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Unions withdraw from tripartite body

In protest over TDC closure
Published: 
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Former employees of the Tourism Development Company (TDC) during a demonstration outside its offices at Maritime Plaza in Barataria yesterday. PHOTO: ANISTO ALVES

Former employees of the Tourism Development Company (TDC) staged a demonstration outside its offices at Maritime Plaza in Barataria yesterday, even as Tourism Minister Shanfa Cudjoe continues to defend the Cabinet decision to close the TDC without consulting the representing Communication Workers Union (CWU) union.

Speaking from Belgium where she is attending a meeting of the European Union, Cudjoe said: “The union knew when we met in November last year that a review was being done and that a decision would be taken once the review was completed.”

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is acting as Tourism Minister in Cudjoe’s absence.

The decision and the way the Minister conveyed that decision to the CWU is not sitting well with the trade union movement, as all the umbrella bodies of labour have now presented a unified front and suspended their participation in meetings called by the National Tripartite Advisory Council (NTAC).

General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union Joseph Remy, who led the TDC workers at yesterday’s demonstration, denied there was ever a hint that the TDC would be dissolved.

Remy accused the Minister of “displaying a high level of arrogance, adding: “We had a meeting in December facilitated by the Labour Minister and there was no discussion or indication of any plan to dissolve the TDC.”

Cudjoe told the Guardian that the “matter was before the Cabinet and the Cabinet had options and it took a decision to dissolve the TDC.” She refused to elaborate on the options saying she was in Belgium and that the Prime Minister is the acting tourism minister. But the decision, she said, would not be “rescinded.”

Asked why the union was not consulted before the announcement was made last Thursday, Cudjoe said: “The Cabinet met and took a decision. I called Mr Remy and told him about the decision. I also told him I have to go back into Cabinet and we will talk further.” Remy said the Minister spoke to him for all of one minute and forty-eight seconds last Thursday when she informed him of the Cabinet decision.

Asked if she planned to meet with Remy on her return, Cudjoe said: “Just as I told Mr Remy we will meet as we go forward on the matter.”

Remy said even though “it is after the fact,” the union remains open to talks with the Minister.

He said: “We will wait and see, but we will have certain demands. Once she calls for a meeting we will meet, but we will not meet with a gun over our heads.”

In another twist on Tuesday all of the country’s trade union bodies suspended their participation in any meetings called by the National Tripartite Advisory Council (NTAC).

NATUC, FITUN and JTUM said the decision to suspend the attendance of the trade Union movement in any NTAC meeting has its genesis in the fact that “no consultation was held with the CWU” on the decision to dissolve the TDC.

The trade union groupings say the way Cudjoe chose to inform the CWU via the telephone of Cabinet’s decision “demonstrates an insensitivity and disrespect to the trade union movement and the workers of TDC and has no place in a democratic society.”

ROWLEY ON TDC (MARCH 2016)

The first hint that the Government was unhappy with the TDC came on March 4, 2016 when the Cabinet of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley met in Tobago.

Dr Rowley told the media: “Cabinet took a decision to examine without prejudice the Tourism Development Corporation and its role in promoting, developing and marketing Tobago and Trinidad and Tobago as a tourism destination.”

He said then that “in the months we have been in government we have been looking at this and we are dissatisfied with the current arrangement and we are sure that better arrangements can be made.”

The Government, he said, had decided to “get the relevant technical support in short order and to report in three months on the kinds of models of tourism development and marketing that are available in the Caribbean and elsewhere which we can remodel the Tobago arrangement on.”

Dr Rowley said: “We have looked at the numbers, we have looked at the expenditure we have looked at the behaviour and we have come to the conclusion that the TDC is contributing little to the marketing of Tobago and Trinidad and Tobago as a tourism destination and therefore we need to rectify that and just over three months from now we will report as to what new model the Government will proceed to pursue.”

When she announced the decision to dissolved the TDC and replace it with two separate entities last Friday, Cudjoe announced plans to set up a Regulatory Authority to ensure basic standards are met by operators in the tourism industry. She said Government will seek assistance from the Bahamas, Barbados and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation for assistance in establishing the new Regulatory Authority.

(Additional reporting by Camille Clarke)

 

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