MSJ calls for education of working class

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Political leader of the MSJ, David Abdulah address members of the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) during the May Day march and rally in San Fernando on May 1. – Photo by Lincoln Holder

The Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) is calling on the labour movement to educate, agitate and organise in the face of a neo-liberal government that is anti-labour, with a working class finding its day-to-day life more difficult.

In a Labour Day message issued on June 18, the MSJ saluted the working class of TT and the labour movement on the 87th anniversary of the June 19, 1937 general strike and anti-colonial revolt.

Labour Day was celebrated on June 19.

In its message, the MSJ said, “June 19 is a day on which the workers of TT can celebrate the gains that were achieved as a result of the struggle and sacrifices made by the workers in 1937. We must never forget that we stand on their shoulders!”

It said the events on June 19, 1937 led to the formation of trade unions with the first meeting of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union being held on July 15, that year and its founding conference on July 25.

The MSJ said the establishment of trade unions and the struggles and efforts of the movement had resulted in very significant improvements in the standard of living of the working class as well as social and political progress for the entire society.

“However, many of these achievements are either not appreciated or even recognised by large sections of the working class as being the result of the struggles by ordinary workers and the labour movement.

“This is partly due to the negative and false narratives pushed by the representatives of the ruling elites – be they in the media, the schools and universities or by politicians who want to destroy the trade unions.

“Our education system does not teach that so many things that we today take for granted – from paid vacation to occupational health and safety – were the fruits of advocacy, agitation and united struggles by workers of previous generations.”

The MSJ says the PNM Government is engaged in neo-liberal policies that are designed to fundamentally restructure the society.

“The Rowley government is actively working to reverse the gains won by workers since June 19, 1937. Trade unions are to be weakened if not destroyed; collective bargaining has been thrown into the dustbin; contract labour is replacing permanent employment; not a single labour law has been updated in the last nine years; the majority of workers barely make it from pay day to pay day, while many thousands don’t have money to put food on the table.”

The MSJ said a massive effort was needed to educate the working class to become conscious workers, committed to the cause of fighting for betterment for all.

“Conscious workers will recognise that unity is a must if the labour movement is to have a fighting chance to bring about change. There was unity of the working class in 1937. Workers in every sector of the economy took part in the general strike. There was no African worker or Indian worker, no division by union or political party – there was just the working class united in struggle.

“Conscious workers will understand that they must engage in active solidarity with others who are exploited, oppressed or in struggle for a better life. A conscious worker understands that his/her interest is very different from the interests of the elite class who control economic power. That conscious worker sees the parliamentary political parties for what they are – the political gatekeepers for the elites who control economic power.”

The MSJ said the labour movement must educate to raise workers’ consciousness, organise workers to unite and agitate for “those who labour to hold the reins of power.”