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Unions to meet Tuesday
Labour legislation reform and outstanding wage and salary negotiations are two key issues which will be discussed when the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) meets on Tuesday. President General of the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) Ancel Roget, who is also leader of the JTUM, and president of the Banking Insurance and General Workers’ Union (BIGWU) Vincent Cabrera shared these sentiments. But both leaders refused to disclose where the meeting would take place.
Among the trade unions which would be represented are Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs (Fitun) and The National Trade Union Centre of Trinidad and Tobago (Natuc)—from the umbrella bodies. They would be joined by representatives from Fire Services’ Association; Prisons Officers’ Association; Communication Workers’ Union (CWU); Estate Police Association (EPA); and the Postal Workers’ Union.
There would also be representatives from the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (T&TUTA) and other unions.
‘We have not forgotten Section 34’
Asked about the imminent meeting, Roget said, “We have not forgotten the Section 34 issue which is just another example of the corruption in governance. A significant number of workers are under the five per cent wage cap. That is preventing them from moving on to the new round of collective wage bargaining. We will be pursuing the workers’ agenda which looks at labour legislative reform and the complete overhaul of the Industrial Relations Act. It is an unfriendly piece of legislation. It is employer friendly but worker unfriendly.”
Cabrera said, “The trade union movement is quite aware we are faced with a government that has adopted right wing policies. The Government is hell-bent on private/public partnership which is handing over state resources to private enterprise. And in that scenario workers will have less and less of a say in matters at their workplace. There is a foul stench that continues to emanate from what I would call the Augean stables of Section 34.”
Zero tolerance on all wage negotiations
Outstanding wage negotiations at St Augustine Campus (UWI), financial sector negotiations, appointment of judges to the Industrial Court benches and their security on tenure would also be on the front burner. “There is a strong perception these judges are at the mercy of those who appoint them,” said Roget.
Roget gave the assurance unions would not be adopting a one-off stance.
“We will continue to meet on a weekly basis to deal with these and other issues as it continues to affect workers and T&T. We are going to pursue the new round of collective bargaining for the majority of our members. Collective agreements have long expired. Those who choose to be in bed with the Government at the expense of their members would have to account to their membership. But the OWTU and JTUM would adopt a zero tolerance to all outstanding wage negotiations,” said Roget.
On the flip side, Cabrera said they are not expecting National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW) and Seamen and Waterfront Workers’ Trade Union representatives.