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Five per cent cannot cut it
President of the National Trade Union Centre (Natuc), Michael Annisette says that the decision by Finance Minister Winston Dookeran to refer the wage dispute between the Government and public servants to the Special Tribunal or even the Industrial Court is not in the best interest of T&T’s industrial landscape. Annisette was speaking to reporters just before the start of a hunger march held to protest unsatisfactory workers’ wages and rising food prices. The march began at the Aranjuez Savannah and ended at Woodford Square, yesterday. Dookeran referred the dispute to the Special Tribunal on Friday after learning on March 11 that no agreement had been reached between the Public Services Association (PSA) and the Chief Personnel Officer, Stephanie Lewis.
According to the Industrial Relations Act under Section (2C), the Special Tribunal established by the Civil Service Act shall consist of the Chairman of the Essential Services Division and two other members of that Division selected by him. It shall hear and determine disputes arising in the Civil Service, the Police Service, the Fire Service, the Prison Service, the Teaching Service, the Supplemental Police and the Central Bank as if those disputes arose in essential services. There have been several meetings held between the parties which saw an initial offer of 0-0-1 per cent increase for the period but it increased to five per cent. Negotiations were put on pause last November shortly after that offer and PSA president Watson Duke urged workers to stay at home for two days.
Negotiations also broke down earlier this month prompting more protests. Natuc also staged a vigil earlier this month. Annisette said “if the Government is serious about resolving this problem there is a resolution if they engage the labour movement in meaningful dialogue.” He said they would continue educating the general public and workers whether or not the heated issue goes to the Tribunal or the Industrial Court. “We are convinced that the five per cent cannot cut it,” Annisette said.
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