The first working day of the year is upon us. And one of our resolutions must be to work better.
Productivity is a major challenge for us as a society and, this year, it is set to be even more so. Already pencilled into our 2018 calendar are 15 public holidays.
While we would like to think the Christmas season is over and it is now back to work, the fact is Carnival is now also upon us.
The relatively short season is coming fast and furious and before you know it, the lengthy Easter weekend will be here.
Already, the ritual of bacchanal that surrounds every Carnival has begun with the controversy over the Massive Gosine chutney soca showing no signs of abating. That is likely to be just one of many controversies. The band of disagreement over parade routes, questions over procurement of goods and services and discontent over the arrangements at the Queen’s Park Savannah are all likely to feature.
The question of our productivity is perhaps directly linked to the belief that we are a Carnival society. But our culture of celebration is no excuse for poor labour practices.
In fact, Carnival is one of the most labour-intensive activities we undertake as a nation: we work out in the gym, we make costumes, we construct a major edifice — the North Stand — at the main venue and we organise ourselves around the rhythms of the fete circuit. But 2017 was another difficult year for labour as the economic downturn continued to produce stresses upon all economic actors.
The year ended, however, with a return of labour unions to the tripartite system. It is important for labour to maintain a voice in this forum to ensure workers do not unfairly bear the brunt of the economic situation.
Equally, trade unions must recognise the key role which productivity plays in taking an economy forward, particularly during harsh times.
There are lingering issues relating to negotiations on Petrotrin and the payment of public servants. The experience of Tobago House of Assembly workers — who did not receive salaries over the Christmas holiday — is a disgraceful development on the labour climate which should not be repeated.
We hope all talks this year between the State and labour lead to increased productivity. Big business must also be urged to realise that retrenchment is not the answer but rather the bolstering of productivity. We must be able to produce more in spite of having less. Therefore, as we start the working year, we call for more productivity and co-operation within the tripartite sector.
There must be a meeting of minds as we face difficult circumstances, not knee-jerk reactions.