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Question for TECU: Is credit union moving further away from its working class roots?

So Thursday was World Credit Union Day. Who exactly in this country celebrated it and what exactly was being celebrated is kinda hazy to me at this moment, what with the way the credit union movement is slowly shifting away from its moorings, the working classes.

Slowly, imperceptibly, there is a hijacking of the credit union movement by parasitic elements who have over the years wormed their way into the major institutions. In this case, TECU, where certain people looking to have my money jump up in steelband.

Photo: Customers at a TECU Credit Union branch.
(Copyright TECU)

This may sound funny but it is anything but; over the years, there have been decided moves slowly shifting the local credit union movement to make it more in line with the credit union model of the United States.

Because this functions along the individualistic, competitive model rather than the democratic, collective model that existed before, people are seduced away from challenging this by deceptive platitudes like arguments of increased ‘efficiency’ and modernising the traditional structures.

What this ultimately means, however, is an upwards distribution of wealth by those who are more aligned to the banking sector and who have insidiously wormed their way into the various credit union institutions.

Case in point: the moves to seat Mr Conrad Enill—fresh off the NGC debacle—on the board of TECU and the squeezing out of ordinary members, people from the working classes and unions such as the OWTU from sitting on said board.

Photo: NGC chairman Conrad Enill.

The credit union movement was bunnin real people eye for years; it began as a poor man’s savings and loans institution. Ironically, given the Catholic Church’s own role in the colonising of the Western Hemisphere, it was largely Benedictine monks who were the pioneering figures of the credit union. One Fr Maurus Maingot began what is today TECU.

Credit unions were an alternative to the predatory practices of the banks, most of which were set up here to serve the financial interests of the then ruling elites (read Bankers and Empire: How Wall Street Colonised the Caribbean by Peter James Hudson and Predators in Paradise by Mr Ved Seereeram), bridging the gap created by the fact that the Penny Bank, based in Port-of-Spain, was not readily accessible to most working-class people in outlying areas—as the road network and transportation system we have today did not exist 70 years ago.

Well, over time, those institutions grew and, the logic of capitalism being what it is, alternatives cannot be tolerated for too long. So here we are again.

There have been some disquieting developments for quite some time now in TECU but now it seems to be going in certain directions that require several questions to be asked and properly answered.

Photo: A TECU member raises a question during the 2017 AGM.
(Copyright TECU)

The latest red flag for me was the recently conducted Annual General Meeting when a number of members, myself included, could not register online. Some of us had been attempting to do so since the Friday before the AGM, without success.

Now the conspiracy theorist in me does not know if this was an imported scaled-down version of the more expansive voter suppression tactics currently used in the US, but it did get me to asking some questions, the answers for which led this concerned member to ask more questions:

Regarding the electronic voting: Why was the deadline for registering changed from 10 am to an earlier time? Why was there inadequate tech support?

I had to visit a friend’s home to view the AGM and still could not log in to vote

What accounts for the late start? Before voting began, the live stream showed 500 people logged in. Why did that number then drop to less than 300, with people being bumped off during the nomination process and then being restricted from logging back in?

Photo: TECU members complained about the online voting process at the 2021 AGM.

Keep in mind that TECU has a large elderly population, many of whom were quite vociferous in their criticisms of many untoward developments in TECU and thus the technological glitches meant many of them were eliminated.

There are other long-simmering issues. Here are a few of them:

Why were instructions issued for questions at previous AGMs to be submitted via text, of which only a select few were addressed? Why at some AGMs there were no microphones placed for members to articulate their concerns? Who exactly has been raising objections to ‘too many’ members of OWTU attempting to get on the board and why?

Regarding the last two questions, what am I hearing about amendments to the by-laws that would help to enable the Nominating Committee to have total decision-making power over who can become a director?

And is there a conflict of interest in having on the Nominating Committee, a supposedly independent body, two directors of LINCU (Ility Molino and Kent Byer), a third-party provider of debit cards to TECU?

Photo: TECU Credit Union vice-president Kent Byers.
(Copyright TECU)

The late founder of my alma mater, Dom Basil Matthews, once wrote that many of this country’s problems stem from the fact that, because there is no core philosophy or ideology, whatever way the ideological wind blows, we swing with it. The direction it’s been going these last few decades should have been alerting us to be on the lookout for actions impacting the working classes.

Most seemed to have preferred to look the other way, hoping no doubt to find a niche to settle into and make ah money—in keeping with the central tenet of plantation societies.

With the guava season we have been having, working people need to watch very closely what (self-appointed?) decision-makers do with the few dollars made.

The flag may have been changed in 1962 but the rationale behind the acquisition of wealth didn’t in any appreciable way.

About Corey Gilkes

Corey Gilkes is a self-taught history reader whose big mouth forever gets his little tail in trouble. He lives in La Romaine and is working on four book projects. He has a blog on https://coreygilkes.wordpress.com/blog/ and http://www.trinicenter.com/Gilkes/. Vitriol can be emailed to him at coreygks@gmail.com.

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