Duke on CPO’s wage offer: Government must never be comfortable

Former PSA president Watson Duke.
Former PSA president Watson Duke.

Former Public Service Association (PSA) president Watson Duke has joined his former trade union colleagues in their heavy criticism of government’s two per cent public sector wage increase over four collective bargaining periods.

On Thursday, Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) Dr Daryl Dindial offered hourly, daily and weekly-rated workers of the Central Government, the Tobago House of Assembly and municipal corporations zero for the negotiating period 2014-2017, one per cent for 2018, zero per cent for 2019-2020 and one per cent in 2021.

In an interview with Newsday on Friday, Duke who led the PSA for over a decade and is now the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Deputy Chief Secretary, cautioned the government.

“The government should not get comfortable, because there are many other trade union leaders who can fight. The government must never be comfortable enough to make that move as workers know what they deserve and they are seeing the status of the economy. It is getting better with the increase in gas and oil prices.

“They shouldn’t be comfortable because Watson Duke, who was once trade union leader, is around the corner and is making his way with great strides to be at the top of the government. And if they don’t fix it, I would assure TT I will fix it and deal with this matter frontally. Workers would not have to go beyond over a year of negotiations to wait for their money.”

Duke called on the CPO to be mindful of the sacrifices of workers over the past eight years.

“Increase in transportation cost, increase in fuel cost, increase in medical bills, increase in mental illness, in general living.

“They did it fearfully with a patriotic point of view because they understood that the government always owns up to its responsibility.

“The Minister of Finance is playing awful stupid with disregarding the index finger of workers, telling themselves that this is the stone dark age and men are still petrified by authority, that they are still ignorant of the economic status, and that they could hoodwink them into accepting a two per cent for an eight-year period –something that has never happened since TT became an independent nation.”

Duke said while he would not tell the unions how to negotiate, the offer is something he would not have accepted.

“(That is) something that the government, through the CPO, should withdraw with immediate effect and engage workers as if they are rational beings with the ability to affect governance in this country.”

At a news conference on Friday, the National Union of Government and Federated Workers called on all unions, and their members and families, to protest the government’s offer.

Duke, the political leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots, reminded workers of his promise that he would not abandon them when he exited office as PSA leader last December.

He said he will support the unions whenever they announce a date for when they will send a strong message to the government.

“I have left the union and will not interfere with the work of my fellow comrades, but I want to assure the public I will always stand by their sides.”

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