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Lambert wants less powers for CPO
Government senator James Lambert, who is also president general of the National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW), has called on Minister of Labour and Small and Micro Enterprises Errol McLeod to amend the Industrial Relations' Act ensuring the power of the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) is curtailed.
Lambert, who is also celebrating the union’s success in its recent wage negotiation, urged CPO Stephanie Lewis to begin negotiations for 2011 to 2013. In a meeting at the union’s conference room, Henry Street, Port-of-Spain, Lambert said he intended to write to Labour Minister McLeod to request a meeting to discuss the matter.
Lambert said Lewis dragged her feet on the union's 2008 to 2010 negotiations and negotiations which were originally scheduled to be completed within a three-year period went on for four-and-a-half years. He stressed it was unacceptable for the CPO to do so. He said the union’s negotiations for its last collective agreement between 2005 to 2007 took four-and-a-half years to end.
Lambert said the union met with Finance Minister Larry Howai and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar before the October 1 budget was read to discuss the terms of the negotiations. The meeting, Lambert said, resulted in the union’s negotiations for 2008 to 2010 ending and resulted in the signing on Tuesday of the collective agreement for a nine per cent wage increase for daily paid workers over a three-year period.
He thanked Persad-Bissessar and Howai for their assistance. Lambert said the union rejected the initial offer of five per cent offered by the CPO. He said his union members also received a Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) increase and had a fixed COLA of four dollars a day. But Lambert said he felt daily paid workers should not be treated differently from those who are monthly paid.
He said the monthly paid were receiving much more than the daily paid. Lambert said initially the union was offered five dollars an hour and it refused. They were eventually able to receive $5.75 for 2008, $5.75 for 2009 and $6.60 for 2010. Lambert said the negotiations for daily paid workers of the Regional Health Authorities also were essentially completed.
He added: “There is something that has happened that our union is very much dissatisfied about. We are of the view that the CPO’s Office is a hindrance to good collective bargaining within the public sector. “It is the first time since I have been in the union that we have signed a collective agreement on behalf of public sector workers in T&T and the CPO was not present.”
Lambert said the CPO sent her subordinate to meet with the union. He said the union considered the CPO’s absence to be disrespectful. He said the agreement affected over 40,000 daily paid workers in the public sector and the CPO was not present to sign. He said the CPO’s signature is on the document because her subordinate took the document to her.
He added: “I am appealing again. I am calling on the Ministry of Labour, particularly Errol McLeod, to amend the Industrial Relations Act to ensure the powers of the CPO are amended.”
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