Last update: 06-Dec-2013 8:12 am
Friday, December 06, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Nalis workers in backpay protest
A handful of Nalis (National Library and Information Systems) workers protested outside the National Library, Port-of-Spain, yesterday calling for management to honour a seven-to-nine per cent pay increase agreement, dating from 2008-10, which, they say, remains unfulfilled. Around 20 staff members protested with chants of We want Cola (cost of living allowance). The targets of their anger were primarily HR director Carolyn Aigle and executive director Lucia Phillip.
After the protest, union representative Raymond Butler told the media: “We have had to take to the streets. What has happened is that as of March this year, negotiations were completed. Up to this date they have not been given any arrears. The end of the financial year has gone and up to now they have not paid the workers.” In response, Phillip said the union had been informed that the outstanding payment for the affected workers would be paid by the end of next January.
She was shocked that the protest had taken place, saying as far as she was concerned agreement already had been made. She pointed to the fact that PSA elections were imminent and Butler was nominated and running for president. Butler also complained that Nalis directors had refused auditors’ requests to see financial records and had not agreed to “meet and treat” with the PSA and affected staff members, numbering 850.
He suggested if there was no resolution by the end of next month they would take Nalis to the Industrial Court. He also expressed dismay that Nalis was not being transparent in its operations. The PSA, he said, had written to the management of Nalis but had received no response. Asked if workers would support industrial action, Butler said they would take action to the “next level” by end of next month. He said in the first instance they would be requesting another meeting with management.
Among those who took part in the lunchtime protest was library technician Giselle Athanas. Explaining the small turnout for the protest (just 20 staff out of 850 across T&T) she said: “There is a fear among staff. There’s fear for me too.” She has worked at Nalis for seven years, she said, and though she received a minor pay increase of an unstated amount in June, she said there were outstanding pay increases from 2009-11. She said she did not want to leave Nalis but felt she was underpaid for the work she did at the library.
Nalis’ side of the story
In a statement, Nalis said: “Nalis respects the employees’ right to highlight issues that affect them and to this end a joint consultative council (a union/management team) was established in April this year with the aim of strengthening communication between management and staff and creating a more empowering work environment.
“The issues listed (1. Payment of Arrears, 2. Details of the new compensation Plan/Cessation of Cola Payment, 3. Validation Exercise/Issuance of Letters of Appointment) have been placed on the agenda and continuous updates provided at each council meeting. “In addition, notices were sent to all staff informing them of the cessation of the payment of Cola in keeping with the newly-approved compensation package which staff began receiving in June 2013.”
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