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Question to TECU: Is the credit union moving further away from its working class roots?

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Thursday was therefore World Credit Union Day. Who exactly in this country celebrated it and what exactly was celebrated is a bit of a blur to me right now, with the way the credit union movement is slowly moving away from its moorings, the working classes.

Slowly, imperceptibly, there is a hijacking of the credit union movement by parasitic elements that have infiltrated over the years into large institutions. In this case TECU, where some people looking to get my money jump into Steelband.

Photo: Customers at a TECU Credit Union branch.
(Copyright TECU)

It might sound funny, but that’s anything but; Over the years, decisions have been made to slowly shift the local credit union movement to make it more in line with the United States credit union model.

Because it works according to the individualistic and competitive model rather than the democratic and collective model that existed before, people are urged not to challenge it with deceptive platitudes like arguments of increased “efficiency” and modernization of traditional structures.

What this ultimately means, however, is an upward distribution of wealth by those who are more aligned with the banking sector and who have crept insidiously into the various credit union institutions.

Concrete example: the moves to seat Mr. Conrad Enill – fresh out of the NGC debacle – on the TECU board of directors and the eviction of ordinary members, people from the working classes and unions such as the OWTU to sit on the said council.

Photo: Conrad Enill, NGC President.

The credit union movement has been an eye of real people for years; it started out as a savings and loan institution for the poor. Ironically, given the Catholic Church’s own role in colonizing the Western Hemisphere, it was largely Benedictine monks who pioneered the credit union. A father Maurus Maingot started what is today TECU.

Credit unions were an alternative to the predatory practices of banks, most of which were created here to serve the financial interests of the elites then in power (read Bankers and the Empire: How Wall Street Colonized the Caribbean by Peter James Hudson and Predators in paradise by Mr. Ved Seereeram), bridging the gap created by the fact that the Port-of-Spain-based Penny Bank was not easily accessible to most working-class people in outlying areas – like the network road and the transportation system we have today did not exist 70 years ago.

Well, over time these institutions have developed and, the logic of capitalism being what it is, the alternatives cannot be tolerated for too long. So here we are again.

There have been worrying developments for some time now in TECU, but now it seems to be going in some directions that require several questions to be asked and answered correctly.

Photo: A TECU member asks a question at the 2017 AGM.
(Copyright TECU)

The last red flag for me was the Annual General Meeting which took place recently when a number of members, including myself, were unable to register online. Some of us had tried to do this since the Friday before the AGM, without success.

Now the conspiracy theorist in me doesn’t know if this was an imported scaled-down version of the broader voter suppression tactics currently in use in the United States, but it did lead me to ask a few questions, including the answers led this concerned member to ask more questions:

Regarding electronic voting: Why has the registration deadline been changed from 10 a.m. to an earlier time? Why was technical support inadequate?

Had to go to a friend’s house to see the AGM and still couldn’t log in to vote

What explains the late start? Before voting began, the live broadcast showed 500 people logged in. Why then has that number dropped to less than 300, with people being excluded during the appointment process and then barred from reconnecting?

Photo: TECU members complained about the online voting process at the 2021 AGM.

Keep in mind that TECU has a large elderly population, many of whom were quite vocal in their criticism of many of TECU’s untoward developments and therefore technological issues have meant that many of them have been wiped out.

There are other issues that have been brewing for a long time. Here are a few :

Why were instructions issued for questions from previous AGMs to be submitted via SMS, of which only a few were addressed? Why were there no microphones at some AGMs for members to voice their concerns? Who exactly raised objections to the “too many” OWTU members trying to sit on the board and why?

Regarding the last two questions, what do I hear about changes to the Articles of Association that would help allow the nominating committee to have full decision-making power over who can become a director?

And is there a conflict of interest to be had within the nominating committee, a so-called independent body, two directors of LINCU (Ility Molino and Kent Byer), a third-party debit card provider to TECU?

Photo: Kent Byers, TECU Credit Union Vice President.
(Copyright TECU)

The late founder of my alma mater, Dom Basil Matthews, once wrote that many of the problems in this country stem from the fact that, because there is no basic philosophy or ideology, whatever the way the ideological wind blows, we follow. The direction taken in recent decades should have alerted us to be on the lookout for actions impacting the working classes.

Most seemed to have preferred to look away, no doubt hoping to find a niche to settle down and earn money, in accordance with the central tenet of plantation companies.

With the guava season we are experiencing, workers need to watch very closely what (self-proclaimed?) Policymakers are doing with the few dollars they’ve earned.

The flag may have been changed in 1962, but the rationale for acquiring wealth was not significant.


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