Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles on Tuesday pledged that the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) would work with the trade movement union movement in Trinidad and Tobago.
Charles, delivering remarks at the gathering of trade union leaders and workers at James Park in Scarborough, congratulated the trade union movement for what he said were their continued efforts to ensure that employees were treated fairly and with dignity.
Leaders and members of several unions participated in the First Historic Labour Day march in Tobago on Tuesday, Labour Day. The march began at Shaw Park, travelled along Milford Road and through the heart of Scarborough, to James Park.
Charles told gathered trade unionists that notwithstanding labour’s struggles in the past, and tensions between the state and the labour movement, negotiations were crucial to resolving matters in the workplace.
“Our administration, however, recognises that negotiations trumps disagreement any day. Disagreements are normal, but negotiations are a must if we are to move forward and foster mutually comfortable work spaces and productive environments. This administration continues to work closely with some of your units to ensure mutually satisfactorily work conditions, particularly for workers under the employ of the Tobago House of Assembly,” he said.
Charles said that THA was committed to working in the interest of every resident of Tobago.
“We too are interested in the welfare of those who live here and therefore, we would continue to work with you to ensure that labour is treated fairly. I would be negligent if I didn’t say to you, that you too must be willing to work with us. We must have as a common goal the need to build and develop Tobago, and by extension Trinidad and Tobago.
“The progress and development of all nations cannot happen outside of its citizens, we are the ones, each one of us, who are ultimately responsible for whether this nation fails or succeeds,” he said.
James Lambert, President General of the National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW), who called for internal self-governance to be granted to Tobago, once and for all, also said it was time trade union leaders begin to start negotiating with political parties.
“The time has come, and the world is evolving, the time has come when we must change our thinking. The time has come that the leaders of the various unions and affiliates of NATUC must be able to negotiate with any political party … in the best interest of workers in Trinidad and Tobago.
“Look at Barbados, look at the United Kingdom, they negotiate with the various political parties. Today, we have a Government in office that we have to be begging. Five years no negotiation, we cannot take that, cost of living is going up daily, but our wages are going down,” he said.
Tributes were also paid to a number of past Tobago union leaders who fought for labour in Tobago, including APT James, Charlie Bruce, Daniel Archer and Lawrence Andrews.