As president of the Public Services Association (PSA) Watson Duke faces stinging criticism from fellow labour leaders, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal yesterday defended the union boss, insisting he (Duke) did what was best for public servants.Moonilal, speaking with reporters during a walk about in Carat Hill Trace, Barrackpore, lauded Duke's acceptance of a five per cent increase for PSA members."They stuck a good deal, I think, for the benefit of all workers," declared Moonilal, as he congratulated Duke, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Finance Minister Winston Dookeran and the Chief Personnel Officer Stephanie Lewis for reaching consensus on Friday after months of protest.
Moonilal said Duke's decision had sent a clear message to other unions."To use a local slang, I think Mr Duke has sent a message to the other unions, to 'wine to the side' and get out the way and bring consensus and settlement to these matters because we need industrial peace quickly," Moonilal said.Over the weekend, several trade union leaders, including Police Social and Welfare Association president Sgt Anand Ramesar, criticised Duke for accepting the five per cent wage increase.However, Moonilal defended Duke."I think they (the PSA) have acted in a very mature and timely manner, recognising the global economic challenges and the challenges in Trinidad and Tobago and they have opted to accept the five per cent," Moonilal said.
Duke has come under heavy fire for signing on the dotted line and has been labelled a "sell-out" by some critics.Moonilal dismissed this insisting that Duke did what was best for his membership."They stuck a good deal for the benefit of all workers and I congratulate Mr Duke on his vision," he said."He has also been in the hot sun and in the rain, sleeping in the ground in front the Parliament so he has done his work. "He has struggled hard and I think this is a good deal that they have arrived at."
The minister said the PSA had signed an agreement which would be of substantial benefit to all public officers. Under the agreement, the Government would provide extensive healthcare for family members and "look at the possibility of housing and the provisions of lands for public officers," he said.At Carat Hill Trace, residents raised a number of concerns, mainly a lack of proper drainage, with the minister.Moonilal told the residents a design plan for box drains would be drawn up for the area and implemented soon.