Last week the Employer’s Consultative Association issued a statement saying that any strike action by trade unions in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago could result in workers being laid off from their jobs. What I found curious about such a statement being made by an association that is operating freely in a modern day democratic society is the fact that they did not state why workers would be laid off for exercising their democratic rights.
ECA chairman Keston Nancoo was quoted in the Express as saying "In the present set of circumstances, while we acknowledge the right of trade unions to use their organisation and institutional power to resist attacks on social and labour rights, we do believe that the time has come for us to break with tradition and to introduce greater levels of creativity, innovation and imagination, supported by the will to succeed and the belief in the possibility of change". So again I ask the question, if it is as Mr. Nancoo states that the ECA recognises the right of trade unions to use their institutional power to resist attacks on social and labour rights, why then does his organisation foresee that workers will be laid off for exercising those rights, an act which would no doubt be in contravention of not only our democratic freedoms but a contravention of good industrial relation practice?
Is Mr. Nancoo indicating the ECA’s subtle acceptance that despite the so called advancement of democracy, end of slavery and indenturedship that members of his organisation are still openly victimising workers for exercising their democratic rights? Is Mr. Nancoo now subtly admitting that members of his organisation are employing tactics of our former colonial masters when our forefathers took to the streets and downed tools when they were of the opinion that they were being exploited, treated unfairly and not being given a fair share of the profits which they toiled to generate? I do believe Mr. Nancoo and the ECA owes the citizens of this country an explanation with regards his organisation’s latest statement.
I for one cannot understand why Mr. Nancoo would advocate a break with tradition when it seems members of his association are well prepared to engage in tactics of the past such as victimising workers for engaging in industrial action, and to issue threats such as the above statement. If it is that Mr. Nancoo’s members are not only going to continue their acts of depriving workers of a just wage but also victimise them when they seek to fight for just wages as their democratic rights permits them to, then surely Mr. Nancoo cannot reasonably expect the trade unions to break with tradition. I do believe what Mr. Nancoo and the ECA are engaging in is what is called “double speak”.
While the ECA is pleading with trade unions to “put their country first”, one cannot help but notice that they have issued no such request to their respective members who are making millions in profit. How come the ECA does not see it as a duty to remind it’s members who are raking in millions of dollars in profits despite the global financial crisis, that they need to put country first by ensuring they pay their workers well and give them a just share of profits to ensure that poverty eradication remains a priority in our beloved country and a descent standard of living for the workers who were responsible for them making such millions is secured?
One Caribbean Media Ltd has reported a $44.5 million before tax profit for the half-year ended June 30 2011. Republic Bank Group has recorded a net profit attributable to shareholders of $525.3 million for the financial half year ended March 31 2011 and just posted a 7% increase over their 9month results. Ansa McAL reported a $954m profit for its shareholders. Yet still the ECA is silent with regards to the patriotic responsibilities of these organisations in terms of rewarding employees and ensuring that they have a good standard of living.
I want to let Mr. Nancoo and the members of his organisation know that the workers of this country will not revert to the kind of oppression that was endured by our forefathers. We will not be susceptible to tomfoolery and masked threats. I also want to remind Mr. Nancoo that throughout history the number one crippling factor in economies the world over is the greed of the employer class and their reluctance to fairly distribute the wealth, so he can mamaguy the working class in T&T all he wants it is the employer class that stands to lose the most. I therefore recommend to Mr. Nancoo to advise his members to "put country first" and ensure that the wealth of this nation is fairly distributed to all and not greedily hoarded and controlled by a few.