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Monday, April 03, 2006 

Monday April 3, 2006 - Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, N.A.

Caribbean unions must unifyto truly represent workers

PHILIPSBURG-St. Maarten-The general consensus of trade union workers following the recently held Caribbean and Latin American Workers (CLAT) Conference in St. Maarten is that the unity of workers’ movements throughout the region is imperative in the English-, French-, Spanish- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean, if workers are to have true representation while experiencing major changes.

The unionists referred to two significant developments in the English- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean which are closely watched. An integration process is taking place in the English-speaking Caribbean at the same time as a disintegration process is in the making in the Dutch Caribbean.

President of the host union in St. Maarten Windward Island Federation of Labour (WIFOL) Theophilus Thompson said both developments would have effects on the working class in the English and Dutch Caribbean and would also affect the workers and workers’ organisations in the region.

Some of these effects, he said, include the issue of free movement of labour and capital within the English-speaking Caribbean, while in the Dutch Caribbean workers in the Netherlands Antilles, especially government workers, are faced with the decision whether to continue working on the island on which they are now situated or return to their island of origin, based on the constitutional changes being sought by the respective islands.

An obstacle in the process to unify unions in the Caribbean is the seemingly fierce competition among trade unions. According to the unionists, this does not benefit the interest of the workers, but only serves to put them at a disadvantage, while the employers and government are the ones who would probably benefit from the rivalry between them.

While this rivalry is rapidly growing, multinational companies are expanding throughout the Caribbean, demanding that governments adopt changes in their labour legislation that would make the market competitive both for capital and labour.

Thompson said the historical implication for workers within the Caribbean has resurfaced and Caribbean immigration and migration has again become an issue. He said this was sad, considering that Caribbean people have always moved about for economic reasons.

“Because of globalisation, which is the new capitalist model of both economic and political development, it is important that workers’ organisations synchronise their goals if they are to represent workers in the true sense of representation,” he said.

The two-day conference was held at the WIFOL building on Walter Nisbeth Road last week Friday and Saturday. During the conference the presidents of trade unions in Belize, Aruba, Curaçao, Trinidad, St. Maarten, Antigua, Dominica, St. Vincent and St. Lucia dealt with the current state of affairs of the Caribbean.

Also present were resource personnel from the Caricom Secretariat out of Guyana, former minister of constitution and interior affairs Richard Gibson and Dr. Rudy Monilal, a Trinidad parliamentarian.

CLAT General Secretary Anselmo Pontillius of Aruba expressed satisfaction at the participation of the attendees and the information that was given.

According to Thompson, the collapse of communism and the shift of support from trade unions in third world countries have contributed to the fierce rivalry among Caribbean trade unions.

Copyright ©1998-2005 The Daily Herald

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