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WHOSE WEALTH? WHOSE RIGHTS? By Ken Howell

posted 5 Jun 2018, 18:31 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 5 Jun 2018, 18:46 ]
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There is a view which is currently promoted by elements who command time slots on the electronic media, which holds that the population is not entitled to benefit from the country’s wealth. 

They choose to attack the people, at this time, when the country’s main foreign exchange earner, which is oil and gas, has declined both in production levels and price, although we recently witnessed a favourable increase in prices.

What is prompting this attack on the people at this time? Well there are persons in the media who peddle the neo-liberal philosophy which is opposed to the welfare state and society and is using every avenue available to call on the citizens to be a party to the crime of its destruction. Unfortunately, they do not know that they are peddling the most extreme capitalist philosophy which is free enterprise system without rules.

In a system in which the job of the government is to tax the population and transfer the funds to the private sector, who will determine how those funds will be invested? This is a system which envisages the private sector paying no taxes and the working people free of the burden of trade union representation. In other words, they want the labour market free of trade unions that they describe as the “opportunistic elements in the labour market.”

These elements genuinely believe that by their utterances they are promoting the interest of the country and the current party in power, which is crying all over the place saying that the country has no money and therefore it might have to cut certain benefits to the public and freeze wages and other social benefits.

These people are not aware that what they are advocating is privatization of the enterprises which were built with public funds. They are not aware that they are advocating for the transfer of public assets to the private sector. Many are calling for the dismantling of the social programmes claiming that there is no entitlement to these benefits. They argue that these benefits are enjoyed by those who receive them free of any cost to them and this freeness must stop.

But what they deemed to be free is not free. The population pays taxes and, in addition, are entitled to an equal share of the oil and gas wealth of the country. Therefore, it is not true to say that such benefits are free of cost to those who enjoy them. This attitude is symptomatic of what appears to be a mood now being ventilated in certain business quarters, pointing in a direction that the time is now to bury the trade union movement.

Many are those who believe that the current PNM government is too slow to act in the interest of the private sector. The plain and simple truth is that they want the blood of the workers and their unions. But in order to achieve that objective they must first seek to win the population over to their side, by convincing its members that the trade unions are making unreasonable demands on the country’s government and private sector, for wage and salary increases, which the country can ill afford.

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This is where the elements in the electronic media come into play. Their job is to mobilise the population against the workers who are members of all the various communities, who have benefitted historically from the struggles of the trade unions and their members. 

The quality of life and the standard of living of many of our citizens can be traced back to benefits which the trade union movement was able to win for its members and by extension the society as a whole.

Therefore, the leaders of the local conglomerates and the one percent must also admit that they too have benefitted from the improvement in the quality of life of the working people, because as soon as the workers receive the new salary increases the store owners collect a large slice in the form of higher purchase payments on goods which they have already received or on new purchases. 

But these people are not prepared to live and share the wealth of the country with the working people. As far as they are concerned working people are not entitled to any rights, benefits and privileges in this society.

The unfortunate thing is that the leaders of the trade union movement are asleep and unaware of the fact that they are very vulnerable to attack from the ruling class notwithstanding all the robber talk from some leaders who always threatening to shut down the country. The central task facing the movement is to improve the quality of representation provided to the members through an aggressive education programme designed to produce a new crop of leaders with the capability to represent the members from the work place all the way up to the Industrial Court.

The true leaders of the movement will know that the struggles that spill out into the streets are those which had their origins in the branch. Therefore, it has always been the task of the leaders on the job to manage the struggle at that level. That is one of the reasons why you need to strengthen the union at the level of the branch. This is not the time for the leaders of unions to spend their time, energy and union funds to build electoral parties, whether led by David Abdulah or Watson Duke, which do not see their interests and that of the workers as one and the same.

The union members must ditch the mocking pretenders whose intentions are to ride on their backs in order to get into political office. The workers are entitled to a higher quality of leadership. They must also get rid of some of the current band of imposters who have no interest in building a strong movement, because their interest lies elsewhere. It lies in their desire to emulate the capitalists whom they look up to for guidance as they make use of union funds and property to establish businesses in league with the one percent.

Such leaders also believe that union members have no entitlement to information about the financial affairs of the respective unions. As a result these leaders could not care whether the enemies of the workers are plotting and planning to lick up the movement, because these leaders are ensuring that if and when that happens they would have already secured themselves financially by looting the resources of their respective unions. They believe that they are more entitled to benefits from the resources of the unions than their members.

The current situation in the movement has its history in the cultivation of an atmosphere of mistrust between the pro-working class and anti-working class leaders from as far back as the 1960s. However, a new element has been added to this mix. These are so-called leaders purporting to be progressive but who have been suspected of being agents of external forces acting from the left with the main objective of keeping the movement divided, by purporting to be acting in the best interest of the movement when in fact what they are doing is placing obstacles in the part of the movement at every turn to ensure that the disunity continues.
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