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Natuc demands talks with PM
The streets of Port-of-Spain were filled with white T-shirts yesterday as members of the National Trade Union Centre (Natuc) took to the streets, demanding a meeting with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. The protest was led by Natuc president Michael Annisette, who was mounted on a sound truck as the crowd made its way from Memorial Park down to Independence Square in front of the Financial Complex. The crowd marched to songs by Bob Marley and Sparrow, while waving white flags and the flags of their respective unions, drawing a number of onlookers. The police followed the protest and despite its size, there were no incidents of public disruption. Shortly before the march started, Annisette and leaders of unions represented by Natuc delivered a letter to the Prime Minister at her office in St Clair.
Annisette said this was the fourth letter Natuc had sent to the Prime Minister, demanding she met with them to discuss on-going and future wage negotiations for the unions they represented. Natuc represents the National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW), the Amalgamated Workers Union, the Postal Workers Unions, the All Trade General Workers Union, the Transportation and Industrial Workers Union and the Contractors Workers Union. Addressing union members at Independence Square, Annisette said Natuc was not longer asking, but demanding the right to meet with the Prime Minster. Annisette said the Government had been turning a deaf ear to Natuc’s calls to engage in discussions with Natuc. He said all they wished to do was to discuss the issues affecting those who they represented in both a social and economical context.
Annisette, a former People’s National Movement senator, claimed unions were being discriminated against based on their political allegiance. Regarding the five per cent wage increases being offered to all unions, Annisette said: “When you have a society of people who get paid on a Friday and by the time all their bills paid, their salaries are done by Monday, you cause a number of social ills.” Joining Annisette on Independence Square was NUGFW president James Lambert, who congratulated the crowd for keeping a peaceful march. Lambert said the unions had chosen to wear white because white represented peace. He said the unions were asking for peaceful discussions with the Prime Minister.
Lambert said NUGFW met with the Government’s Chief Personnel Officer Stephanie Lewis on Wednesday, where Lewis indicated to the union they would not move from the five per cent wage increase for the period 2008 to 2010. He said the unions were calling on the Prime Minister to intervene and remove Winston Dookeran from his post as Minister of Finance. Lambert said union leaders represented by Natuc would meet on February 2 to discuss future actions.
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