10-year wait for wage deals

A trailer drives through the Port of Port of Spain. SWWTU president general Michael Annisette said collective bargaining for 2014 to 2017 was settled earlier this year but payments are yet to be made. FILE PHOTO
A trailer drives through the Port of Port of Spain. SWWTU president general Michael Annisette said collective bargaining for 2014 to 2017 was settled earlier this year but payments are yet to be made. FILE PHOTO

As the country prepares to celebrate the 81st anniversary of the Labour Riots in Fyzabad on Tuesday, labour leaders are urging Government to settle all outstanding negotiations within the state sector, some of which are more than a decade old.

The trade unionists told Sunday Newsday there were more than 30 unresolved negotiations.

Michael Annisette, president general of the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union (SWWTU), said labour leaders have been calling on Government to address this issue within the National Tripartite Advisory Committee (NTAC).

“Some of these outstanding negotiations are going as far back as 2007. But there is also a need to implement collective agreements where there are agreements already agreed to,” he said.

Citing the Port Authority of TT as an example, Annisette said an agreement had been arrived at earlier this year for the collective bargaining period 2014 to 2017.

However, he said to date there has been no implementation of the agreement in terms of wage increases or work practices that were agreed upon to make the port more efficient and sustainable.

Annisette said when labour leaders had raised the issue of the outstanding negotiations at NTAC, there were more than 30 outstanding collective agreements on the table from 2007 to 2018 to be addressed.

“It could be more but we have to do the research.”

In terms of current negotiations, he claimed Chief Personnel Officer Beresford Riley was not initiating action.

“At the Institute of Marine Affairs, we are going into three collective agreements that the CPO has not yet given directives to and we are entering into a fourth three-year period.”

Annisette asked: “Can we be serious about talking about productivity and asking people to make sacrifices when the issues affecting the workers are not being seriously addressed?”

Saying economics was about people and as opposed to “dollars and cents and balance sheets,” Annisette claimed research has shown that the purchasing power of workers has dropped by about 25 per cent.

He said some workers were surviving in 2018 on 2007 salaries.

“Our research has shown that workers have to borrow much more now to survive than what they are earning. Their home costs far outstrips their revenue.

“That is a serious issue in the country where we have been able to demonstrate that profits are outstripping productivity. When that happens you have an economic crisis of proportions.”

Oilfields Workers Trade Union education and research officer Ozzi Warwick accused Government of dragging its feet on the discussion.

Warwick listed OWTU, Petrotrin, TT Electricity Commission, University of the West Indies, University of TT, National Petroleum, Telecommunications Services of TT, as some of the state entities to be addressed.

Other groups include daily-paid employees of the Port of Spain and San Fernando city corporations, postal workers, Fire Services, Prisons Services and other groups across the public sector.

Joseph Remy, president of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions, said in the case of TSTT, the last settled negotiations was up to the period 2013.

“We still have 2014 to 2016 and then the current period. So, there are two periods outstanding in that particular area,” he said.

“In most of the other negotiations, the 2014 to 2016 period is still outstanding. In all of the state sectors, National Insurance Board and all of the other areas, we have (20) 14 to (20) 16 still outstanding and we still have not gone into the current period yet.”

A former president general of the Communications Workers Union, Remy said these collective agreements must be settled.

“I think this is a major drawback for workers at this particular time because every time you get an increase and you get backpay, it is soaked up into all kinds of debt situations and the value of our dollar does not make sense anymore.

“So, we need to bring things current so people could see the real purchasing power of their dollar.”


"10-year wait for wage deals"

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