Developments inside TUC

There has been a significant development within the trade union movement in the past week that has political connotations.

It involves the removal of Kenny James as President of the Grenada Trades Union Council (GTUC) and replacing him with Andre Lewis, the President General of the once formidable Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU).

The move was apparently orchestrated by the delegates of the Seamen & Waterfront Workers Union (SWWU) and got the support of TAWU which usually has a big block of delegates at GTUC conferences.

The SWWU has often been considered as supportive of the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.

Over the years, the Seamen was never considered a threat within TUC affairs as its leadership had no use for TAWU under its former longstanding leader, Chester Humphrey, the current President of the Senate.

The shots in the trade union umbrella body were normally called by TAWU and the Public Workers Union (PWU) with the current Labour representative in the Senate, Ray Roberts being a close ally of Humphrey.

The balance of forces within the TUC in that era tended to swing more towards the main opposition National Democratic Congress and less in favour of NNP.

Things have seemingly changed following the bitter internal fight in Congress in 2012 in which Humphrey along with former Foreign Minister, Peter David and several others were expelled from the party as the Gang of dissenters challenged the authority of then Prime Minister Tillman Thomas.

The NDC fallout also changed the construct within TUC as the Humphrey/Ray Roberts close alliance soon came to an end and are more at loggerheads in almost every sitting in the Upper House of Parliament.

Humphrey has now joined forces within his old enemy – NNP – to destroy Congress and keep it away from political power in the country.

It is not surprising that the SWWU, which once had no use for him will now be willing to accommodate the Senate President in a strategic arrangement to battle Congress under its new leader, Nazim Burke.

If truth be told the Gang that was expelled in Congress was more anti-Burke than Tillman Thomas. The sole aim of Humphrey, David and their band of supporters is to crush Burke and to bring about his political death as swiftly as possible.

The NDC really fell victim to a new power struggle that was being waged by the left among themselves almost similar to what took place within the New Jewel Movement (NJM) in 1983 that resulted in the bloody events between forces loyal to Bernard Coard and those who supported executed Prime Minister Maurice Bishop.

The David faction became increasingly weary of the close relationship that was developing between Burke and PM Thomas and felt that the Prime Minister would “annoint” their nemesis as his successor.

The fallout within the NDC has led to a realignment of the forces within the TUC and country.

The anti-Coard faction within the NNP was now prepared to put aside the 1983 bitter differences and warmly embrace their new found friends who were no longer with NDC.

It is against this backdrop that one has to view the recent change in the GTUC leadership as SWWU is now prepared to join forces with its enemy of old – TAWU – and bring down Kenny James as President in favour of Andre Lewis.

It was a strategic move in order to control the emerging Rachael Roberts who was recently elevated to the top position in PWU.

With the next general election looming, the NNP is weary of Roberts and would not like to see her occupy the top spot in a body as TUC.

She seems to be a cut above the other union presidents and outside the reach and influence of Humphrey and others in the labour movement.

And TAWU is no longer seen as the powerful force of past years as its financial base and resources were left thin following the bruising battle between Humphrey and the Sabga family in the Grenada Brewery Limited issue.

A TUC under Andre Lewis is more palatable for the NNP than James or Roberts.

It makes good strategic sense for the pro-NNP forces in the TUC to move James out of concern that he might get some backing from PWU which has a number of burning issues on the front burner with the administration at the moment especially Pension.

The administration does not want any contentious issue on the table in the build up to the general election.

It is better in the eyes of the NNP to have a more predictable Andre Lewis at the helm as opposed to a Kenny James/Rachael Roberts combination.

The TAWU/SWWU new found relationship might have pulled off a significant coup within the TUC despite of whatever rumbling might be heard on Labour Day.

The eyes of labour will be on Andre Lewis in the coming months to see what emerges from his leadership in a very important body in the country.

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