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CPO denies Public Services twice
The Public Services Association’s (PSA’s) request to extend wage negotiations for the period 2008 to 2010 by three months has been rejected by the Chief Personnel Officer Stephanie Lewis. PSA president Watson Duke revealed this yesterday to the union membership at a gathering outside the Financial Complex, Independence Square, Port-of-Spain. Duke presented two pieces of correspondence dated March 9 2011, between himself and CPO Lewis. In the first letter addressed to Lewis by Duke, the PSA requested a three month extension in order to host a meeting to bring members of the union’s Bargaining Unit up to date on the final offer of the revised salaries and the Cost of Living Allowance (Cola).
The letter further requested Lewis, should the extension be denied, to allow members time off to attend meetings at the PSA’s South, Port-of-Spain, Central and Tobago offices to voice their opinions and to take a vote on the final offer of five per cent. Lewis denied both requests. In her response Lewis said in a previous letter to Duke she indicated she “was unable to support” Duke’s suggestion of a three-month extension to consult with his membership. Lewis said, regarding Duke’s request for time off for public servants to attend these meetings, she was also unable to accede to that request. Duke, speaking to the media after yesterday’s gathering, said Lewis’ rejecting the PSA’s request to meet with its 33,000 members was in violation of the Industrial Relations Authority’s (IRA) good industrial relations principle.
He said the PSA had officially put a 34 per cent offer on the table for wage increases based on headline inflation over the negotiating period. Duke said, however, for the sake of ending negotiations the PSA executive was now requesting a 16 per cent increase, a significant drop from their original request of 60 per cent. Pressed as to whether he thought the failure to complete wage negotiations would go to the Industrial Court, Duke said the PSA was prepared to go and was ready to “fight back at any time.”
Duke also accused the Government of holding a Cabinet meeting with an agenda of “how to destroy Watson Duke and the PSA.” He said the Government conspired to offer him the five per cent wage increase in hopes the PSA members would lose faith in him. Duke said the Government would be defeated and should the Government take the negotiations to the Industrial Court they would not live out the five year term.
Warner: Only PSA can remove Duke
Responding to Duke’s accusations Minister of Works and Transport Jack Warner said the Government is in no way trying to oust Duke as president of PSA. Pressed by the media at yesterday’s post-Cabinet meeting held at the Prime Minister’s Office, St Clair, Warner said the Government had no “interest in removing Duke.” Warner said only members of the PSA can remove Duke. He said Duke was “effectively” trying to have his members remove him, not the Government.
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