Kamla agrees to meet with unions

(Trinidad Express) Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has agreed to meet with trade union leaders next Tuesday.

But she has made it clear that she cannot agree to any preconditions.

Kamla Persad-Bissessar

Persad-Bissessar issued a response letter, dated July 18, to president general of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) Ancel Roget.

She was responding to a letter delivered to her office by union leaders on July 7, following a protest by the labour movement.

Persad-Bissessar stated that she does not share the view that there should be any “collision course” between the labour movement and Government despite their public pronouncements to do so.  Acknowledging the union leaders’ right to represent their workers, she called on them to recognise the right of Government to represent the interest of all the people in the country.

“Unfortunately, the demands contained in your correspondence were accompanied by threats of union actions which, if pursued, may have dire consequences to both our national security and economic stability,” said Persad-Bissessar.

Persad-Bissessar said it has always been her approach to negotiate “in an atmosphere of cordiality and encourage an open-mindedness, so as to allow for a better understanding of the issues before us”.

She added, however, this must not be misconstrued as anything “but a desire for achieving a mutuality of understanding, and please be assured that I will do all that I can to protect the interest of our nation”.

Persad-Bissessar said as Prime Minister, she strives to make decisions that are always in the best interest of all citizens.

“Therefore, we can agree on one thing, in your own words, that ‘no effort should be spared to have the country’s productive forces collectively focus on moving the economy forward’. In this context, as I have always indicated, I am prepared to meet with the unions’ leadership,” she said.

“However, this should not be interpreted as part of any negotiations since it would never be my intention to subvert the collective bargaining process. The Government has demonstrated its willingness to be flexible and will maintain this stance, but the leadership of the unions should equally acknowledge that as Prime Minister, I cannot agree to any preconditions for a meeting,” said Persad-Bissessar.

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