Trade Union Movement has regressed to a position far worse than what obtained in the period 1965-1968.The quality of the leadership in some unions which had a history of being pro-business is even below the standard of leaders such as Nathaniel Critchlow, James Manswell and Clive Spencer. 
Even within the so-called Progressive Trade Unions standards have fallen. I know of two trade unions where serious trade union work is happening where second-rank leaders are receiving training which is so necessary to build a strong union, to ensure a high quality of worker representation at the shop floor, and to ensure a continuity of well grounded leaders steeped in working class ideas. 

It appears that many of the leaders are afraid to go out in the field and meet with their members. They are prepared to collect union contribution but are failing to provide quality representation. They are always in the forefront preaching the virtues of democracy, but in their unions what passes for democracy is unadulterated hypocracy. 
The only reason why these leaders are able to get away with the con game which they have been successful with so far is because they have been able to keep their members ignorant and unwilling to participate in trade union activities in a meaningful way. This must stop! 
Class conscious workers must come forward to fight for true democracy in their respective unions. Now is the time when workers who are serious about the future of their respective unions must come together across union lines to discuss and plan the way forward. The time is now for Shop Stewards, Branch Officers, and all Union activists to form themselves into a force to improve the quality of leadership in some of these unions. 

When one union leader acts in a manner which amounts to a sell out of its members it is a sell out of the whole movement. For far too long some of the leaders have been selling out the labour movement. Make no mistake this has been happening from the so-called left as well as from the usual sell-out right. 
In the recent past the workers’ movement was hit with a double whammy. A so-called workers party purporting to have the blessing of the movement joined forces with the PP government. Then the leader of one of the federations chose to give his blessings to the government's plan to privatize a number of state enterprises, such as Water and Sewage Authority, First Citizens Bank and so on. 
We cannot wait on the leaders to act: the task has now fallen to class conscious workers who must answer the call to battle. We cannot and must not sit idly by and allow the right wing elements in the labour movement and their friends in big business to succeed with their neo-liberal plans. The time to act is now!