Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Labour Movement Versus PP Gov't

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
January 17, 2011

Year 2011 has witnessed the continued acerbic relationship between the membership of the labour movement and the seven-month old People's Partnership (PP) government.

The powers that be in these unions/associations need to realize and understand very clearly that the mammoth, outstanding sums of money owed to them are the irresponsible, anti-labour legacy of the former PNM government under Patrick Manning.

This mess has now been inherited by the PP government. Union/association leaders need to come to grips with the reality that this seven-year mess cannot be wiped out within less than seven months. This should not be their expectations. Life just does not work that way. The "instant gratification" mode of union/association leaders needs to be shelved/tempered.

Union/association leaders need to let the financial nature of these times run its course . "Rush to judgement" is not the solution but it may just end up being the problem.

Yes, the membership of the PSA and TTUTA voted for the PP government; yes, the membership of the construction industry also voted for the PP government. And the leadership of the PP government is more than grateful for all these votes.

However, a reality check is a sine qua non in these current global financial/economic times.

The leadership of unions/associations should reflect on the vicious and venomous treatment they received at the hands of the PNM government's Public Sector Negotiating Committee (PSNC) under Dr. Lenny Saith in the Office of Prime Minister Patrick Manning.

The leadership of unions/associations also need to recall that the former PNM government sought to de-certify certain unions.

The leadership of unions/associations should realize that unlike the obdurate anti-labour posture of the former PNM government, the PP government under Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is more than willing to work with them in order to arrive at an acceptable, reasonable and liveable wage structure.

In this regard, membership of the labour movement need to be very cognizant of the economic reality that for seven years the PNM government obdurately refused to install a minimum wage for workers in T&T; however, within less than seven months in office, the PP government has legalized a $12.50 minimum wage.

This represents people's democracy under the PP government; the converse was true under the former PNM government led by Patrick Manning.

Indeed, instead of marching in front of the Prime Minister's office, these union/associations' leaders should be marching in front of the Office of the Leader of the opposition, Dr. Keith Rowley. He was part of the PNM government that imposed/inflicted this harsh/inhumane suffering on their membership, not the PP government.

Moreover, instead of blasting the Minister of Finance, Winston Dookeran, these union/associations' leaders and CLICO's policy holders, should also be blasting the former Minister of Finance, Karen Nunez-Tesheira and the Governor of the Central Bank, Ewart Williams. These leaders need to remember that Mrs. Tesheira got her millions up front before the CLICO fiasco/disaster.

These leaders are aiming their guns at the wrong targets.

On the other hand, it is totally ridiculous and ironic, albeit laughable, for the Opposition Business Leader in the Senate, Pennelope Beckles-Robinsion, to infer that failure of the PP government to settle wage issues with the PSA "throws everything out of whack?"

As such, the immediate question that comes to the fore is: Why didn't Mrs. Beckles-Robinson have the nerve and fortitude to warn then Prime Minister Patrick Manning of this impending national calamity as she saw it?

Every one already knows the answer, including Mrs. Beckles-Robinson.

Similarly, it is supremely disingenuous, mischievous and malicious for Michael Annisette, President of Natuc and former board member of UdeCott to publicly suggest that the PP government should offer public servants "at least a 14 per cent wage increase in light of the increased inflation rate."

Again, would Mr. Annisette have dared to make such a public suggestion to then PNM Prime Minister Patrick Manning?

Every one already knows the answer, including Mr. Annisette.

The stark reality is that the leadership of all trade unions and associations in T&T needs to back off for a while. They need to give the teething PP government breeding space in which to operate for the benefit of We the People. The former PNM government's malfeasance and intransigence are too ghastly to contemplate. The PP government needs more time to work things out.

Indeed, there is absolutely no doubt in this writer's mind that the PP government will be true to its successful campaign manifesto promises.

Every citizen who rightly deserves to get money will get it; contractors will also get their long-outstanding just payment, CLICO policy holders will also be compensated--- all in due time.

However, everyone knows how long it took to build Rome.

In the final analysis, leadership in trade unions/associations need to be cognizant of the Biblical truism that although "Joy cometh in the morning"; however, it cannot and will not come in tomorrow's morning in T&T. Ergo, leadership in unions/associations needs to give the PP government time to put T&T on the right financial/economic path. Indeed, joy may cometh for some CLICO policy holders before carnival.

Now is not the time to threaten to shut the country down for something the PP government is not the culprit in its making. On the contrary, now is the crucial time for all parties to come together in tandem in order to lift the country up.

Now is not the time to engage in reckless behaviour that endangers every one. Now is not the time to threaten the PP government with law suits. Now is not the time for divisiveness; on the contrary, now is the time to right the wrong left by the anti-labour and anti-people PNM government.

Leaders of unions/associations must "keep hope alive" and be re-assured that their duly-elected PP government under the able and pro-people leadership of Prime Minister Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar will "do the right thing" not only in their interest but also in the country's interest and well-being.

Truth Be Told: For while it may be good brinkmanship for the Public Service Association's President, Watson Duke to publicly threaten the PP government with "weapons of mass destruction" and for Natuc's President Michael Annisette to launch the "White Friday" protest on 28 January 2011, they should hope that by their actions "the chickens (do not) come home to roost."

Shem Hotep (" I go in peace").

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies.

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