KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Trade unionist Noel Jackson on Sunday admitted that he had been speaking with U.S. officials based in Barbados but he was mistaken when he said he was not quoted in the diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks.
“[These leaks], you’ve got to take them carefully, because, according to how we look at them, they can be bittersweet and you have to take the bitter with the sweet,” Jackson said.
“You can’t want the sweet alone,” he said, adding that some of the person mentioned in the cables spoke with U.S. embassy officials, although some denying doing so.
“And I would tell you the truth, sometimes, you speak with some of these embassy officials, and if you are not ideologically clear, you can get carried away with them,” said Jackson, who is president of the National Labour Congress and general secretary of the National Workers Movement.
“Because I tell you the truth, I have been speaking with them,” he further said, noting his status as a “trade unionist of prominence” locally and regionally.
“Why have they not quoted me? Because when I speak with them, I am ideologically clear. I know my position. I know who I have to defend and I know who I have to condemn. And the people I would defend, they don’t like,” Jackson said.
However, at least two of the cables published so far relate Jackson’s conversations with U.S. officials based in Bridgetwon.
A cable sent to Washington on Nov. 1, 2007 captioned “St. Vincent: Splinters of an Opposition” said that Jackson, an “outspoken activist” for the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP), “was incredibly pessimistic about the economic situation, and surprisingly critical of the Gonsalves administration’s dealings with the labour unions”.
Another cable sent to Washington on May 29, 2008, under the title “St Vincent Labour Unions Pragmatic on Economic Outlook”,said that Jackson was “relatively upbeat” to November 2007.
The cable said that Jackson spoke of the 700 members of his union — “a considerable increase in membership”.
Back then, union membership included stevedores, East Caribbean Metals, the Pilots Association, Insect Vector Control, the National Lotteries, the Irrigation Management Unit and the friendly societies.
“Given the present economic situation, the union is looking for a 15 percent pay increase. However, Mr. Jackson lamented the rapid increase in food prices and foresees a regional backlash protesting loss in earnings, insufficient increases in wages and raising food prices and cost of living,” the cable said.
Jackson did not believe that the cancellation of the Common External Tariff (CET) was the best solution at this time, according to the cable.
“Jackson noted that new members are joining with high expectations which add stress to the union movement. He added that increased wages may subsequently mean job cuts and decreased benefits, which he is trying to avoid.
“He commented that the union is in a difficult bind – trying to get increased wages for their members, which are urgently needed given the inflation rate, but at the same time, the private sector is stressed and may not be able to accommodate a large increase in wages. He said that there has to be renewed focus on agriculture, organic farming and diversification,” he leaked document said.
But Jackson said on Sunday that “the things I would say, they (embassy officials) would not want to report to Washington because it would not make their ego look good.
“Because I tell you the truth, I am of the view that some of these persons who are reporting in these things report them basically to try to inflate their ego and to jockey their positions probably to get transfer to some other lucrative area in the world. But it is a fact that some persons have spoken [with them],” he further stated.