Kamla gets two-week ultimatum from unions

(Trinidad Guardian) Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has two weeks to remove the five per cent wage offer if her Government wants to avoid the possibility of national strike. No discussions between the trade union movement and Government will happen unless this demand is met. That was the ultimatum by the trade union movement yesterday in documents hand-delivered to Persad-Bissessar’s official residence, La Fantasie, St Ann’s. Over 200 union members, representing 18 trade unions, joined in solidarity to march from King George V Park, St Clair, to the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, to hand deliver the trade union movement’s “Labour Day Accord” and a written demand to remove the five per cent.

The trade unions were joined by retrenched Community- based Environmental Protection Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) workers and farmers who had been displaced from farmlands in D’Abadie and Chaguanas. The march caused a traffic jam in St Clair and forced the St Ann’s main road to go from two lanes to one. Members of the Police Force, the Inter-Agency Task Force and the Guard and Emergency Branch followed the march. Upon reaching St Ann’s the marchers found themselves barred from entering the Prime Minister’s driveway by policemen and barricades. Refusing to move without delivering the documents, permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Reynold Cooper, was mandated to meet with leaders midway up the driveway.

Unionists avowed into the Prime Minister’s driveway to deliver the documents were: The Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) president Ancel Roget; Banking, Insurance and General Workers’ Union (BIGWU) president Vincent Cabrera; Communications Workers’ Union (CWU) president Joseph Remy; National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW) president James Lambert; Seamen and Waterfront Workers’ Trade Union (SWWTU) president Michael Annisette and T&T Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) president Roustan Job,

Addressing the crowd after handing over the documents, Roget said the Prime Minister had been given two weeks to remove the five per cent wage increase being offered to public sector workers. Roget said should the five per cent not be removed the trade union movement would not engage in any talks with the Government and would continue working towards a national strike. Reading from the letter, delivered to the Persad-Bissessar, Roget said: “The joint trade union leaders again call on you to resolve this major wage impasse within two weeks, failing which, we will be left with no choice but to continue with our joint actions as outlined in the Labour Day Accord.

“Given our numerous attempts at reasonably averting this crisis, and given your Government’s inflexible approach, we wish again to make it abundantly clear that the trade union movement cannot be held responsible for any adverse outcomes.” Roget responded to a letter sent to him by Minister of Planning, Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie, on Tuesday, saying of the eight issues addressed in the Labour Day Accord the only one that can “lay the foundation” for going forward was the removal of the five per cent. Tewarie was mandated by Persad-Bissessar to request a meeting with the trade union movement’s leaders to start discussions to address the issues outlined in the Labour Day Accord.

Roget made it clear should the Government not remove the five per cent the movement would engage in a series of industrial actions, leading up to a national strike and no dialogue between it and the Government would take place.

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