Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday told members of the labour movement that Government is not undertaking a policy or mass retrenchment or wage freeze, particularly in the State sector. The Prime Minister made this point to labour representatives during a four hour meeting with them at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) in St Clair. Rowley agreed to meet with the trade unions again on September 13. During yesterday's meeting, Rowley offered to host an open forum next month where the business community and the labour movement will be given an opportunity to present their respective cases to the country.
In a statement issued by the OPM after the meeting, Rowley said, "There have been no mass retrenchments; we have borrowed considerably to maintain the Government expenditure on human resource maintenance." He continued, "Some contract workers have not had their contracts renewed but that number is much smaller than those who have had their contracts renewed.” Rowley was heartened by the unions' pronouncement that their withdrawal from the National Tripartite Advisory Council (NTAC) was temporary.
The Prime Minister said he was willing to consider some restructuring of NTAC. Rowley said,"We are better sitting around the table than shouting at each other. There is nothing to be gained by labour from refusing to sit around the table.” Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus, Energy Minister Franklin Khan and Minister in the OPM Stuart Young also attended the meeting. Speaking to reporters outside of the OPM after the meeting, Joint Trade Union Movement leader Ancil Roget confirmed that labour will meet with Rowley on September 13.
However Roget said labour was not ready to rejoin either NTAC or the National Productivity Council at this time. He said both entities should be restructured , with Government not chairing and being a member of the same entity in each case. Roget said Rowley did not agree with labour's call for a moratorium on retrenchment but did listen to the movement's concerns. Roget said labour wanted to make a significant contribution to the upcoming 2017/2018 Budget. He expressed concerns that the Budget could contain International Monetary Fund and World Bank prescriptions which would hurt workers and the wider population as well.
Roget said labour felt disrespected that wage negotiations that were settled are not being implemented while other negotiations have not started yet. He also said labour wanted Government to give particular attention to amending the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act, to make it more difficult for employers to retrench workers at will. Roget said the labour movement understood the country's current economic challenges. However he added all stakeholders must be cognisant of the need for maintaining industrial peace and stability at this time. Roget said reference was made to the domestic seabridge issue during the meeting, in the context of corruption and the perception of corruption.