The country’s trade unions yesterday agreed to rejoin the tripartite process following a commitment from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley that there would be no further retrenchment of government employees until the end of the year, December 31.
Making this announcement outside the Prime Minister’s office in St Clair, following several hours of talks, president of the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) Ancel Roget, said the agreement included workers in all entities controlled by the government.
He said the agreement was that if government wants to retrench workers in the new year their plans would be brought to the National Tripartite Advisory Council (NTAC) for discussion although the government would still have the right to make the final decision. Roget said the unions pulled out of NTAC because they were not satisfied with the way it was operating and the way in which the mass retrenchment of workers in the government and private sector was taking place.
He added that unions and the prime minister also agreed that priority on government’s legislative agenda should be given in Parliament to amendments of the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act; the Companies Act and the legislation governing the Recognition and Certification Board and the process for granting recognised majority union status to trade unions as the representative for workers at companies. He said the process for obtaining recognition is too long and the unions have recommendations for speeding up the process to allow the majority of workers in the country to get representation.
He said there was also agreement on restructuring NTAC to make it more meaningful in serving its mandate and purpose and this will be tackled at the first meeting attended by the unions.
“And therefore at that meeting we will be able to determine who chairs it, how it functions and so on and give it a clear mandate going forward. We were not satisfied then (at the launch of NTAC) and we are not satisfied now, that NTAC is set up to achieve its stated mandate.” He said the unions will invite the prime minister to attend that first meeting of the council to give him an opportunity to be part of the restart of the organisation.
All three trade union federations - JTUM; the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC); and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and Non-governmental Organisations (FITUN) - walked out of NTAC last March in protest at the government’s decision to shut down the Tourism Development Corporation (TDC) without consulting the Communication Workers Union (CWU), the trade union representing the 114 employees of the company.