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Good advice for all from Mr Lambert
It is not often that trade union leaders focus on the other side of the industrial contract—that is, the requirement for employees to return value to their employer as a means of assisting their employer’s operations to retain competitiveness and profitability. But president general of the National Union of Government and Federated Workers Union, James Lambert, did exactly that earlier this week when he told 180 young semi-skilled employees of the Housing Develop- ment Corporation that they had to give of their best on the job. It is accepted that trade-union leaders are concerned with remuneration packages and other benefits for their members. That is part of their job. But over the last few years Central Bank data has shown a decline in the productivity ratios of Trinidad and Tobago and the consequent negative impact on the ability of local producers to sell their goods and services abroad—in competition against labour forces which take seriously the requirement for a positive work ethic.
Mr Lambert, who was recently made a government senator, noted to the young people about to enter the workplace that the economy of the country is dependent on productivity, and that they should not only think in terms of money and not work. The veteran trade-union leader issued a blunt and honest warning. “We cannot continue in Trinidad and Tobago to work one hour for eight hours’ pay. It will not work,” he said.
What the NUGFW president general was saying to the young employees is that unproductive work habits will eventually bring the organisation which they and their families depend on for a livelihood to an unproductive halt. That must be good advice in a world economy that has been in deep economic turmoil and decline since 2008. Moreover, Mr Lambert’s comments must also be taken against the background of the real difficulties of the local economy. There has been no better illustration of such difficult economic circumstances for T&T than the warning of the Finance Minister earlier this week that in addition to the last four years of deficit budgeting, the reality facing this country is for another five years of government borrowing and cutting back on expenditure to minimise the inevitable budget deficits.
Along with the urgings and warnings given by Mr Lambert to workers, managers in the public sector must also take a cue from what he has said. Higher levels of productivity are not only a function of workers being committed to their jobs and to working for the eight hours they are paid for, but also the need for systems and human management of work processes to ensure the job gets done efficiently. It may be that the Government of the day needs to reinstitute a productivity unit as part of the ongoing campaign to reform the public service. Such a unit would systematically set out to develop the institutional capacity to provide the public and private sectors with the capacity to become competitive. It is well known that inefficient government bureaucracy is one of the greatest hindrances to the private sector. For instance, manufacturers have long complained about delays in VAT rebates and the million and one hurdles to be crossed to gain approvals. Mr Lambert’s urgings, then, apply to all the individuals and entities involved in the process of production—and are an apposite and timely reminder of the reality of the world of work today.
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