Thursday, October 17, 2002
Wednesday, September 18, 2002
Friday, August 23, 2002
Press Release : August 23rd 2002
The All Trinidad Sugar and General National Workers Trade Union issues a call for the immediate resignation of the Minister of Security, Mr. Howard Chin Lee. Months after his much-touted Crime Plan was unveiled, it has become painfully apparent that the Minister is clueless as to emergency remedial action that has become necessary following the alarming upsurge in criminal activity in the land. Most notable is the historic and monumental rise in kidnappings. At a time when Trinidad and Tobago has lost its world ranking amongst developing nations and as a rising Caribbean star, we now rank only in terms of having one of the highest kidnapping rates in the world. Today we read of businessmen being kidnapped daily, of kidnapped victims found with lethal bullet wounds to the head, of high tech 'kidnap boxes' and of banking and police connections in the kidnapping ring. Yet we have not heard one single arrest.
Instead we read conflicting reports of the retention of one Thomas A Clayton, an alleged kidnapping expert from the United States. On August 8th the Minister, in an address to the nation outlined the role of Mr. Clayton who he had introduced as a leading expert in counter terrorism who was to "share tactics and strategies while providing intense training to a specialized local unit." Not long afterwards Mr. Clayton himself suggested that he had merely given advice to the Cabinet and that he had no intentions of returning to Trinidad. Further, Mr. Clayton denied reports that he was paid or was to be paid $250,000. "We didn't expect to be paid", he said to reporters on his departure. When questioned about the apparent inconsistency, the Minister reported that the fee was being negotiated. The puzzling state of affairs has been further aggravated by the position adopted by the U.S. Embassy in Trinidad. The US Ambassador Dr. Roy Austin has gone on record as saying that he does not know of Mr. Clayton. On August 10th the Ambassador told the media that, he had "absolutely no idea how these people came here" and that the Minister did not consult with the Embassy on the matter.
The Union is of the view that these are grave inconsistencies and contradictions in a matter that is of mammoth national importance. The lives of all Trinbagonians are at stake so that any effort to remedy the tension must be as transparent as possible. The nation's purse is the source of Mr. Clayton's remuneration. We deserve to know the nature of his compensation package. The Government therefore, has a moral and spiritual obligation to give the facts. Who is Thomas Clayton? What is his organization? What is their expertise? What are the terms of reference of their employment with the State? Why wasn't the U.S. Embassy approached for assistance in sourcing professional aid in dealing with the "kidnapping dengue" that has engulfed the land? The Union's efforts to obtain information on the group via the Internet have proven futile. We publicly demand an explanation from the Prime Minister, who is the head of the National Security Council of Trinidad and Tobago. Mr. Clayton's concept of advisor does not fit hsrole as envisaged by Minister Chin Lee.
The Union feels that the Minister "did not come clean" with the nation. He deliberately or otherwise misled an entire population. The Ministry of National Security itself seems to have been kidnapped by criminal elements as the crime wave rockets to unprecedented heights. The Minister himself seems incapable of dealing with the situation. In the circumstances we feel that Minister Chin Lee must do the honourable thing and resign. Failing which, the Prime Minister may have no alternative but to relieve him of his duties.
Tuesday, July 23, 2002
Press Release : July 23rd 2002
President General of the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers Trade Union (ATS&GWTU) Rudranath Indarsingh has said Government's proposed VSEP offer by month's end for Caroni workers is false and totally misleading.
Dismissing statements made by the Minister of Agriculture John Rahael in a Sunday Express article (July 21) "In the Hot Seat" - Indarsingh told sugar workers not to be unduly alarmed by the Minister's remarks.
"No VSEP package can be agreed upon for Caroni workers without consultation with the majority bargaining body for workers," Indarsingh said.
Pointing out that the Minister seemed unaware of the rudiments of the negotiating process, Indarsingh said Mr. Rahael needed "a lesson in proper industrial procedures."
The union leader's comments came, in response to a weekend newspaper article on the government's VSEP plan for Caroni, on his first day back on the job, following a brief illness.
"To say that Cabinet will decide by month's end on the VSEP package for Caroni workers was not only evidence of autocratic behaviour on the part of government but a very worrisome development in the context of healthy Industrial Relations practices," he said.
The union leader was also critical of several inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the newspaper article.
He pointed out that in one breadth the Minister admits to not having done a "head count" to ascertain the true employment needs of the company then goes on to say that "I am confident we will get the required number."
Indarsingh said the Minister had no authority to make such a statement without a manpower audit and analysis of the intricacies of the company's operations.
Contrary to claims made by the Minister, Indarsingh said the records will show that he (Indarsingh) became a member of the Caroni Board in mid 1999 and as far as he was aware none of the five Ministers (from the previous administration) had at anytime pressured Caroni to back off from implementing a VSEP package.
Wednesday, July 17, 2002
Thursday, July 4, 2002
Press Release : July 14th 2002
The General Council of the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers Trade Union has unanimously rejected the Government's Report on the Future Direction of Caroni (1975) Ltd. At its monthly statutory meeting dated July 3rd 2002 at the Union's headquarters President General Bro. Rudranath Indarsingh tabled the Report for discussion.
Following the address, a Motion was moved to the following effect:
Whereas the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers Trade Union is recognized as the sole and exclusive bargaining agent for the hourly, daily, piece and task rated employees at Caroni (1975) Ltd. as stated in Article Five of its Registered Memorandum of Agreement
And Whereas the Government of Trinidad and Tobago had established a Committee to advance a Report on the Restructuring of Caroni (1975) Ltd.
And Whereas that Committee had no representative of the ATS&GWTU or any other Labour Organisation
And Whereas the Advisory Body of Kairi Consultants Ltd. did not make any or any reasonable efforts to secure the input of the ATS&GWTU in the preparation of the Report
And Whereas the Report was delivered to the ATS&GWTU after excessive and undue delay
And Whereas the said Report was tabled for discussion by the President General Of the ATS&GWTU on the 3rd day of July 2002 at the statutory meeting of the Union's General Council
And Whereas it became evident that the Report proposes inter alia involuntary separation for workers in 2003 and a total shut down of Caroni's operation by 2005
And Whereas the Report lacks specifics, is actuarially inconsistent and is generally intellectually unsound
Be it Resolved that the General Council reject the Report in its totality
Be it Further Resolved that the ATS&GWTU call for renewed dialogue and consultation with the Government to discuss the future of Caroni(1975) Ltd.
And be it Further Resolved that the Union embark immediately on a series of public meetings to sensitize the nation on the Government's attack on the basic and fundamental human rights of the Sugar Worker.
The Motion was moved by Bro. Ramsook Singh, Branch President of the Williamsville Section, seconded by Bro. Harnarine Toolsie Branch President of the Picton/ Monkey Town Section and unanimously approved by all members present.
The Branches that were represented and who voted in support of the motion were;
- K.C. Confectionery,
- USM Refinery,
- Blind Welfare Association,
- Charles Candy,
- La Gloria,
- La Fortune/Hermitage,
- Picton/Monkey Town,
- CFD South, Cedar Hill,
- Bronte, Petite Morne,
- USM (FED, Factory, Traffic),
- Reform, Auto Rentals (North & South),
- National Agro, Mora Valley,
- Sunshine Snacks,
- Picton Beef Herd,
- Agri Services (North & South),
- Caroni Distillery,
- Shipping Terminal,
- Forres Park Seereeram Bros.,
- Mon Jaloux Farm,
- Sugar Cane Feed Centre,
- Caroni Rice Project,
- Tricon, Williamsville,
- CFD North,
- Phoenix Park,
- BC Factory,
- BC Traffic,
- BC FED,
- Caroni Research Station,
- W/ Lodge FED Todds Raod TC ,
- J/ Junction and Caroni.
The Union also calls upon the leadership of other Unions in the Sugar Industry, particularly TICFA to account for its support for the proposal despite the fact that there was no consultation and dialogue. The Union has formed the opinion that some Union leaders have not been totally honest with their membership about the realistic outcome of the proposal, which envisages a total shutdown of the Industry and a total closure of the cane farming sector by the wet season of 2005. We call upon these leaders to "come clean" with their membership.
The Union will commence its series of mass public meetings on Tuesday July 9th at the Rienzi Complex at 4 pm. On Thursday 11th July the Union moves to the Usine St. Madeline Sports Club at 4 pm. These meetings will be addressed by the President General, Union Officers and a host of special guest speakers.
Tuesday, April 9, 2002
Press Release : April 9th 2002
The All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers Trade Union issues an urgent call to the Leader of the Peoples National Movement, Mr. Patrick Manning to advise the President of the date for fresh elections, now that he has clearly demonstrated that he does not control a majority in the Parliament. The failure of Mr. Manning to elect a Speaker of the House is an unequivocal indication that he is incapable of properly convening the Parliament and running the affairs of the Nation. It is a rejection of his administration and of his position as Leader of the House. One recalls that President Robinson had appointed Mr. Manning as the Prime Minister on the sole constitutional criterion that Manning was considered to be most likely to command a majority in the House. Now that he has sought to convene Parliament within six months and pursuant to section 67 of the Constitution, but has failed to elect a Speaker of the House it is possible to suggest that his Excellency may have erred in the exercise of his discretion.
The Union is of the view that the election of a Speaker is a constitutional prerequisite for a successful sitting of the Parliament. Section 50 (1) of the Constitution states that when Parliament meets for the first time after a General Election, it shall elect a Speaker before the dispatch of any other business. That there was no election of a Speaker means that there is no elected Presiding Officer of the Lower House and that the confusion that erupted in the House cannot be considered to be a legitimate sitting of the House. To do so is to make a mockery of our Parliamentary democracy.
The Prorogation of Parliament under the West Minster system, is the suspension of the House after a successful sitting. Obviously therefore, there can be no suspension or prorogation of the Parliament if there was no successful convening (sitting) in the first place. Clearly the Manning administration has failed the first test in its Parliamentary life of electing a Speaker of the House and they have demonstrated to the country that the Parliament does not repose in them the confidence to run the affairs of the state. The move to prorogue the House is an attempt to stall things and to "buy" time, perhaps hoping that matters before the Courts would score political points for the PNM. It is clearly an illegitimate act from a government that continues to exhibit its illegitimacy and unconstitutionality in its every act.
The state of affairs means that there is no Parliament and that there is no legitimate government. The country is in constitutional limbo and the citizens are being kept hostage by an illegal political administration.
The Union can only conclude, through the recent developments which have occurred that there is a conspiracy between the President and the Political Leader of the P.N.M. to erode the democracy of this country and to disenfranchise all the citizens of our beloved country who possess the right to vote. The citizens of our country deserve an explanation from his Excellency, as has been his past practice.
In the circumstances, the Union calls upon the President to advise Manning that he does not command a majority in the House and he must advise him that in the interests of the nation, a fresh election must be called. The President must also insist that Manning invokes the morality and spirituality that allegedly were the cornerstones of his appointment. To do otherwise would be the highest level of hypocrisy that the nation has ever experienced.
Thursday, February 28, 2002
Friday, February 22, 2002
Press Release : February 22nd 2002
The All Trinidad Sugar and General Trade Workers Trade Union feels a sense of vindication now that the Minister of Agriculture has decided to take a note to Cabinet seeking the provision of a $324 million loan through a Letter of Comfort, to rescue the financially troubled Caroni Ltd. The Union had earlier maintained that commercial banks had in the past accepted Letters of Comfort to fund the state enterprise upon request from the Cabinet, and that there was no requirement that the matter be placed before Parliament. The Union had stressed that the Industry and the respective stakeholders could have been spared the alarm, panic, anxiety and sensationalism that was created when the Government had announced that the future of the Company was in jeopardy due to a lack of funding. We had called for a more prudent approach, which would have involved dialogue with the interested parties within the Industry.
In the circumstances, we view the decision to seek additional funding through a letter of Comfort as a positive step and one, which would inevitably redound to the benefit of the Industry, the workers and their families.
The Union also awaits the "decisive plan for the redirecting of Caroni Ltd. " which is due by May 31st 2002. Interestingly, this announcement was made by Trade Minister Ken Valley and not the Minister of Agriculture. The Union therefore questions the identity of the Minister who has responsibility for Caroni (1975) Ltd. The Union was never consulted as to the official policy of the P.N.M. with respect to the future of the Sugar Industry. The administration seems bent upon deciding the future of the Industry without consulting the stakeholders. Such an attitude can render any final proposal meaningless.
This appears to be another rebuff of the ATS&GWTU leadership and a further reflection of a pattern of discrimination and alienation of sugar workers and their families, capable of destroying their job security and livelihood.
Friday, February 15, 2002
Press Release : February 15th 2002
The All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers Trade Union considers the Government's continued inaction and silence on the future of Caroni 1975 Ltd. as further proof of the utter contempt and disdain which their administration have adopted towards the all important national Industry and its workers.
Several weeks after pronouncing to the public that the financial status of the Company was to be placed on the national agenda and after the convening of several Cabinet meetings, the government has failed to inform the relevant stakeholders of the progress of deliberations (if any), on the future of the said Industry.
At a press briefing dated February 15th 2002, Mr. Patrick Manning informed the media of the matters that were discussed at the weekly Cabinet the day before. He outlined then, that they had deliberated on inter alia, the renewal of the MV Beaufort to service the route between Trinidad and Tobago, the strengthening of the Government's communications through its Ministerial departments, the establishment of a team to negotiate a new Trinidad/Barbados agreement and the creation of a standing Committee on energy featuring the controversial Ken Julian. Mr. Manning also informed the Media that Cabinet had considered a note on the question of security in schools, which was referred to the Finance and General Purposes Committee and which is expected to be examined on Monday. But not a single word on the fate of Caroni Ltd. Why hasn't the Caroni issue gone before the Finance and General Purposes Committee of Cabinet.
Only two weeks ago the Minister of Agriculture had indicated to the Union that the issue would be forwarded to the relevant Cabinet Committee, but since then no information has been forthcoming. It seems therefore that the Government is yet to conceptualize a formal policy on Caroni Ltd. The Manning Government has expeditiously addressed every other issue of national importance and even those that appear not to be of equal significance. Yet Caroni Ltd. has once again been unceremoniously shoved on the sideline.
From political sensationalism and hysteria to an inexplicable silence, the Government's treatment of the stakeholders in the Industry suggests that the Cabinet is either functionally incapable of dealing with the issue or they have chosen deliberately to ignore it.
From the Union's perspective, the Government's agenda which appears to be highly discriminatory in orientation and practice, has begun to test the patience of the thousands of people who continue on a daily basis to struggle to sustain a livelihood through the Industry. The Union has always had a responsibility towards sugar workers and it is a responsibility it is not prepared to shirk as it seeks to ensure that these workers are duly recognized as equal citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.