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Sunday 19 January 2020
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CWU head: A tumultuous time

Communications Workers Union (CWU) Clyde Elder
Communications Workers Union (CWU) Clyde Elder

THE firing of thousands of workers from Petrotrin and hundreds from TSTT has created deep angst among those who don’t know what their future holds, and could well portend more retrenchment in 2019 at other state companies, lamented Communication Workers Union (CWU) head Clyde Elder.

Asked his thoughts on the past year, he gave a sceptical laugh and said, “What a year it has been.”

Elder said TSTT had laid off 500 workers plus 52 managers outside the bargaining unit.

“The Government has been setting the tone, leading the way regarding the retrenchment of workers and their attitude to unions,” he aid.

He alleged that at state-run Petrotrin and TSTT, the Government showed no respect for the unions. “It is not what you do, but how you do it.”

Elder said he had asked TSTT’s management to sit down at a conciliation meeting, saying, “I don’t think it is so far gone that we can’t sit down and discuss it. But the company has refused to have a discussion with the union.”

He said the matter has gone to the Industrial Court, with the union requesting an early date for its hearing. “There’s a lot of work to do, but I anticipate the union’s victory and justice for the workers, early in the New Year.”

Elder said the CWU will challenge the process TSTT used to retrench workers. Saying the collective agreement says retrenchment cannot be done unless the union is on board, he said, “At no time did the union agree that retrenchment was warranted. So we are challenging that entire process.”

Newsday asked how workers retrenched from TSTT were now faring.

“Very emotional,” replied Elder, himself having been retrenched.

“There’s a lot of anxiety and uncertainty. Today (Monday) is our last day on the job. There’s a lot of sadness, anger and insecurity as to what will happen in the future.”

He said today (Tuesday) marks the start of a new life for workers who have no idea what their future holds, and how they will survive.

Newsday asked if workers have psychologically “moved on” to craft new plans for their lives. Elder said, “People are still trying to catch themselves, and to come to terms with what has happened. Given the state of the economy, it’s difficult for people to have plans. You can’t bank on the economy.”

Asked if the retrenchments will affect upcoming elections, Elder replied yes.

“We’ve been tremendously disappointed by this government and are hoping for a change. The question is, what is the alternative. I’m hoping that from among the people, the citizens, will come a viable optional alternative.”

Of his hopes for 2019, he said, “That we’ll have a much better year than 2018.”

Noting talk that the Government has WASA, TTEC and the Port Authority in its sights for retrenchment, Elder nonetheless said, “I hope the Government will do things very differently than in 2018.”

He wants it to stimulate the economy and create jobs, and added,

“I hope labour would not just ask for more but do more to ensure labour regains its rightful place in the society.”

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