Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Errol McLeod – eminent trade unionist


Mark Fraser

When the history of true patriotism is written, Errol McLeod’s name will be listed among those who served his country with honour, dignity, firmness and passion.

The same cannot be said about the current crop of trade unionists aided and abetted by none other than Keith Rowley,

Ancel Roget and Watson Duke are stuck in the 1950s with no vision for workers such as their becoming owners of capital through such instruments as employee share ownership plans. This is very unlike even Butler who in his latter days called for a marriage between capital and labour.

Instead, visionless Roget and Duke’s sole goal is to shut down “de” country and bring down “de govament”.

Clearly they envisage a Trinidad and Tobago based on the jungle where might is right and life is “nasty, brutish and short”.

How else does one explain Duke’s flagrant abuse of industrial relations practice by which he refuses to acknowledge the judgement handed down by the Industrial Court?

This from an Industrial Court that is, all things being equal, very sympathetic to workers. This is why managers, excluded from the jurisdiction of that Court because they make policy decisions in companies, try as hard as possible to have their cases heard there.

They argue that notwithstanding being a manager, they were not policy makers.

If the legal system associated with the Industrial Court collapses then there is nothing to stop a crisis in our economy, our business environment and foreign direct investments, currently the highest in recent times.

This is why we must applaud McLeod’s stance. No doubt given his past he understands the cause of workers. But as someone who has the country’s interest at heart, he also appreciates that for a democracy such as ours to function there must be a balance between workers’ rights, the interest of other members of society, and the need for peace, order and good governance.

If garbage collectors decide to shut down the country because of a perceived grievance, we will all suffer. The same would occur if doctors, teachers, police officers and nurses, energy workers take the same decision.

No group acting selfishly should hold all citizens to ransom.

That is a recipe for chaos.

Duke cannot use the excuse of workers’ safety because the responsible bodies have confirmed that while there are matters to address, the buildings are safe for occupancy.

He cannot use the excuse of right to association. It was the former chief justice Sir Hugh Wooding who stated that “Freedom to associate confers neither right nor license for a course of conduct or the commission of acts which, in the view of Parliament, are inimical to the peace, order and good governance of the country”.

Only in Trinidad and Tobago can Duke and Roget could get away with this nonsense.

In Singapore such nonsense would not have been tolerated.

It was Lee Quan Yew who in the 1960s jailed many of the supporters of a rabble rouser trade unionist K Supiah, who like Duke, unreasonably threatened the economic well being of that country.

This iconic world statesman who made his country among the richest in the world today has written about the visionless trade union movement that brought the UK to its knees in the 1960s forcing a devaluation of the pound.

According to him, if that were to happen under his watch in Singapore, he would have declared it “high treason”.

Trinidad and Tobago must decide whether it wants to achieve first world status where people can enjoy the comforts of life, obtain gainful employment and bring up their children in a wholesome and intellectually enriching environment.

Or can we surrender to people like Roget and Duke who have no idea of what it takes to run a country, do not have a plan to advance workers’ rights beyond strike action, or could not care less if Trinidad and Tobago collapses under the visionless “shut down de country” foolishness they prescribe.

This is why I commend McLeod for placing the greater good of all citizens beyond the selfish ambitions of a few. He must stand firm.

And what is Rowley’s view on all this? Apparently he considers it more important to address the reported less than ten persons in a church in Brooklyn than reprimand Roget and Duke with whom he marched recently in a show of solidarity.

Maybe Rowley also believes in shutting down the country like his trade union pals.