Political analyst Derek Ramsamooj. –
POLITICAL analysts Derek Ramsamooj and Dr Bishnu Ragoonath do not see the activities of trade unions during the local government elections campaign having any influence on how people will vote on August 14.
The Movement for Social Justice (MSJ), is the only labour-based party contesting the elections. MSJ is only fielding three candidates, in the PNM-controlled Point Fortin Borough Corporation.
Over the last two decades, Ramsamooj said the role of labour in influencing election outcomes “has been experiencing diminishing returns.”
In these elections, he said, labour may only have had an impact in the San Fernando City Corporation.
“However it is apparent their influence has greatly waned and would play a very small part in influencing voters.”
Ramsamooj said that small influence is further reduced in a local government elections campaign, where there is a low voter turnout.
He recalled that the labour movement has a bad history with both the PNM and the UNC, when either has been in government.
“We have seen the United Labour Front that emerged into the UNC. We have also seen other trade unions be part of the PNM at the inception of the PNM (in 1956).”
Ramsamooj said in both cases, people have seen individual personalities use these arrangements “as a tool for their own political aspirations.”
He added the political support for the MSJ within recent years shows the declining political influence of the labour movement.
Is it best for labour to contest elections on its own, or must it form alliances with established political parties to succeed at the polls?
Ramsamooj said, “The existing political climate has shown that aligning with political parties A or B has not yielded the support needed to improve the quality of life of our workers.
“Trade unions must have a rethink if they are to have any influence on voters in any future elections.”
Asked what kind of rethink was needed, Ramsamooj said, “What is the role of labour in the development of an economy that would utilise the resources of the state to improve the working class?”
He reiterated that labour’s former populist appeals to the electorate “has not borne fruit at any level of sustained political action.”
Political scientist Dr Bishnu Ragoonath. –
Ramsamooj said France and Brazil provide good examples of labour being able to influence political decision-making in a nation.
He agreed with Ramsamooj that labour had not had a significant impact on elections in recent times.
“The MSJ is supposedly labour-oriented, but the MSJ has not been able to get off the blocks, in terms of winning any election or so.”
While the leadership of trade unions may try to influence their members to vote in a particular way, Ragoonath said, “That does not necessarily translate into votes when it comes to actual polling day.”
Trade union members, he said, will vote for whoever they want to, irrespective of how their leaders want them to vote.
“It comes back down again to the inability of the labour unions to command their membership to vote in a particular way.”
Ragoonath cited the support of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union’s (OWTU) Pointe-a-Pierre branch for UNC candidates in San Fernando as an example.
“The OWTU is not necessarily supporting the UNC, but of course the (OWTU) membership could vote however they want to vote.”
Before the start of a walkabout in Point Fortin on August 4 by the MSJ and the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM), JTUM president Ancel Roget said the group is only supporting the MSJ in the elections.
Roget is also OWTU president-general.
Commenting on members of the union’s Pointe-a-Pierre branch supporting UNC candidates in the San Fernando City Corporation, Roget said this was not a betrayal of the OWTU/JTUM commitment to the MSJ.
He hinted that if the MSJ were contesting districts in San Fernando, its members would be supporting that party alone.