THE National Trade Union Centre (Natuc), Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOS (FITUN) claimed earlier this week that the National Tripartite Advisory Council (NTAC) is dead.
They reiterated that they withdraw from NTAC last month because their participation in it was sacrilegious to the objectives of the labour movement. In a statement, on Thursday, all three groups claimed their decision was vindicated by a recent statement by Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis when she said their resignations from NTAC were accepted, thanked them for their service and the council's work continues. Robinson-Regis is the current NTAC chair.
The groups said NTAC was conceptualised as a tripartite process. "We wish to state that tripartism is a process of social dialogue that has been institutionalised by the International Labour Organisation( ILO) as one that is constituted between the three main social partners within the economy... government, business and labour. The groups said, "Thee ILO described tripartism as 'the interaction of government, employers and workers (through their representatives) as equal and independent partners to seek solutions to issues of common concern'."
They said that with labour no longer being part of NTAC, "there is no basis for the Government to claim that NTAC is still functional." Referring to TT's first prime minister, the late Dr Eric Williams' famous statement "one from ten leaves zero, the groups said, "In this case as far as we are concerned, one from three leaves zero."
They claimed Government tried to use NTAC as a mechanism to control the entire trade union movement. "We shall have none of that." With or without NTAC, the three labour groups said the Industrial Relations Act states that "the Government as a major employer in the economy, has a legal obligation to meet and treat with all recognised majority unions to deal with matters affecting workers in the country." They said they recommended to Government that urgent steps be taken to legalise the social dialogue process. "This will avoid mechanisms like NTAC from becoming just another arm of the government’s bureaucracy and malaise." The groups said thy remain prepared "to engage in dialogue, consistent with our rights as provided for under the Industrial Relations Act and good industrial relations practices."
In a statement last month, Robinson-Regis said the council was an independent institution, but Cabinet reserves the prerogative to select the chair. She also said, "The withdrawal of the trade union sector from this august body could not have come at a more inopportune time. In doing so, they have denied themselves the self-satisfaction of being advised first-hand of the rewards of their own labour, many of which are about to bear fruit." Robinson-Regis said these included making recommendations to Cabinet to enhance productivity and the work ethic and to amend the Industrial Relations Act and the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act, discussing amendments to the Workmen’s Compensation Act and helping to craft the covid19 public-sector workplace policy.