Union leaders warn: Workers to take matters into own hands

Ceron Richards -
Ceron Richards -

Union leaders are now concerned by the growing restlessness among their members, who are convinced their Push Back movement to demand a higher wage offer in ongoing negotiations with the Chief Personnel Officer will be ineffective. They say public servants have had enough and are planning to bypass their unions to take matters into their own hands to get a fair wage increase.

At a joint press conference at the Public Services Association (PSA) headquarters in Port of Spain on Monday, Prison Officers’ Association president Ceron Richards and Fire Service Association president Leo Ramkissoon warned that, based on workers' level of frustration, there is a rude awakening coming to government.

PSA leader Leroy Baptiste said the unions would have no control over what happens next.

“We have assessed the situation and now we have to look at the next move, because our members are becoming extremely agitated, and they all want us to do something about it. This will end when workers are able to maintain their standard of living.

"(If there is) any attempt to call us 'slaves' or use the law as a whip, we shall respond."

Richards said his members were deeply aggrieved and warned the government of a possible revolution.

“There is no strategy here. All we have is members of the PSA, prison officers and other unions that are despondent and are willing.

"This is not a plan generated by the various organisations. This is members who have reached the breaking point. They have reached the end. They are seeing the disparity in how they are treated and how parliamentarians treat themselves. They would have maintained significant increases over the years, putting their pension on par with higher salaries and consolidated allowances to bump up their salaries.

“This is the breaking point. Our members are saying they will take this no more. TT will seriously be disrupted.

"I say to the Finance Minister that, no matter what you do, members of the protective services are not going to accept that. They are not doing to succumb to an 18 per cent reduction in wages."

Asked what his union would describe as a fair and satisfactory offer, Richard said it must be one that will allow public servants to live comfortably.

He said the government’s inability to offer a fair wage increase is a recipe for disaster.

“I’m speaking this strongly because our members are saying, hearing and telling us Trinidad and Tobago will change very soon.”

He further accused the government of pushing around, undermining and ignoring essential workers because they were bound by law that prevents them from taking industrial action.

Fire Service Association Leo Ramkissoon said his members were also angry and disappointed by the government’s treatment of workers.

Contacted for comment, acting Commissioner of Prisons Deopersad Ramoutar said he was not worried by the union leader’s "sabre-rattling."

"It’s nothing for me to be alarmed about. That's just industrial language, and it is common language or vocabulary from that kind of forum.

“Things are always in place for the proper operational personnel. We have officers on standby. Our dedicated officers will not walk off the job.

“The union leader has a role to play and, yes, the prison service has a lot of room for improvement. There are due processes to get things done.

"When there is a lack of resources, we have to understand that not all have to be the ones we need can be given at this point. My officers are very dedicated, and hardworking, and we go beyond the call of duty."

While Ramoutar supported the desire for better working conditions and a fair salary, he was against any move that would interfere with operations at the prison and compromise the safety of the country.


"Union leaders warn: Workers to take matters into own hands"

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