Opinion in T&T favours settlement of the labour dispute without a strike

Dear Editor,

Reference is made to your news item ‘Meeting between T&T PM, unions fails to resolve issues’ (SN, Jul 28).  I was in Trinidad and met with the supporters of the labour movement in front of the PM’s office when that meeting took place. I interviewed many of the workers there about their demands. I also conducted a survey on the demands of the workers and their threat of a national strike.

At the conclusion of the meeting with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the labour leaders, with fists in the air, shouted “war, war” against the government and this call was echoed by many present. However, in my private one-on-one interviews with some of the workers, not all were supportive of this statement from their leaders.  Also, opinions in Trinidad were not favourable to the union movement demanding higher salaries.

The NACTA poll interviewed three hundred people representing the demographics of the population. Asked if they supported the unions’ declaration against the government, an overwhelming 65% said no with only 20% saying yes.

Asked if they supported the unions’ threat to shut down the country in a nationwide strike, 69% said no with only 18% saying yes.

Some people said the unions were not sensitive to the vulnerabilities of the economy. Even many state employees were against industrial action saying this would damage the economy hurting innocent people.

Asked if they supported Kamla’s position on labour negotiation, meeting with the unions and not giving in to their demands, 61% answered in the affirmative with 29% answering in the negative.

They praised the Prime Minister for her firm stand in not caving in to labour pressure. They said they liked the idea of Kamla flexing her muscle, asserting her authority and showing she was no push-over. They felt she should not give in to labour’s strong-arm tactics.

They overwhelmingly praised the PM for pursuing dialogue instead of the confrontational approach of the labour movement.

Asked if the government had been fair to labour, 57% replied that the government had been compassionate and had treated labour fairly since it came into office in May 2010. Many felt in the light of the current economic slump and a flat economy, workers should not be making demands that would hurt the economic recovery.

They urged that the workers put country first until the economy improved before seeking pay raises.

Supporters of the government, the labour unions, the opposition and the private sector urged that the labour conflict be settled peacefully without a strike.

Yours faithfully,
Vishnu Bisram

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