Mon | Oct 15, 2018

Trade unionists have betrayed workers

Published:Saturday | November 22, 2014 | 12:00 AM


Aubyn Hill, banker, businessman, raised the question on Impact as to why it was necessary to have five trade unionists on the National Housing Trust (NHT) board. Under normal circumstances, one would dismiss Hill as one of the privileged few (like Lennie Little-White), who resents working-class scrutiny over their administration of public property.

After all, Hill himself had to answer questions about conflict-of-interest allegations while involved in disposing of public assets (sugar), as well as propriety and conflict-of-interest actions while a board member of DBJ (the same bank that wrote off J$80 million for Little-White and his Outameni).

Unfortunately, the scandalous behaviour of the five trade union members on the NHT board make it difficult to effectively respond to Aubyn Hill.

Lambert Brown, the president of the UAWU, summed it up well for the rest of the trade unionists when he wondered what the fuss was all about since the $180-million purchase of the Orange Grove property was done at a profit because the property was valued at tens of millions of dollars more. Chairman Easton Douglas said basically the same thing.

This type of ignorance (some would call it arrogance) is exceedingly embarrassing for a trade union leader who negotiates on behalf of workers with savvy business leaders and doesn't understand the difference between asset and profit.

For Lambert Brown's information, until this $180-million investment recoups its cost price plus more, or is sold for more than what it was purchased for, it has not made a profit! And furthermore, it is the market that will determine whether the value of the asset will be realised.

$45.6-billion rape

The real scandal, however, does not begin with the Outameni purchase. It began with the NHT board's 2013 approval of the Government's $45.6-billion rape of the NHT in order to pay debt to a few privileged Jamaican creditors.

Were the trade unionists just as servile in approving this rape? There is no record of them publicly disapproving it. This approval was the absolute betrayal of the interests of working-class Jamaicans. And on this occasion, the ever reliable PNP hack, Lambert Brown, defended it, claiming it was to assist the country's "economic recovery"!

Assuming that the five trade unionists saw their role as ensuring the building of more housing solutions for working-class people, rather than to bail out failed businessmen, we would have expected them to decisively reject the deal and make a public outcry if undemocratic means were used to push through the bailout.

The truth is that these trade union leaders have been co-opted and incorporated into the state machinery and corporate Jamaica. Their lifestyle is upper middle class, not working class, thanks to hard-earned union dues.

All unions are now tools of the political parties. Aubyn Hill was right: What is the purpose of so many trade unionists on the NHT board when they don't represent working-class interests?