“Article 3.1 [of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention]: ‘For the purposes of this Convention the term forced or compulsory labour shall mean all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily’.
“You can’t force people to work overtime… You don’t dismiss workers because they were boldfaced enough to exercise their constitutional right to seek assistance from the National Workers Union in the face of your oppressive and illegal actions.”
The following Letter to the Editor on the axing of 25 workers at Cadel Trading—the warehouse affiliated to Francis Fashions/Shoe Locker—was submitted to Wired868 by Kathleen Davis and Gerry Kangalee of the National Workers Union (NWU):
“In a million different ways they violate the law;
It’s the same good, no-good bastards who oppress the poor;
They selling black market, making excess profit,
Paying starvation salary;
These good citizens are the architects of economic slavery.”
(Good Citizens by Slinger “The Mighty Sparrow” Francisco)
Mr Sean Hadeed, big sawatee of Gulf City and Francis Fashions/ Shoe Locker, you think that because you are the employer and belong to a prominent 1% family, workers’ terms and conditions of employment at your Cadel warehouse in Trincity can be unilaterally changed by you without consultation and/or agreement from them?
You believe that working-class people are so hungry that they would put up with exploitation forever and accept that they have no say in the matter? If that is the case, then it is slavery again…
Mr Sean Hadeed, a word of advice for you: not because you have set the original terms and conditions means you have the right to change these by yourself.
Cadel Trading, Francis Fashions and Shoe Locker may be yours but this is not the 19th Century. The workers are no longer slaves; they are free men and women. This, Mr Gulf City, is the 21st Century. Maybe you didn’t get the memo.
You need to understand that workers are people and not chattel. The tone of your letter of dismissal to the workers makes it clear that Cadel knows nothing about good housekeeping.
You think you are the descendant of Massa? Listen to yourself: “… you refused to recognise and submit to the authority of the employer.” Wow!
Contrary to your belief, this twin-island state has enacted laws for the protection of its citizens, who are not just party financiers and foreign exchange-hungry merchants but who are workers and poor people as well.
The number of work-hours per week has been well established in law and you by yourself cannot change that; you must have the concurrence of the workers so to do. Further to this, why would you want to work people for chicken and chips?
Because people did not work overtime, you first lock them out and then dismiss them? Who do you think you are? This is forced labour or what is commonly called slavery.
Mr Sean Hadeed, do you realise that Trinidad and Tobago is a signatory of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention no. 29, which came into force as far back as 1930 and which states in article 1.1:
“Each Member of the International Labour Organisation which ratifies this Convention undertakes to suppress the use of forced or compulsory labour in all its forms within the shortest possible period”?
Further in Article 3.1, it goes on to state:
“For the purposes of this Convention, the term forced or compulsory labour shall mean all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.”
You can’t force people to work overtime. You cannot lock out workers because you vex they don’t bow and scrape and kiss your boots and treat you like a God. You don’t dismiss workers because they were boldfaced enough to exercise their constitutional right to seek assistance from the National Workers Union in the face of your oppressive and illegal actions. Because you buy their labour power and pay them meagre wages, it doesn’t mean that you could do them what you want.
How in good conscience can you have your employees working in an environment reeking of poor housekeeping practices? In other words, the Cadel warehouse is like a pig sty. (See pictures below).
But then you obviously do not care about the health and safety of your workers. We know, we know… Profits before people! But you pay these workers next to nothing and then you make them pay for personal protective equipment (PPE) and you ignore all reports and complaints about health and safety hazards on the workplace.
Again, it seems you’re telling yourself you’re big in the dance because you violate the Occupational Safety and Health Act (2004) by refusing to set up a safety committee,although the Act clearly states: “25E. Every employer in consultation with the representatives of his employees shall establish a safety and health committee at an industrial establishment in accordance with this section where— (a) there are twenty-five or more persons employed at that establishment;”
I suppose the thinking is that, like the Mighty Sparrow said in his masterpiece “Good Citizens,” in referring to the one percenters, “…they make a mockery of the law and have the law protect them same time.” And we all know if Sparrow say so, is so!
Mr Hadeed, your fellow Good Citizens, according to Sparrow, “controlling bootlegging, dope peddling, prostitution and piracy” and they engage in: “false declaration, tax evasion, defrauding customs duty…”
So what is a little lawlessness when it comes to dealing with workers’ entitlements and practising atrocious industrial relations, especially when it boosts the bottom line.
A word to the wise! Pressure does buss pipe! You and your one percent class allies are pushing the envelope and forgetting the lessons of history. Keep up with this rank exploitation and the backlash will inevitably come.
All skin teeth is not laugh and the masses are growing restless. Right now everybody galaying but sooner than later somebody is going to sing and when that happens taka kyah save all yuh!
Editor’s Note: The photographs below are allegedly photos of the warehouse at Cadel Trading, which is an affiliate of Francis Fashions/Shoe Locker.
Click HERE to read an official response from Francis Fashions on the termination of approximately two dozen employees. The company did not respond specifically to a request for comment on the photos and the allegations regarding work conditions at its company.