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Government appeals to unions

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Government appeals to unions

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PORT-OF-SPAIN – The Trinidad and Tobago government has called on individuals to put aside their own interests and put the economic welfare of the nation first.
In a full page advertisement targeting the trade unions planning a national strike, the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration said that as it seeks to chart a course of economic prosperity for all citizens “the search for sustainable industrial peace continues to be a primary objective of this government”.
The trade union leaders who have warned that the national strike “will come like a thief in the night” have accused the government of betrayal and want it to remove a five per cent cap on wage negotiations within the public sector.
The unions have since embarked on an island wide mobilization campaign and have warned citizens to ensure that they stock up on consumer items including matches and candles since the strike would also involve the workers at the electricity company.
The government has denied imposing a five per cent wage cap and following discussions with 19 trade union leaders last week, Persad-Bissessar said that the unions must go back to the negotiation table which had been “wiped clean”.
In the advertisement, the government was calling on all stakeholders to “put aside our own individual interests and put the economic welfare of our nation first, not out in the streets, but at the table of reconciliation and compromise”.
“We must continue to do so in light of what we see collectively as the ability of our own nation to steer through these difficult times, and not increase the risks that we are likely to face.
“And so we look forward to continuing the process of building a partnership with every sector of our society to ensure equity, justice and prosperity for all.”
The coalition People’s Partnership government said that international rating agencies such as Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Services, have given the country high marks for dealing with weathering the risks associated with the global economic crisis.
It said it has been implementing measures that have maintained the positive outlook for the country and “therefore when we try to link that to the larger situation before us, we are very much concerned about the fiscal practicality of the compensation package that the labour unions are seeking in their very legitimate right to protect the rights of the workers”.
“The compensation package includes a salary component, with a method for arriving at a higher salary level as we add medical and pension benefits as well as retroactive cost of living allowances that workers may claim as legitimate entitlements.”
But the government said that “it is somewhat ironic that these deliberations have been turned into a five per cent debate, and the free negotiating process has been apparently manipulated to ensure that we can come to a consensus on this”. (CMC)