Home / View Point / Labour / Dear Editor: Imbert sees unions in disarray, now he’s going for the jugular of the working class

Dear Editor: Imbert sees unions in disarray, now he’s going for the jugular of the working class

“[…] The media cites Minister of Finance Colm Imbert as saying that public sector trade unions won’t be able to meet with the government around the bargaining table because of the state of the economy. No time frame is given.

“This immediately affects those public sector workers who are near retirement. They are going to see hell to compute and collect their benefit—not to mention their pension status…”

In the following Letter to Editor, Rae Samuel of Balmain suggests that the working class is being stalked by Minister of Finance Colm Imbert:

Photo: Minister of Finance Colm Imbert.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament 2020)

The hyena is reputed to be one of the most effective predators in the African savannah. It hunts in packs; is remorseless in its pursuit, taking chunks out prey even if it is still on hoof.

While parliamentarians engage in meaningless sparring and rituals, the apex predator stays fixed on the chase.

The media cites Minister of Finance Colm Imbert as saying that public sector trade unions won’t be able to meet with the government around the bargaining table because of the state of the economy. No time frame is given.

This immediately affects those public sector workers who are near retirement. They are going to see hell to compute and collect their benefit—not to mention their pension status.

The minister is simply digging deeper into the jugular. The economy has been in a parlous state for the working class for much of the last decade, not for the ruling class. Since 2013 wages have been effectively frozen. Minister Imbert has simply formalised an existing policy.

It reminds me of an address I heard live given to NGC workers by then-incoming chairperson Gerry Brooks 2015/16. He called the assembled workers downstairs in the foyer of the head office. He advised that there was going to be a wage freeze with immediate effect. The workers were/are not unionised. Later on they went at the workers’ pension arrangements.

Image: A satirical take on the relationship between businesses and workers.
(Copyright Carol Simpson)

The hyena, stalking the herd, sees that it is in disarray, panic, fear, confusion. Workers must not assume an attitude of: ‘wha’ we go do now?’

New leadership must arise in the process of struggle. There are no born leaders. The union is primarily to defend the interest of workers. In a capitalist society, the worker is primarily concerned with the wage.

If there is a halt to negotiations—to the ability to squeeze wage increases out of the employer to meet the rising cost of living—the core task of the union becomes redundant.

The fight is on two fronts. Getting rid of a leadership that will continue to accommodate itself to the new normal which is an excuse for further pauperisation of the working class and confronting the predators who see a weakened prey and continue to close in for the kill.

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3 comments

  1. I am hearing the argument of government using the economy as the excuse to dig in it heals against their opponents i.e. the trade union who in the face of declining revenues and a gloomy economic outlook has really little leaverage. All these are true but we cannot escape from some very telling facts. Our workforce is among the lowest in terms of productivity in the world, quite a few of the services we are provided with are subsidized to the hilt, we are at a stage in our existence that public expenditure is trailing revenues by about 35% and the list goes on. Surely wage increases can’t be the only issues that concern our trade unions?

    • Earl Best

      You’re asking answers, Jaill. I am sure Rae will have his own response but I think he has already made his position crystal clear:

      “The union is primarily to defend the interest of workers. In a capitalist society, the worker is primarily concerned with the wage.”

      To be treated as rhetorical, maybe your question should read thus:

      “Surely wage increases SHOULDN’T be the only issues that concern our trade unions?

      • I hear you, but at the risk of sounding naive once more. There isn’t anyone among the ranks who recognize that in a ‘capitalist’ environment you need to produce and constantly strive to lower your cost to be profitable and it is only through profitability you can even begin to contemplate wage increases. Here these principles or moreso expectations seem constantly in the reverse. Thus leading to obsolesence as the employer is now force to be creative in his attempts to evade the unions or outright adopt new technology to the detriment of all and sundry. It is a zero-sum game they are indulging in.