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Indian Arrival Day statement: United in our differences

By National Union of Government and Federated Workers, 29 May 2000

In this election year, it is important to remember that what unites us is more significant than what divides us. In fact, we should embrace and enjoy those differences of culture and faith that history has bestowed upon our small country.

Whether we are of Indian or African decent, it was the forces of colonialism and imperialism determined our ancestor's arrival in Trinidad and Tobago. It was the need for cheap labour that was behind both slavery and its successor system of indentured labour.

In many respects, little has changed. The working people of Trinidad and Tobago, in keeping with workers throughout the world, continue to be exploited for the profit of the few. The old, crude forms of oppression have been replaced by more subtle but equally ruthless exploitation of the multi-national companies and international lending agencies.

In the Caribbean we have seen plenty of examples of this new domination. Coca Cola, who bought up a Trinidadian bottling company, immediately refused to recognise the workers union and set about reducing pay and conditions. FedEx withdrew from Antigua rather than concede union recognition for its workers. Throughout the Caribbean the fast food outlets, like KFC and McDonalds, continue to pay low wages and make big profits.

International lending agencies make privatisation and contracting-out a condition of loans irrespective of the social consequences. The determination to transfer the ownership of major assets from the public to the private sector remains a central goal of these organisations as they look after the interests of the rich and powerful.

In acknowledging the significance of Indian Arrival Day, the NUGFW welcomes the cultural diversity that has enriched our nation. But we know that if we are to build resistance to the new forms of exploitation then this can only be done on the basis of unity. The youth of today, in particular, need to learn from the experiences of their ancestors and build a strong labour movement that can fight for a fairer society irrespective of colour race, religion of creed.

In sending greeting to the Indian community, the NUGFW says, "Let us unite in our differences".