LEADERS of two labour unions say they will not be returning to the National Tripartite Advisory Council, as advised by the Industrial Court president Deborah Thomas-Felix during the ceremonial opening of the 2021-2022 law term.
In March, the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM), the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC), and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FITUN) all withdrew from the council.
Speaking on Saturday, NATUC president Watson Duke, who spoke in his capacity as president of the Public Services Association (PSA), said the reason he will not return to the council was because of disrespect shown to the unions.
“In Trinidad and Tobago there is a growing disrespect for labour under the People’s National Movement. They are of the view that labour is not worthy of a seat around the table, much less an equal partner in coming to consensus.”
Joining him was Jason Brown, vice-president of the Banking Insurance & General Workers Union (BIGWU). Brown said the issues between employers and the union and the tripartite council was the same: lack of meaningful consultation.
“There is a difference between meaningful and cosmetic consultation. Businesses use nice language and invite you to meetings, but that is just for the record, because the union’s input is not reflected in the decisions.”
He said the union was ready to return to the table as soon as the concerns of the unions were taken seriously, and they are not “made a pappyshow.”
During her speech, Thomas-Felix said between March last year and September 14, 178 covid19-related complaints were filed, most stemming from a lack of consultation by employers with workers. She said decisions were made unilaterally, altering terms and conditions of employment and failing to meet with unions to discuss and resolve covid19 issues. She called on employers and unions to have open discussions, while pointing out that employers should not unilaterally change terms and conditions of employment without meaningful consultation.
Duke said that was akin to how the unions are being treated at the advisory council. He said decisions were made that affected state enterprises and their workers, and if the union was to return there must be proper consultation among unions, government and the business sector on an equal footing.