Finance Minister Winston Dookeran's 2012 budget presentation on Monday has been met with mixed reviews by trade union leaders.
BIGWU:Bankers, Insurance and General Workers Union(BIGWU) president Vincent Cabrera says his union's main concern in the budget is the proposed sale of shares in state owned First Citizens.Cabrera, who described the bank as one of the nation's most profitable state enterprises, expressed his concerns in a telephone interview.Cabrera said: "Dookeran has began to tamper with the sale of our national patrimony.""He (Dookeran) is testing the ground to see what kind of reaction there would be from the public, with the hope of an even larger divestment in the future.""We (BIGWU) reject his frail economic arguments for beginning the divestment of shares at that indigenous institution," Cabrera added.
In his budget presentation on Monday at Tower D, Waterfront Complex, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, Dookeran announced the sale as part of the Government's plans for Capital Market Development.Dookeran said: "It will assist the FCB in widening its capital base and facilitate its expansion programme in which it is currently engaged."Dookeran noted that this would not affect the Government's ownership of the bank.Cabrera also expressed concerns over the proposed merger of the T&T Mortgage Finance Company and Home Mortgage Bank, which was also cited by Dookeran as part of the Government's plans for the development of the local capital market."Dookeran's proposal to merge the TTMF with another legal entity will cause the trade union to lose its recognition status," Cabrera said."The over 100 workers at TTMF will lose the protection of a trade union (BIGWU) and they (the workers) will also lose the benefits of collective bargaining and the benefits of their collective agreement.""In addition many workers will be placed on the breadline with this ill-conceived merger and instead of creating jobs, jobs will disappear," Cabrera said.
CWU:Communication Workers Union (CWU) president Joseph Remy also expressed a similar sentiment as Cabrera on the proposed sale of shares in First Citizens.Remy said: "The diversification of a successful and profitable institution such as the FCB is a signal of a government yard sale.""My preliminary observation of the budget is that it is very flowery," Remy said.Remy questioned the impact of large projects announced by the Government on the nation's labour force."We (the trade unions) are yet to see what measures have been put in place so that workers are properly compensated," Remy said.Remy said one area of concern for his union which represented telecommunications workers was the announcement of a foreign investor in the construction of modern data centres across T&T."The section of the budget dealing with Information and Communications Technology was very vague. We (union) are yet to see the impact of this on Telecommunication Service of T&T (TSTT) and its employees," Remy said.
Natuc and SWWTU:National Trade Union Centre (Natuc) president Michael Anisette says he is with Government's plans to develop the maritime industry in T&T.Anisette said: "Natuc and the SWWTU (Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union) have been appealing to the government for a long time to develop the ship repair and building industry in T&T.""We (SWWTU) are hoping that the government makes this process a tripartite one including labour and business partners," Anisette said.Anisette also appealed to the government to involve workers in the establishing of the industry and in providing employment and entrepreneur opportunities.