Public Services Association president Watson Duke said the Prime Minister’s recent decision to class labour unions as essentials workers, is “deceiving.”
Duke said this move should have been made weeks ago when frontline workers complained of unsafe working conditions and inadequate personal protective equipment to fight covid19.
The government’s failure to list unions as an essential group from the start left frontline workers “without a voice and unprepared in the heat of the battle in the fight against a dangerous virus,” Duke told Newsday on Tuesday.
He said this move isn’t genuine, neither was it done in the interest of union workers.
“You cannot deceive the workers, and your deception can work but not for the trade unions.
We see straight through you like a piece of plastic. I’m not sure who you are talking to, but as for me you cannot deceive me.”He said unions have been prevented from representing its members during the time they were faced with serious issues caused by restrictions of covid19 and decisions made by the government. He said unions should have been allowed to continue its negotiations and representation of all essential workers.
Duke’s comments came after the Office of the Prime Minister, on Tuesday evening, posted on its social media page instructions by the PM to class all labour union activities as an essential service.
This came into effect on Tuesday after amendments to the Public Health Ordinance regulations.
The post said this was done in anticipation of increased working business activity in the coming days, with the phased reopening of the economy.
“You had our workers working in all types of unsafe conditions hazardous to them and you didn’t see it fit to regard the union, the protector of these workers, as essentials.
It’s only now that things are stable you regard us as essentials.”He said, “The workers shouldn’t be bearing this brunt of folly alone. So now that things are trying to return to normalcy, you are now saying we are essentials.
“I just can’t see how we can be non-essential at one time but now we are essentials.” He said unions wrote to the AG and Minister of National Security on the representation of frontline workers but received no reply.
For Keston Nancoo, president of the Employees Consultative Association (ECA), this move allows unions to deal with critical issues surrounding workers adjusting to the “new norm” in the workplace.
He told Newsday, “The classification of unions as an essential service during covid19 is understandable given that many employers may have to enter into discussions with registered majority unions in finding mutually agreeable solutions to unusual or new work demands, or the absence of work.
“With unions being given the green light to carry out their activities, employers would also require support in responding to requests from union officials for meetings to address work situations arising out of the pandemic, whether or not the impacted workers are unionised.
“The opportunity is now here for the convening of non-crisis employer-labour dialogue to facilitate the urgent and harmonious resolution of related issues at the bilateral level as a vital component of the much articulated ‘new normal.”