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CWU stages noisy midday march outside labour minister’s office
About 150 members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) staged a midday protest yesterday outside the International Waterfront Centre on Wrightson Road over stalled negotiations at the Ministry of Labour. The group, led by president of the CWU Joseph Remy, gathered waving flags, beating drums, holding placards and chanting in the hope of getting the attention of Labour Minister Errol McLeod, whose office is in Tower C of the centre.
The majority of protesters are employees of TSTT and RBP Lifts Ltd. Others came from the Amalgamated Workers Union, the Steel Workers Union, the T&T Unified Teachers Association (TUTTA) and the National Workers Union. Remy said other units had come forward to show solidarity and support for what he referred to as a “long and bitter struggle” for justice.
Among their concerns, he said, was TSTT salary negotiations, which were stalled since January. He said up to now there had been no response from McLeod to a request for an extension of time, and the union was urging the minister to get his officers to bring the matter to an end soon.
“TSTT has offered three per cent over three years. We have totally rejected that and as such we need to step up the ante in terms of this demonstration. RBT Lifts is also at the ministry again and we are not seeing any progress with conciliatory talks.” Remy said another issue of concern to CWU members is the precepting of soldiers. He said apart from the possible legal implications of the plan, trade unionists recognised the threat this poses to their freedom of expression, as is the case in military states.
“If we allow that to be enshrined in the laws of T&T, then God forbid what will happen to trade unionists who ever express any opposing views to the Government in terms of their anti-worker policies.” Remy also said the CWU supported the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) in its ongoing struggle with Petrotrin, which he described as “an attack on the freedom of trade unionists to engage in protest action when they believe their rights are being exploited.”
On March 19, after a week-long strike by workers, Petrotrin was granted an injunction against the OWTU at the Industrial Court ordering workers to return to their jobs. Also at the protest yesterday were president general of the OWTU Ancel Roget and OWTU representatives. Roget said they came to support the disgruntled members of the CWU, but all was not well with most of the State enterprises, particularly Petrotrin.
Earlier that day, he said, Petrotrin refused an invitation to have the court conciliate in matters of concern “simply because they do not want the public to know exactly what is happening.” Among issues raised, he said, was political interference in the hiring practices in Petrotrin. He said senior government officials were instructing management to employ people who failed the interview process.
He said the OWTU had no respect or regard for comments by the Chamber of Commerce or the Employers’ Consultative Association, since “they are capitalist class representing their capitalist class interest against workers’, without whom there is no economy.”
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