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Panists, Steelbands and Unions - Could a Steelband Union be the answer?

Whenever the subject of unionization is brought up relative to the steel band and pan players, I'm somewhat perplexed.

What exactly would the role of this "union" be?

Is there anything that another organized body can do that PanTrinbago cannot do or should not be doing?

According to Pantrinbago's website, the organization was originally registered as a union, but became incorporated when the membership felt that a corporation would be more effective in developing and promoting the steelband.


I'm aware that many are dissatisfied with PanTrinbago as the defacto head of the steelband movement and believe that their leadership leaves a lot to be desired.

This may indeed be the case, but as far as I know PT is still a democratic organization, and the leadership is voted on by representatives of the steelbands.

Which places to onus on the membership to select appropriate leadership as they see fit.


I am all for professional panists belonging to a musicians' union, like any other musicians.

Such a union could set baseline standards for the individual performer or band, where they are not capable of negotiating for themselves.

Of course, with so many unemployed panists, any potential employer would always have the option of hiring non union players, unless we force every player in the country to join the union.


But in the case of a steelband union in T&T, who would the union be negotiating with?

The individual band managements?

Should leaders of every steelband have to negotiate with a union about conditions  for membership of their bands?

The Sponsors?

I've known companies that would prefer to shut down a plant before accepting a union, and I won't doubt that sponsors would do the same

The government?

Since PanTrinbago is recognized by the government as the official representative of the steelband, would there be duplicate negotiations?

Or would Pantrinbago somehow be dissolved?


Having been involved in organized labor myself, I'm aware that the only real weapon a union has is the ability to withhold labor, to force concessions from employers.

In other words, to strike.

Who, I wonder would these "unionized" panists strike against?

Can you imagine one week before panorama the players of Phase II Pan Groove going on strike?

I doubt they'll ever play in Boogsie's band after that!


In my experience, the relationship between unions and management is an adversarial one.

You come to the table with a list of demands and they present their demands for the workers during the term of the contract.

You negotiate, compromise and come to an agreement.

If you don't, you have a strike situation  in which everyone loses.


I do not see what benefit the steelband movement in T&T would gain from such an arrangement, but maybe I'm missing something, so those advocating for unionization  please educate me.

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very well written and said.i agree with you 100%.if the steelband movement want to form a union they are looking for real trouble and endless problems --they better think again. "bandit"

And I didn't mention that if there is a union, the ones voting for the union leadership would be the same people who vote for the leadership of PanTrinbago.

There are no guarantees against such leadership being even more inept than PanTrinbago's leadership is perceived to be.

Very good explanation, Sidd. That should clarify a lot, and actually answers some of my questions.

Thanks for the input.

That is very informative!


So really PanTrinbago tends to the welfare of the bands, and the welfare of the members of those bands WITHIN the framework of tending the bands.  Is this why prosperity does not reach the pannist?


We might do PanTrinbago a favour as individuals to join a musician organization who can be at the table to establish what the individuals worth should be, as well as help make opportunities away from Panorama time more lucrative.

Most pan players only play for Panorama, what can a union do for them?

There was a time here in my city / region, where night spots were dropping the pay rate for bands.  Word sort of spread amongst the musical community to not undervalue their talents, and not undercut the "going rate" to get gigs.  I used to frequent local jams, which meant that people (and the establishments) would benefit from my talent for free.  When it came to getting hired for work, I could not command much of an asking price, because people could hear me play already for free.


The mentality had to shift so that our work was more valuable.  I rarely attend jam sessions anymore, except if to raise awareness for upcoming paid gigs or expand my visibility... generate a buzz.


Now I don't work as frequently as our top local musicians.  But when I do, I earn what they earn, not leftovers or scraps.


I cannot speak for how thousands of pannists and hundreds of bands should be tended to during Panorama time.  BUT I do think that there is benefit for any pannists who want to professionalize their art, whether recording, working on a cruise ship or playing in night clubs, to join a union of recording artists and performers.  Most studios are required to hire union musicians at a guaranteed rate.  The more pannists do this, the more lucrative opportunities become... the more the minimum wage for pan goes up.


But for something big, like the thousands of players in Panorama, maybe the musicians union and PanTrinbago compromise on a rate between what they pay now and the high rates the union dictates for nightly functions, and union and non-union players all benefit for their participation in Panorama.


Forgive me... thinking out loud... sharing random thoughts that cross my mind as I read these questions.  I hope my stories inspire others with ideas to change the conditions on the ground.

I think that what I am saying is "Don't invite PanTrinbago to manage the opportunities for the individual, when there are other mechanisms in place to promote our MUSICAL careers."  Furthermore, don't create a "pan union" that will isolate the community from the music community.  Leverage the power of a music union to improve the conditions for pan.


Let PanTrinbago concentrate on larger structural issues, like education, events, bands, endorsements, etc.

Corey, may I humbly suggest that you research the history of labor unions, so you can get a sense of their importance in an environment where resources are produced, marketed and sold. May I ask: Why is Quincy Jones and Labron James members of "unions"? They have agents, bargaining with owners for wagers and benefits. They are multimillionaires; why do you think they see the importance of being in a union, even if they are not the " average worker" we have in our mindsets? Ghost

I just wonder if existing unions that support musicians in general would be more effective.  That way, what is negotiated for the feature calypsonians applies to pannists as well, be it for live or recorded performance.  I'm not saying "Don't unite."  I'm asking "Who can best protect our interests?"


Corey, that may work. As a matter of fact, my dad tried unsuccessfully to convince the steelbands to have their association be affiliated with the American Federation of Musicians. I always believe NO ONE is going to care about you, more than you. So, yes, the steelbands would be better off with their own union, as they were during pan's "golden years". (Do the research, then tell me, what have the steelbands accomplished since 1986?)

BTW - I read that you did not know the Condrington family; well I do. The patriarch of the family, Cary, was my "protector" in Trinity for my first two years. He used to beat up on one of my classmates who used to bully me. When I got to third form (Cary was in fifth), he told me that I would have to handle my own stories. So, on Wednesday morning, when my classmate came to bully me, I got up, and knocked him da hell out! He never messed with me again. I have always been the victim of bullies, so I had no other choice but to learn to defend myself. So, before you believe what the WST bullies say, take a look at ALL the FACTS, and you will see, like in my classmate's case, I am just knocking them da hell out, when they try to bully me. SIDD started bullying me from Day One. He shown no respect for my rights to my opinions, and because he has issues with reality and comprehension, he distorts my words, as he did Pan Trinbago's claims as per their former (or prior) "union" status. I am so sorry for you, because you are drinking the Kool Aid; the poison that he adds to confuse and distort the facts about EVERY and ANYTHING that has to do with the instrument of those he considers are cursed because of their Black skin. He put the nail on the coffin for pan, claiming that the electronic gadgets are what the steelbands need to survive. And EVERY part of his being is materialistic and money-driven. (That does NOT sound like one who represents "God".) They rejoice on the sufferings of others (poverty, addiction, etc.), but I judge NO one! They slander my name with statements that are not true. I will be addressing Pan Trinbago, for their official statement as to my alleged "drug addiction". And, as time goes on, you will ALL come to know how much of the law I know. Again, I play within the parameters of what I can legally do, so this SNAKE's threats of legal action and putting immigration and "Cyber Police" on my case, means NOTHING to me. What he should do, is start a petition to have me removed from WST. I am sure he can gather hundreds of willing signatories. So, they gang up on me, and when I fight back, they say I'm the bully. lol. Finally, let me be clear, WST needs me, more than I need WST. I am volunteering my time and energy on behalf of my culture, and if and when it is no longer appreciated, PLEASE collectively let me know! I PROMISE THE GHOST WILL DISAPPEAR FOREVER! But, I am not going to go away because of the insecurities and racist attitudes of this one penis-headed SNAKE. (And "penis", my friends, is NOT a "cuss word". Check your dictionaries.)

Ghost Who Knows That SIDD Is No More Than A Cock-Sucking Leech! (That's a male hen. lol.)

START THE PETITION TO HAVE THE GHOST REMOVED, YOU DEGENERATE!!! AND END YOUR GHOST-ENVY! (If there is one person I know that I'm better than, in ALL aspects, is you, you split-tongued serpent. Get behind me, Shitan!!! Go back to the abyss from whence you originated!)


Again, ALL lies that anyone can research. Again, I am not making this about me; you are. Try making it about my comments. And, again Pan Trinbago is not a union. Period! As for you other garbage, I'm sorry, but I did not take the time to read it.


First of all, Glenroy, thank you for asking these very important questions. Before I get to my answers, I would like to correct a few of the statements made by SIDD, who for some unknown reason to me, many of you think that his words are more credible than mine. I have always and will continue to provide PRIMARY SOURCES to all my “claims”. That said:

  1. The concept of “Trade Union” was NOT been attempted by some fellows of Phase II, as he put it. Those “fellows”, by the way, are personal friends of mine, since my teenage years. (More on that later.) The “concept” of the steelbands having a registered trade union, came into being in 1958. Keep in mind, that although the Steelbands Association started in 1950, they were never registered, nor did they have a constitution. Thus in 1958, the newspaper reported that the “7-year-old (sic) Steelband Association had decided to make the body “official” by filing registration papers this morning with the Registrar at the Red House”. That article also made mention of the Association’s “aims and objectives”. (Trinidad Chronicle, January 27, p. 3)
  2. The two “fellows” SIDD was referring to are Primo and Bevon “Bellies” Phillips. Primo and my brother after me, used to run a school on Sundays called the PTAH Foundation, teaching African history, including Kemmit/Egypt. I also knew him from him playing in Phase II and being Bellies', my brother’s (and eventually my) friend. Bellies and I are "Vale Boys" and we went to John D at the same time. (He played football and I played basketball for John D. When we was JOHN D! lol.) Bellies is also one of my first “teachers” of the instrument. In FACT, when I bought my pan from Mazzini Gill, Bellies went to my home and met with Gill, tested the instrument, and told me to go ahead and get it. (Yes, I support my “local” manufacturers. Inferior, my butt! lol.) Anyway, I got the reasoning behind the idea of these two “fellows”, from one of the “fellows”. Bellies explained that Pan Trinbago and her predecessors represented the steelbands, and not the individual players, which he felt did not benefit the individual player. (I agree, by the way.) This is why he, and the other “fellow” chose the name “Pan Players Association”. I am sure that Prim, Bellies, and Gill wlll be happy to validate my “story”.
  3. Pan Trinbago is NOT a “union”. Let’s look at facts, and NOT what SIDD offers. The facts are, Pan Trinbago says that they are a “cultural organization which was incorporated by Act of Parliament, 5 of 1986. It formerly operated and was registered as a Union…”. What that means, is that PRIOR to 1986 (or “formerly”, i.e. before the “Act”), they used to be a union. Of course, what Pan Trinbago is doing is using the history of the other steelband association (NATTS), when it suits their convenience. And, of course, for whatever reason, SIDD rearranged the sentences to read “Pan Trinbago was established through an Act of Parliament first as a pan player union”, so that the reader would think that when Pan Trinbago was established through an Act of Parlaiment, they did so firstly as a pan player union. And THAT is totally incorrect. In FACT, Pan Trinbago had been around since 1971, and had adopted the “union” model that NATTS introduced. This is the kind of misinformation that only distorts our history. (http://www.pantrinbago.co.tt/index.php?option=com_content&view=...)
  4. Pan Trinbago has issues with credibility and accountability, so I would not simply believe everything they put out there. A PERFECT example is their claim to being the “World Governing Body For Pan”, which holds ZERO merit. The questions to ask Pan Trinbago is, “If you are the world governing body, why aren’t you governing the world? Why aren’t we seeing Pan Trinbago affiliates in places where there are steelbands like Japan, the United States and Sweden? How come steelband and pan unions are forming all over the world under your watch as the world governing body?” The answers should be obvious to even the most intellectually-challenged; because it’s a FALSE claim, and NO ONE in the “World” takes them seriously. A union, like the AFM, on the other hand, not only has “locals” in most US locations, but also have WORLDWIDE affiliates. So, Pan Trinbago can continue fooling themselves, and some of you…no sweat off my back.
  5. As for “better”, let us (again) look at the FACTS. The fact is, when Pan Trinbago took over from George “Sonny” Goddard and NATTS, they had NO idea how to run the association. This is why the first President lost to Arnim Smith, and the FIRST THING that Arnim Smith did was to seek our George “Sonny” Goddard’s advice on how to properly run the organization. Granted, Arnim Smith may not have had the same credibility as his mentor, but I have heard many people say he was the last “good President”.
  6. So, Pan Trinbago in NOT a “union”, NOT a “pan players” body, and ALL that garbage that SIDD gave you all has ZERO historical merit. The thing that amazes me with many of you, is that you would think that, being George’s first son, I would have more “first-hand” information than the other “fellow”. Just last night, Othello called me, and when I asked him why he thinks that the steelbands have suffered the way they have, the first thing he said was “because they do not have a union”.
  7. The ONLY reason that stopped Prim and Bellies from going forward was LACK OF SUPPORT! Period! Just this past Carnival season, I had my team members go to the Registrar of Trade Unions, and they verified that Pan Trinbago is NOT a registered union. SIDD, again for whatever reason, attempts to play on the word “trade”, as in “trade union”. Of course, we should all know that even writers, musicians, and instrument makers, consider their crafts as “trade”. So, the attempt to disassociate pan from trade, is only for the benefit of those who want to exploit the resources of our country and its people who happen to be involved in the steelband and pan “trade”. If it were not “trade”, we would not be seeing the multi-million dollars deals that have become part of the Pan Trinbago business model, post-Act of Parlaiment. A building sits on the wayside, the ATTSDC crashed, but Chief Diaz says he’s not giving up his cash-cow, known as the “Greens”.

Anyway, Glenroy, peeling away the untruths and deceptive words from the one I like to call the “Agent”, has gotten me a little exhausted. I promise that I will answers your questions, as soon as possible. And unlike some persons on WST, who make promises and never keep them, I will keep mine. As they say, BE CAREFUL WHO “EDUCATES” YOU. I have posted my credentials, and openly vetted myself. You ALL are free to believe what you like; DOES NOT change the FACTS. (Something, many of you do not care about.)




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