Jeff_Cumberbatch

The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – Future Industrial Relations (ii)

Jeff Cumberbatch - Chairman of the FTC

Jefferson Cumberbatch – Deputy Dean (Academic and Student Affairs) LL.B. (UWI); Leg Ed Cert; Attorney-at-Law, Chairman of the FTC

In the first installment of this extended essay, I advanced the view that even though many may have predicted the imminent demise of the workers’ organization, given the individualization of many of the floor of rights accorded to workers and the ongoing decline in union density or membership coupled with an anti-union ideology on the part of many employers, this suggestion may be deemed in the words of Mark Twain “grossly exaggerated”, in light of the relative weakness of individual enforceability of workers’ rights; a weakness that may be cured by collective action, and the current global recession that is necessitating a new war on want especially for those workers at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Another factor that is likely to impact at least moderately on the modern workers’ organization in future is that of increased globalization, once aptly termed by former Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Professor Rex Nettleford, as “a modern expression for an old obscenity”.

Among the challenges for the labour movement presented by globalization and identified by Rolando Muck of Dublin City University in a 2010 article entitled Globalization and the Labour Movement: Challenges and Responses, are the informalization of labour, international migration, the routinization of labour practices and a sustained attempt by capital to make the world’s workers pay for the collapse of the neoliberal globalization model nearly a decade ago.

He suggests, drawing on the Dutch experience, that trade union strategies to confront these challenges ought to include “the organization of new workers hitherto unrepresented in the traditional union, a clear orientation towards social justice and a vigorous engagement in the battle of ideas in terms of a vision for an alternative social order”.

So far as labour migration is concerned, the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, the virtual Constitution of the nascent or stillborn Caribbean Single Market & Economy, already provides for lawful access to the labour market of member states of CARICOM for certain categories of workers from other member states.

While these workers will have legitimate access to the labour market, not all migrant workers will satisfy this criterion. How then is the workers’ organization to treat with these individuals? Some unions in other jurisdictions have sought to organize such workers on the basis that “workers are workers are workers” in order to preclude the possibility of employers using their dubious status to undercut remuneration and other conditions of employment for local workers.

It must be recognized however that sentiments of nationalism and nativism run deep and that the collision between these sentiments and humanity to strangers will ultimately determine the way forward for unions in this context. All this is, of course, subject to the legality of the employment in the first place, since it is in very limited circumstances only that any employment rights may be availed of under an illegal contract of employment.

Additionally, public and private sector retrenchments test union strength, although the provisions of the Employment Rights Act, as witnessed in its recent decision concerning the unfair dismissal of the workers from the National Conservation Commission do endow the representative union with some significant consultative rights in the entire process.

There are more than a few who espouse the view that the historical struggle between capital and labour is now outdated and that the time has come for a partnered approach between them directed towards an improvement of the economy through increased productivity.

According to one local writer, “capital, often invested at tremendous risk, has a legitimate right to a fair return on investment…Labour, a key factor of production, has an equally legitimate right to a fair living wage and should not be forced to sell itself at increasingly marginal rated while capital earns supernormal profits…” It is not difficult to agree with this, even though it must be conceded that the devil of an optimal solution here is in the details.

For instance, one vice-president of human and labour relations at Canadian Pacific Railroad suggests that if unions, traditionally perceived as representative of blue collar or public workers, are going to progress “they’ve got to make it compelling for people to belong to that group that has an affiliation and an image for them that they can aspire to and be a part of…”

And while some see a role for unions in future –“If trade unions are permanently weakened and labour’s share of economic growth continues to decline, this could undermine the moral legitimacy of liberal democracy’, argues one writer, while another refers to Canadian studies that indicated “around 50, 000 people a year join a union for the first time in Canada across the country”-, others are less sanguine. The chief economist with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business was minded to assert, “The workplace s evolving. We are seeing higher educated people, we’re seeing people who are more discerning with information and they are choosing that they ‘d much rather work in a non-unionized workplace than a unionized one. There is also a portion of unionized workers who would rather not be unionized. My question to the symposium then, as it is now to my readers appropriately altered, -Which of these contrasting positions better apply to Barbados?

Postscript.

Congratulations to my former English teacher, Canon Ivor Jones, on reaching the 100th anniversary of his birth last week. Well lived, Sir!

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49 Comments on “The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – Future Industrial Relations (ii)”

  1. Violet C Beckles September 11, 2016 at 6:43 AM #

    fraud stops all things from moving forward , but the crime itself until halted,by rule of law

    Like

  2. ac September 11, 2016 at 7:30 AM #

    Unions are relevant there are the voices of the most vulnerable in society. the problem that unions faced is an extensive view that strong arm tactics would be the key to resolution Society is no longer living in the darkened ages when those strong arm tactics were effective and necessary,We are now living in an era where govts have responded rules and regulations have have become commonplace to solving problems .The principle of bull dog diplomacy now longer reigns supreme
    Efficient advocacy should rely on a voice that can have problems resolved without implying chaos and blood shed and discomfort which was an accepted norm of union business
    The Industrial world has evolved beyond such discomfort and seeks to find solutions that can repair and heal the damages without feeling the pain of turmoil

    Like

  3. chad99999 September 11, 2016 at 9:00 AM #

    Jeff
    Please read the collected works of W. Arthur Lewis. You can access them for free at the UWI Library.
    What Lewis explained many years ago is that unions can make it harder for capitalists to accumulate the wealth they need for investments that are sufficient for the creation of self-sustaining economic growth, and a path to general prosperity.
    (However. in the Caribbean, the capitalist class is so inept, they seem incapable of steering the society towards general prosperity anyway, even if they had sufficient capital at their disposal)
    So how does an island like Barbados achieve self-sustaining economic development that can assure success in the war on poverty? Lewis seems to say that you don’t need unions. You need a very successful and productive agricultural sector, which sets a floor on the wages employers must offer in urban sectors like manufacturing and tourism.
    Get it? Now please go to the library.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jeff Cumberbatch September 11, 2016 at 9:13 AM #

    “Lewis seems to say that you don’t need unions. You need a very successful and productive agricultural sector, which sets a floor on the wages employers must offer in urban sectors like manufacturing and tourism”

    @Chad99999, if he really said this, then he has little knowledge of the mechanics of the industrial relation.

    Like

  5. David September 11, 2016 at 9:18 AM #

    Does it apply to an economy that has shifted from agrarian in the 70s an 80s to services?

    Like

  6. chad99999 September 11, 2016 at 9:26 AM #

    So tell me: If I can make X dollars as an independent farmer, why would I offer myself for less as an employee for an urban wage?

    Like

  7. chad99999 September 11, 2016 at 9:37 AM #

    David,
    Please. The shift to services happened in part because agricultural wages were so low. If agriculture offers high returns, and wages rise, the service sectors lose workers and have to economize on labour anyway because of its high cost.
    I’m off to church now. Later

    Like

  8. peterlawrencethompson September 11, 2016 at 9:50 AM #

    @chad99999

    Arthur Lewis was analysing a somewhat different economic environment than Barbados 2016. His premise was that the labour supply was “unlimited” and that the capitalist industrial economy drew its labour from a very large pool of subsistence farmers. I don’t know the percentage of Bajans engaged in subsistence farming, but my guess is that it is not large.

    I’m a big fan of Arthur Lewis, but we need to base our economic development theory on more relevant foundations now

    Like

  9. David September 11, 2016 at 9:52 AM #

    Chad99999

    Sorry, our bad. Thought it was more about the rise of knowledge workers and the lack of shelter from preferential shelters like LOME and others from the former Colonial Office.

    Like

  10. peterlawrencethompson September 11, 2016 at 10:16 AM #

    Actually chad99999, you may have a point. Perhaps Arthur Lewis is not out of date in his economic analysis. They key is that the ability of people to survive outside of capitalist structures is what can balance the power of the capitalist to be overly exploitative.

    When Arthur was writing that space outside of capitalism was subsistence farming on small family owned plots of agricultural land. However, most Bajan poor people don’t own any agricultural land. Middle class doesn’t either.

    If we can get over the stigma that agricultural pursuits acquired in the slave economy we can, however, re-imagine subsistence agriculture in a post industrial high tech way. Baird’s Village Aquaponics Association is trying to show a way, but I don’t know how much traction they are getting. When BU posted about them 5 years ago there was a mere trickle of commentary.
    https://barbadosunderground.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/bairds-village-aquaponics-project-a-case-study-for-homegrown-success/.

    Like

  11. de pedantic Dribbler September 11, 2016 at 11:21 AM #

    @Jeff to your query, is there really a difference re: “We are seeing higher educated people, we’re seeing people who are more discerning with information and they are choosing that they ‘d much rather work in a non-unionized workplace than a unionized one. There is also a portion of unionized workers who would rather not be unionized. ”

    This distinction between a ‘college’ educated and “blue-collar’ workers (your broadly described ‘unionized’ worker) is often a false flag to me.

    In sum they get their post secondary education in different ways but their ability to educate themselves in industrial relations is limited only by their personal interest. They both have a distrust of unions because the unionists have adopted too many of the mores of the corporate chieftains.

    Excellent essays on an always important subject.

    @Chad: Based on your wondrous statements here on BU re females can one assume that you enjoy the church which ‘refuses’ women a place n their pulpit. Your strong views here do indeed match well with original church dogma re the place of the female.

    Amusing that you should offer the views of Sir Arthur and use a quote based on an agrarian model when that ‘economic basket of goods’ must be displaced and used more carefully because of the complete change of our economic underpinnings.

    The same way that we have to displace and use carefully old biblical dogma.

    Like

  12. David September 11, 2016 at 11:34 AM #

    @Dee Word

    A slightly different view?

    The higher educated person (knowledge worker) knows that in today’s workspace careful career path planning must be done carefully to be flagged for advancement.

    Like

  13. chad99999 September 11, 2016 at 1:25 PM #

    Back from church. Note: Jesus Christ picked 12 disciples. None were female. And do I need to remind anyone about Eve and Delilah.
    As usual, you guys are giving me a hard time about Jeff’s topic.
    Arthur Lewis published a dualistic model of economic development designed to be generally applicable throughout most of the Third World.
    I have taken elements of his “unlimited supplies of labour” model, plus his published work on unions in the West Indies, plus his lecture on the evolution of the international world order — the divergence of developed from underdeveloped countries — and boiled it down to a paragraph that responds to Jeff’s question of the week. I wasn’t just referencing the model, PLT.
    Incidentally, although Arthur Lewis eventually won a Nobel Prize, he couldn’t get a job at Oxford or Cambridge. He had to settle for Manchester, and it was only much later that he got a job at Princeton in the US.
    Compare him to his female contemporary, Joan Robinson, who got a lifelong position at Cambridge even though she was a Communist. See how we have always privileged women, PLT?

    Like

  14. David September 11, 2016 at 1:31 PM #

    @chad99999

    As usual, you guys are giving me a hard time about Jeff’s topic.

    Not at all, many look forward to the ‘jousting’.

    Like

  15. peterlawrencethompson September 11, 2016 at 1:31 PM #

    @chad99999 wrote “Compare him to his female contemporary, Joan Robinson, who got a lifelong position at Cambridge”

    Joan Robinson was white. Cambridge simply continued their age old habit of privileging white people.

    Like

  16. chad99999 September 11, 2016 at 2:14 PM #

    Does anyone have statistics on the increase in the number or percentage of knowledge workers on the Barbados labour force since Independence?

    Like

  17. peterlawrencethompson September 11, 2016 at 2:20 PM #

    It’s not straightforward, but you can glean some answers from Barbados Labour Market Statistics at https://labour.gov.bb/statistics/dynamic/.

    Like

  18. David September 11, 2016 at 2:29 PM #

    @Peter

    To properly respond to chad99999 would we not have to establish the last date an enumeration was done?

    Like

  19. peterlawrencethompson September 11, 2016 at 2:56 PM #

    In most cases the data does not go back to Independence, but you can glean some info from tables which categorize employment by occupational grouping, their categories are:
    Legislators Officials Managers
    Professionals
    Technicians Associate Profession
    Clerk
    Service Workers Shops and Markets
    Skilled Agricultural and Fisheries Workers
    Craft and Related Workers
    Plant and Machine Operators and Assemblers
    Elementary Occupations

    Like

  20. Heather September 11, 2016 at 4:16 PM #

    @ Jeff, this essay was an easy read. what global recession were you referring to? The world is no longer in recession.

    The trade unions in the 1930’s were formed to empower labour in a predominantly agricultural economy. Times have changed and service industries are the largest sector of the workforce. There is still a need for the union in its traditional sense as exploitation will never cease if there are avenues that cause it to thrive.

    However, the needs of workers in Barbados have also changed. The needs are not only limited to labour, pensions or pay increases. There is concern for housing, the environment, health, provision of social services and education as this is where their tax dollars are utilized. Since society has changed perhaps it is time for the union’s mandate to change to incorporate the problems that the labourforce is facing that cannot fit under its present umbrella.

    Like

  21. Jeff Cumberbatch September 11, 2016 at 6:03 PM #

    Heather, I agree. The mission of the modern union is essentially political, not partisan, mind you, but political!

    Like

  22. chad99999 September 11, 2016 at 6:57 PM #

    As Caswell has conceded, the union in the Caribbean seems drawn to unacceptable corruption like a moth to a flame.
    So why do we need it? If Jeff or Heather want an organization that can help provide low interest loans or housing for workers (or whatever), we already have institutions for that. Anybody heard of Friendly Societies? Building & Loan Associations? Do we want to mobilize workers to vote? That’s what Voters Leagues and politics parties are for. So let us in on the secret, Jeff. Why do we still need unions?

    Like

  23. Gabriel September 11, 2016 at 7:46 PM #

    I would like to join Jeff in wishing well The Rev Canon Ivor Jones on reaching 100 years of age,a greater part of which was given to sharing in things pedagogical and ecclesiastical.
    Well done Billy Bones as the boys like GP would call him, without earshot of course.According to GP Billy famously told a boy if the bible said the whale swallowed Jonah he believes it and if the bible said Jonah swallowed the whale,he would believe it too.

    Like

  24. Jeff Cumberbatch September 11, 2016 at 8:46 PM #

    Heard another one recently, Gabriel. It is said that he once asked a class, “What was said to Paul after he reached Damascus?”. It is reported that one boy piped up, “Gorblindyou”! LOL!

    Like

  25. Bernard Codrington. September 11, 2016 at 8:52 PM #

    Unions are essentially countervailing forces whose main purpose is to ensure that the fruits of production are fairly distributed between capital and labour. On the basis of this assumption there will always be a place for labour unions. And yes unions have to be political in the purist sense. It is about power,political, economic and social. We cannot assume that the owners of land or equipment will not want to appropriate the benefits of production. Of course the productive system changes. Lewis model was never relevant to the Caribbean. It was based on the Indian experience.

    Like

  26. Bernard Codrington. September 11, 2016 at 8:55 PM #

    Correction “most of the benefits of production”

    Like

  27. Bernard Codrington. September 11, 2016 at 9:12 PM #

    @ Jeff

    Does it have to be either/ or? Why not both/ and? The educated labour force can negotiate their own salaries. And the less educated may still need a union and collective force. This is essentially what happens now. The professionals keep their eyes on the Classified Ads for better job opportunities and move to the highest bidder. Very often they are job hunted.

    Like

  28. chad99999 September 11, 2016 at 9:20 PM #

    Lewis’s model is a universal model of general applicability to all countries with dualistic economic structures.
    The competence of an economist who says otherwise should be questioned.

    Like

  29. Gabriel September 11, 2016 at 10:17 PM #

    Jeff
    Lol,good one.The Major next door would have said of that boy….’watch him,he is being under utilized’.

    Like

  30. peterlawrencethompson September 11, 2016 at 11:03 PM #

    @chad99999 & Bernard Codrington
    Arthur Lewis’s model was applicable to societies where there was a large informal agricultural economy of subsistence smallholders who made up the essentially inexhaustible supply of labour to be hired into the more formal industrializing economy. Barbados never had enough economically viable smallholders to fit the Lewis model. Jamaica did, but never got the industrialization process to really take hold; the only place the Lewis model really worked as he anticipated was Taiwan as far as I’m aware.

    Like

  31. peterlawrencethompson September 12, 2016 at 12:07 AM #

    As Bernard said “Unions are essentially countervailing forces whose main purpose is to ensure that the fruits of production are fairly distributed between capital and labour.”

    The problem is that they have been mostly ineffective over the past few decades. All the really important union victories date back to my childhood or before. Union corruption may well have been a contributing factor as chad99999 argues, but I think it goes much deeper. Bernard notes that while the “educated labour force can negotiate their own salaries […] the less educated may still need a union” and this gets close to the heart of the matter. The less educated in less critical occupations lack the collective bargaining clout to be an effective countervailing force.

    We need an alternate countervailing force to neoliberal capitalism.

    Like

  32. chad99999 September 12, 2016 at 12:58 AM #

    It is certainly true that Barbados is not a dual economy. But that is a straw man argument. I have already explained I am not trying to fit the details of the Lewis model to Barbados. I am taking some of Lewis’s ideas, from different publications, and applying them to a question Jeff raised about unions.
    Let me repeat. A prosperous, productive agricultural sector would set the floor for wage rates on the island. The tourist industry and modern manufacturing use technologies developed by high-wage countries for use in high wage countries. These industries can and would adjust to high returns and high wages in agriculture. The public sector would be happy to adjust to the high wage environment. All major sectors would then be paying high wages.
    Now please stop the straw man arguments.
    .

    Like

  33. Violet C Beckles September 12, 2016 at 7:36 AM #

    Heather September 11, 2016 at 4:16 PM #

    @ Jeff, this essay was an easy read. what global recession were you referring to? The world is no longer in recession.@@

    There is no GLOBAL RECESSION in Barbados, Dont you get it as yet? its internal FRAUD, MONEY LAUNDERING, LAND LAUNDERING TAKE A GOOD LOOK AT CLICO ASSETS IN BARBADOS, seem you all turn your back on the crooks Ministers to blame some one else or body for government on another land,

    GLOBAL RECESSION in Barbados , do they not brags that the white people are coming to Barbados in record numbers? at the air and sea ports?

    Barbados cant get any out side money to have growth and to repair housing in people lives,
    No IMF MONEY, No IDB MONEY, No World Bank MONEY , ,why why ,, to MUCH LAND FRAUD, THEY DOING IT TO THE PEOPLE ,

    STOP LETTING JEFF LEAD YOU ALL AWAY FROM THE FOCUS OF THEIR CRIMES,AND THE EFFECTS AND AFFECTS ON THE PEOPLE AT THE BOTTOM , WHO GAVE THEM THEIR TRUST NOT TO DEFRAUD THEM ,
    The best writers are the best crooks, they but people in a dream world of horrors,

    Like

  34. peterlawrencethompson September 12, 2016 at 7:41 AM #

    @chad99999 said “A prosperous, productive agricultural sector would set the floor for wage rates on the island.”

    This would be true only if the agricultural sector were dominated by independent smallholders. A highly mechanized industrialized agricultural sector controlled by large agribusiness might be prosperous and productive, but would do nothing to set the floor for wage rates.

    Like

  35. chad99999 September 12, 2016 at 8:55 AM #

    You are absolutely right, Peter. I implicitly assumed an agricultural sector of independent farmers who each have enough land under their control to make a decent living.
    But perhaps the land could be jointly owned in co-operatives. Or perhaps it could be organized in large estates owned by a multinational company that chooses to pay high wages because of a corporate commitment to social responsibility and because it only wants workers who can afford the education, housing and health care they need to fit in to the culture of a modern, science-based agricultural organization.
    There are many possibilities. The only point I am making is that there are alternatives to unions when it comes to winning the war on poverty, and assuring a more equitable society and a fairer distribution of wealth

    Like

  36. peterlawrencethompson September 12, 2016 at 10:04 AM #

    @chad99999
    Mirabile visual… we mostly agree with each other. Firstly that we can find alternatives to unionisation to form a counterbalance to exploitation by neoliberal capitalism. Secondly that agriculture offers one specific means of doing that. There is little prospect of meaningful land reform in Barbados, so agriculture will need to be intensive high tech operations that people can pursue in back yards that have little scope for traditional agricultural techniques. That’s why I mentioned Baird’s Village Aquaponics.

    Like

  37. peterlawrencethompson September 12, 2016 at 10:05 AM #

    Mirabile visu^

    Like

  38. chad99999 September 12, 2016 at 11:48 AM #

    Israel and Japan have capital-intensive agriculture that economizes on the use of land and water.
    But I think you are too pessimistic, Peter.
    Suppose a philanthropic or religious organization, or some other not-for-profit entity, or a single Barbadian returning home from North America with deep pockets, acquired a large parcel of land and demonstrated the cultivation of some high-value agricultural product that could ensure a decent income to any farmer with, say, 10 acres of land, there would be irresistible political pressures on government for land reform.

    Like

  39. chad99999 September 12, 2016 at 12:37 PM #

    If agriculture is to be of help, the sector must be taken over by a multinational, or, alternatively, small farmers must have unrestricted access to all of the technological packages in use. If some guy from abroad has a great farming operation, but is keeping some of his technology secret, as proprietary information, problems arise.

    Like

  40. peterlawrencethompson September 12, 2016 at 12:48 PM #

    @chad99999
    Religious organizations in Barbados have had the opportunity to invest meaningfully in the social and economic development of the island since 1834. I’m not willing to hold my breath for another hundred and eighty two years in the hope that they will get the memo.

    Barbados is too small to have enough 10 acre agricultural parcels for wide ownership distribution. We need to figure out how a family can make a good living on 1/2 acre or less— it’s not impossible, it’s been done in the US near Philadelphia where a 1/2 acre farm surpassed US$50,000 in sales (US$52,200, to be exact). http://www.newfarm.org/features/2006/0606/somertontanks/sullivan.shtml.

    Thanks David, for the links to Bajan land shenanigans.

    Like

  41. peterlawrencethompson September 12, 2016 at 12:52 PM #

    Multinationals will be of no help whatsoever. They exist only to maximise their profits and they cannot do so by investing in the social and economic development of Barbados. The only people who can develop Barbados are Bajans. The technology is available, but Bajans must first break away from the notion that agriculture is a backwards way to make a living.

    Like

  42. David September 12, 2016 at 12:55 PM #

    Chad99999’s suggestion although welcomed is mechanical or product in focus. There are social issues at play here which prevent his kind of disruptions.

    Like

  43. Nostradamus September 12, 2016 at 2:10 PM #

    Jeff Cumberbatch September 11, 2016 at 8:46 PM #

    Heard another one recently, Gabriel. It is said that he once asked a class, “What was said to Paul after he reached Damascus?”. It is reported that one boy piped up, “Gorblindyou”! LOL!

    Jeff, that is a fact! The question wasn’t actually directed to the class but to a specific student.

    The question was, “What did God say to Paul on the way to Damascus”

    Like

  44. chad99999 September 12, 2016 at 2:31 PM #

    If we had 4,000 prosperous farms, the effect on the economy would be dramatic. Employees in other sectors would not accept less money than farm workers receive — there are economic, cultural and psychological reasons for this.
    I think micro-farms are a mistake, except for part-time farmers who have a professional job. Close to 10 acres builds in some margin for error.

    Like

  45. chad99999 September 12, 2016 at 2:45 PM #

    David
    Do you know what Grenadians said when Eric Gairy announced the establishment of a medical school on the island 50 years ago, to be built by some American quack doctor nobody had ever heard of? They said Gairy was an ignorant, uneducated lunatic.
    Today, the St Georges University is a lifeboat for an island that has lost virtually all of its sugar, nutmeg and banana industries.

    Like

  46. peterlawrencethompson September 12, 2016 at 3:55 PM #

    4,000 10 acre farms is 40,000 acres of arable land or 62.5 square miles. This is about 38% of Barbados’s total area of 166 square miles and amounts to the total arable land in the entire island.

    Like

  47. peterlawrencethompson September 12, 2016 at 4:02 PM #

    @chad99999
    Why do you think micro farms are a mistake? I think that they can be extraordinarily productive given the technology available.

    Like

  48. Well Well & Consequences September 12, 2016 at 7:46 PM #

    There is no global recession or any recession in Barbados, when last have you heard CNN or CBC Toronto or any one else talk of a recession.

    The problems on the island are government ministers who refuse to take responsibility for their actions of corruption and inaction in changing and amending antiquated laws that benefits them and their fellow corrupters…while reducing the social fabric of the island to rubble…..and creating paupers in the majority population…..that is the problem on the island.

    Other countries have different issues that are causing problems…but none of it is directly or indirectly related to any recession.

    The recession has been over for years and only exists in the minds of Fruendel and his lazy ministers.

    Like

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