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WHITHER IOCL STRIKE? By Tony Bedassie

posted 12 Jan 2017, 05:35 by Gerry Kangalee
For nearly a century the labour movement has continued its battle to improve the standards of employment for workers in this country. Indeed it was due to the early efforts of people such as Rienzi, Cipriani and Butler that not only workers but the entire nation began agitating for their rights. This movement laid the foundation for us gaining our independence.

From then to now the mantra has been the same. "Organise the unorganised!" and “In unity there is strength!"

IOCL workers are one of the very few groups of contract employees operating within Trinmar who have done just that. They gained legal bargaining status and have a negotiated collective agreement between their employer and their representative, the OWTU. Damus may be the only other set of workers who hold such status.

Having been led into strike action by their union which will come to a close next week, their employer has stood his ground: the strike therefore lasting the full 90 days.

A number of scenarios are possible at the end of this impasse. It is reported that their employer is in the process of winding up the company and transferring its assets to another entity which he owns: an entity which does not hold the contract for the provision of marine transportation of Trinmar workers.

Yet Petrotrin has already put out a request to tender for the said contract. Therefore it is entirely possible that this entity may very well become the awardee of said contract.

If the current batch of striking workers is sent home as a result of such actions and the matter goes before the courts, the contractor may then rehire those workers he feels are passive and leave the others who fought him vociferously during the strike on the breadline. Should this happen, it would be a slap in the face of the working class and more so the entire labour movement.

The signal sent will be clear. The Employer class showing that they have the power to deal with organised labour: that to organise yourselves, to become unionised, will be to your detriment.

The entire labour movement, be it FITUN, NATUC, JTUM and even the MSJ must become cognisant of this scenario. Otherwise any attempt to "Organise the unorganised" or to express the sentiment that "In unity there is strength" will be viewed by contract and other workers as just vain repetitions : that it is better to stay away from the unions in order to hold on to one's job.
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