The business sector yesterday gave partial agreement to follow Government’s lead in observing a moratorium on the retrenchment of workers.
In response to a question at a news conference following a meeting of the National Tripartite Advisory Council (NTAC), Keston Nancoo, chairman of the Employers’ Consultative Association (ECA), said the business sector will hold to the commitment. However, he added that he had not discussed it with anyone but he believed that good sense will prevail when it comes to layoffs in the current economic situation. The other business representative, Gabriel Faria, Chief Executive Officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce, said that without consultation he could not speak for the hundreds of businesses which are members of the chamber and the different business groups. “We represent a multitude of businesses and while I am sure that the desire and the goal of every business is to retain and grow, we know what’s happening in the economy so, unfortunately I cannot speak for every business in TT. I know today there are companies that are hiring and growing while I know that there are companies that have stark economic realities. So I think we have to be practical as to what we could assume.”
Yesterday’s NTAC meeting was the first which included representatives of the labour movement since its withdrawal from the council in March. It was reported at the time that labour walked off the council to protest Government’s decision to shut down the Tourism Development Corporation, but JTUM’s Vincent Cabrera said the real reason was the lack of consultation before the decision was taken and announced. Joseph Remy, President of the Communication Workers’ Union, the majority union at the corporation, has said he was informed of the decision in a telephone call lasting just over a minute from Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe, shortly before the decision was announced at a post-Cabinet news conference. The trade union movement saw that lack of consultation as an insult to all trade unions.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley attended the meeting and participated in the discussions. Briefing journalists afterwards, NTAC chairman, Camille Robinson-Regis said it was a fruitful two-hour meeting and all sides agreed, “we were in this together and we would work together to foster an ethic that is in the best interest of all the people of Trinidad and Tobago.” She said the prime minister reminded the meeting of the country’s watchwords: “Together we aspire, together we achieve,” and said they were holding fast to those watchwords. Robinson-Regis said there was free and frank discussion and all sides agreed to work together, adding that “We feel quite certain that the three entities, labour, government and the private sector are essential to ensure that the challenges we find ourselves in at this time can be overcome and that it will be overcome if we work together.”
In a statement on behalf of JTUM, Cabrera said the meeting represented a process of revitalisation and the return of the labour movement marked the revitalisation of NTAC. He said Rowley conveyed the government’s view that all parties should be forward looking. However, he stressed that, “We have made our position quite clear as a labour movement, we would not be putting workers as sacrificial lambs but at the same time while we look at fiscal responsibility, we have to look at social responsibility.”