Civil servants fight wage offer
PORT-OF-SPAIN – Hundreds of public servants took to the streets here yesterday in a strong show of support for their union even as the Trinidad and Tobago government said it was making them aware of the possibility of jail term and fines for defying the provisions of the Industrial Relations Act (IRA).
President of the Public Service Association (PSA) Watson Duke flanked by leaders of other trade unions, told reporters that at least 75 per cent of the estimated 30 000 public workers had heeded the union’s call to stay away from work to protest the government’s five per cent wage offer.
“I am seeing a lot of people here, so far we have been told it is about 75 per cent of the public workers, we know we are quite successful just by the fact that the minister [Finance Minister Winston Dookeran] could come and try to threaten workers, it shows we are successful.
“The fact they could come and put up a 20 foot barricade in front of the financial complex says that we are successful. Certainly . . . the workers are here and they are all saying captain the ship is sinking,” Duke told reporters.
Among the trade unionists appearing on the platform here yesterday was government Senator and President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs, (FITUN) David Abdullah who warned there was need for all wage negotiations to be settled.
“There can be no peace in a society unless there is social justice and industrial equity and there cannot be social justice and equity until all of the negotiations affecting all of the workers in Trinidad and Tobago have been settled in a fair and equitable manner,” he said.
On Monday, Dookeran told a news conference that he was making public servants aware of the provisions contained in the IRA that provides for fines and jail terms for embarking upon industrial action within the essential services.
Under the act, public servants could face a fine of at least TT$500 (BDS$166) or three months in prison.
“It is necessary to point out that Section 69 Sub section (1) of the Industrial Relations Act . . . identifies the categories of persons prohibited from taking industrial action,” Dookeran said, noting that the law also “specifically identifies members of the public service of Trinidad and Tobago as one of the categories also prohibited”.
He said the act also outlined penalties to be imposed on individuals and holders of offices “in their recognised association or union who . . . calls for industrial action to be taken or induces or persuade any person to take such action”.
Public servants have been agitating for months for a better salary increase than the five per cent which the seven-month-old administration has been offering and the PSA had called the nationwide strike on Tuesday to press home its demands on behalf of its members. (CMC)