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Natuc's alive, declares Giuseppe

Trinidad Guardian, 24 September 2000

SEVEN of the 19 member unions of the National Trade Union Centre (Natuc) attended the organisation's elections which were concluded yesterday.

Independent Senator Selwyn John, the out-going Natuc secretary general, stated 16 of the 19 unions were fielded to participate. Of the 16, 122 delegates from 12 unions participated in the elections.

Those unions which did not send representatives included the Communication Workers' Union (CWU), Oilfield Workers' Trade Union (OWTU), Public Services Association (PSA) and Trinidad and the Tobago Unified Teachers' Association TTUTA.

The absent unions and their leaders received a severe tongue-lashing from Robert Giuseppi, Natuc president whose post was not up for election. Giuseppi stated the fact that the elections were held without the presence of several Natuc "abolitionists" was proof that Natuc was alive.

"Today is reconciliation day," Giuseppi stated. "For about three months the whole of Trinidad and Tobago thought Natuc was dead. So said some of the people who are supposed to represent the working class of Trinidad and Tobago."

Unlike the July 1 proceedings, the media was allowed to observe yesterday's elections which was conducted in a very relaxed atmosphere. It was concluded without incident and all the nominees were voted in unopposed. John stated the elections were held after the incumbent executive consulted with attorney Allan Alexander. He noted Alexander determined the elections to be legal under Natuc's constitution.

"Bush lawyers in the face of trade union leaders are going to the media and saying it is illegal. If it is illegal they can take us to court. But what we are doing we feel is legal," John said. Giuseppi, while not identifying any of the union leaders he criticised, said their "backward ideology" and "bourgeois behaviour" had "failed to convince Trinidad and Tobago and the working class that Natuc was dead."

He said McLeod, Jennifer Baptiste and Lyle Townsend wished for the demise of Natuc. Newly-elected Natuc general secretary, Vincent Caberra, said the new executive will "keep the door open" to the unions which did not participate yesterday. Last July, Natuc's elections were aborted after Giuseppi was voted president. Several union leaders within Natuc contested that result. They included Lyle Townsend, CWU general secretary and Errol McLeod, OWTU president-general.

Meanwhile, in a letter issued Friday to the NUGFW, president general, Selwyn John, attorney for the OWTU and CWU, Reginald Armour, stated Natuc's constitution had been violated by the staging of the biennial convention. Armour described yesterday's convention as a "flagrant disregard of the Natuc constitution and the procedures... outlined for resolving disputes of this nature."

As a result, the OWTU and CWU chose to "disassociate themselves" from the convention, the results of which the two unions would not "respect", Armour wrote.

"My clients implore you to adhere to the constitution of Natuc, if only to permit recourse to the General Council," he concluded.