Saturday, January 20, 2018

Birds of a feather…

My old grandmother “uses” to say that birds of a feather flock together.

So I was not surprised to see on May 23 Keith Rowley and Ancel Roget doing what has become their trade mark modus operandi – no new ideas, making wild accusations, acting like raging bulls, being entirely disruptive and marching in a vain attempt to “shut down de country” and demand “de removal of de government”.

And so their merry band of less than 2,000 paraded through our capital offering no new prescriptions to take our country forward. Marching and making incessant noises, for them, equals productivity and value-added contributions to our economy.

Everyone knows my views on the paucity of visionary ideas and the intellectual vacuity associated with our Opposition led by Keith Rowley. They are a drag on our development. I await one great idea for development from the Rowley camp.

I hold similar views of Ancel Roget who must be the most ungrateful union leader in the world. A true neemakharam.

It was the Kamla Persad-Bissessar Government which, despite unresolved and inherited CLICO and HCU crises and non-payment of over $6 billion to contractors, settled over 75 wage negotiations left behind by the visionless PNM. It was this Government that increased the minimum wage which was a demand of the trade union movement for years. It was this Government that gave the movement a seat at the table of governance. It was this Government that gave public sector workers increases of five to eight per cent when countries the world over including the US, Canada, France, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain had cut or frozen public sector salaries and reduced the size of their public sectors. The US even introduced a painful trillion-dollar sequester on federal expenditures.

The great Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler in his latter days called for a unity between capital and labour. Translated, that meant workers through such initiatives as share ownership schemes should become owners of businesses.

That is too intellectually challenging for Roget and Rowley. The PNM keeps its supporters in a state of persistent poverty while Roget does not wish truly empowered workers since they will not need unions.

Devoid of ideas, Rowley and Roget find comfort in Rottweiler tactics. Bark, shout, march, accuse, disrupt, play themselves, pretend to be doing something productive, gallery, make incessant noises while offering not a single idea to take Trinidad and Tobago forward. Not one positive idea.

Has Roget heard about schemes to empower workers like ESOP — employee stock ownership plans, which provide a company’s workforce with an ownership interest in the company? Is he aware that unions and management in developed countries share ideas on how to cut costs, increase productivity and improve worker involvement in management, which require serious bridge-building capacities, developing trust and enhancing worker skills and competencies? And what is the OWTU’s record with the treatment of its own workers? It should be setting the example through best practices for workers.

If we are to become a developed country Roget and Rowley must move away from yesterday’s old practices. They have to get with the programme. Don’t try Butler’s tactics in the 21st century. They are irrelevant and unbecoming of 21st century practitioners of trade union leadership or opposition politics.

Which brings me to a book both of them should read: From Third World To First. The Singapore Story: 1965 to 2000. Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew. I recommend it also to our Prime Minister.

Lee Kuan Yew writes about an ignorant, irrational, uneducated, rabble-rouser named K. Supiah, president of the powerful Public Daily Rated Employees’ Union Federation.

According to Lee Kuan Yew: “Supiah did not understand that we were no longer in the happy, riotous 1950s when union power was waxing: that newly independent Singapore, on its own and highly vulnerable, the government could not allow any union to jeopardize Singapore’s survival.”

Lee Kuan Yew dealt frontally with the disruptive Supiah and “it triggered off a change in union culture, from defiant “flouting of reasonableness”, to a culture benefitting from “give and take”.

Roget must determine his legacy – a second class Rottweiler, an iconoclast, a rabble-rouser like Supiah, or a visionary nation builder like Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Butler, Adrian Cola Rienzi or Lee Kuan Yew.

If Trinidad and Tobago ever needed enlightened, visionary, 21st century trade union and opposition leaders, it is now.