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Media Releases

These are the Media releases recently issued by the Union and other organisations/people..

CATTU LETTER TO CAL ON REDUNDANCIES

posted 3 Jul 2021, 08:59 by Gerry Kangalee


CATTU LETTER TO CAL

posted 23 Jun 2021, 15:29 by Gerry Kangalee


LETTER TO AMCHAM

posted 21 Jun 2021, 19:33 by Gerry Kangalee


UNION FEDERATIONS TAKE IMBERT TO TASK; COMPLAINT LODGED TO THE ILO

posted 17 Feb 2021, 18:31 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 17 Feb 2021, 18:41 ]

17 February 2020

TRADE UNON FEDERATIONS RESPONDS TO MINISTER OF FINANCE




The country’s three Trade Union Federations, National Trade Union Centre (NATUC), Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOS (FITUN) are again concerned over continued statements made by the Minister of Finance concerning public sector wage negotiations, in particular, statements concerning the Industrial Court and National Petroleum.


We view the statements which have made by the Minister of Finance about the Industrial Court, in Parliament and in his releases to be very disturbing. The Minister on 26 January 2021 in the Parliament said the following: “Recently, the Industrial Court awarded an increase to workers at National Petroleum. I cannot say what the precise figure is, but I know it is within the range of 10 to 11 percent salary increase. As a result of that award by the Industrial Court, National Petroleum is now running at a loss every month in the vicinity of 15 to $20 million” (26 January 2021, Hansard pg. 112).

The Minister in the above statement is factually inaccurate about the award of the Court as it implies that the Court’s decision has resulted in NP running at a loss. Which factually not true. The Minister’s words also implies that the court is responsible for the financial state of NP. This is a very irresponsible and deliberately misleading statement.

The fact is the Industrial Court never awarded an increase of salary of 10 to 11%. An NP witness, as stated in the Judgment, said that he was comfortable with the award of a single digit increase anywhere from 0 to 9 %, the OWTU requested an increase of 14 % and the Court granted an increase of 7%.

With respect to Cost-of-Living Allowance (COLA). We first wish to remind the Minister of Finance that consolidation of COLA IS IN FACT a negotiable item (contrary to his statement) and it was NP that approached the Union to consolidate three expired periods. It was the Company that froze the payment of COLA in 2011 in violation of the existing collective agreement by refusing to adjust the COLA paid depending on the changes of the Retail Price Index.

On 4th December 2019, the Industrial Court ordered the Company to resume payment of COLA in keeping with the negotiated provisions of Article 11 of the registered Collective Agreement. The case was adjourned to 17 December 2019 at 1pm. However, before the hearing at the Court on 17 December, NP and the Union met and settled the matter and agreed to the payment of the retroactive COLA owed to workers effective 2011. As a result, parties filed a Terms of Settlement which superseded the Court Order of 4 December and which made that Order of the 4th December redundant and of no effect.

The Minister ought to know that the final decision on the issue of COLA was made by the parties in collective bargaining and not by the Court. He ought to know that it was not an Order of the Court which made COLA retroactive but a negotiated settlement between the parties, which the parties signed and registered at the Court. We wish to remind the Minister that it was a decision by NP’s management and/ or Board to illegally stop the payment of COLA to workers since 2011 which placed NP in the position of having to pay retroactive COLA and NOT because of the Court.

Imbert accused of distorting the facts
The Minister of Finance needs to hold to account whoever at NP’s management and/or Board level that took the illegal decision to simply stop the payment of COLA, since 2011 and stop blaming the Court and continuing to mislead the public. The loss at NP has nothing to do with the Court’s decisions. Such an attack by the Executive Arm of the state on a Court of higher record can undermine the judicial system and the entire industrial relations architecture, which has kept industrial peace and stability for the last 50 years.


The Industrial Court must be allowed to maintain its objectivity and independence, which independence must be protected in its determination of fair matters and not attacked by the State. In addition, the fact that NP and other State Enterprises and the public sector on a whole have outstanding negotiations going as far back as 2012 is no fault of the Court or the Unions. The responsibility falls squarely on the State which has refused to keep collective agreements current, which would allow the government to avoid the gross injustice of people living on 2012/2013 salaries in 2021. For today, the Cost of Living continue to spiral upwards creating real and vexing increase in the gap between salaries and rising cost of living.

The Minister is again attempting to usurp the collective bargaining process. Collective Bargaining is a cornerstone of a functioning democracy. Its importance is such that it is protected by international law as enshrined in the ILO Convention C154 - Collective Bargaining Convention, 1981 (No. 154). Collective Bargaining does not include a Minister of Finance discussing terms of employment in the Senate. That information should rightly be presented to the Recognised Majority Union. It is highly irregular and worrisome for the Minister of Finance to usurp the role of the Chief Personnel Officer and attempt to impose a unilateral position in the public domain. The Trade Unions are of the view that the Sunday Guardian article is correct and that it is the Minister of Finance who is attempting to circumvent the free and fair Collective Bargaining process by stretching the truth and distorting the facts. This does not give the Minister of Finance the right to violate the Industrial Relations Act and the international labour standards and conventions that have been ratified by this country. On the 16th February, 2021 the three federations officially lodged a complaint to the International Labour Organization.

National Trade Union Centre (NATUC),

Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM)

Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOS (FITUN)

NWU: THE TRADE UNION MOVEMENT MUST LAUNCH A CAMPAIGN TO ORGANISE MINIMUM WAGE WORKERS

posted 13 Jan 2021, 16:24 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 13 Jan 2021, 16:26 ]


The twenty first century has seen the Trade Union Movement in Trinidad and Tobago consistently under attack, severely criticized and victimized by the ruling economic and political elites.

The thousands of sugar workers were the first group of organised workers this century to suffer mass retrenchment. This, of course, has had the effect of severely weakening a once powerful union.

The Unions in petroleum and petrochemical industries have seen a steady decline in their workforce Thousands of direct and indirect Petrotrin workers have been thrown on the breadline as have hundreds of workers at Arcelor Mittal and hundreds at TSTT.

Jobs are disappearing at an accelerated rate in the light and heavy manufacturing industry. Manufacturing enterprises throughout the East-West corridor have been shedding jobs and capital is being shifted into warehousing and distribution. Unilever is a stark example.

The Ports are being privatized which will result in retrenchment. 2,500 workers are earmarked for retrenchment at WASA. The Public Service and the Regional Health Authorities are now places of low-paid, fixed term contract workers. The State Sector is in decline and dying quickly. They are coming at National Petroleum, Trinidad Lake Asphalt, the regional and City corporations, MTS, PTSC, TTEC and other unionised state sector enterprises.

Capitalism has acquired free rein and the changing composition of the working class has reduced the unionised workforce drastically. Best guesstimates suggest that twelve percent or less of the workforce may be union members. This is borne out by the fact that 90% or more of matters that come before the Industrial Court do not involve members of recognised majority unions.

There are hundreds of thousands of workers in the service sector, retail stores, fast food joints, the hospitality sector and the private security sector who are not unionised and have no tradition of organised struggle.

This has resulted in workers being super-exploited, with atrocious industrial relations practices becoming the norm. Fixed term contracts are the order of the day. The casualization of labour is a growing trend and companies are ducking out of paying NIS and government taxes by deeming workers to be independent contractors.

Extreme exploitation of minimum wage and sub-minimum wage workers is the norm. Sub-minimum workers are denied the legal provisions of the schedule of minimum wages and conditions. Domestic workers are denied the entitlements of other workers. Worst of all are the conditions in the private security industry, particularly so for non-precepted security personnel.

The Estate Police Association is doing a great job of protecting, defending and advancing the interests of precepted officers, but are restricted by law from representing non-precepted officers.

In a majority of cases in the private security industry conditions include:

· non-unionised, non-precepted workers denied conditions as legislated in the Minimum Wages Act. These include issues of wages, overtime, working hours, sick leave, vacation leave, which many workers report is a “thing of the past.”

· Non-receipt of payslips detailing wages and statutory deductions.

· NIS not being deducted

· NIS being deducted and not remitted to the NIB

· Arbitrary and unexplained deductions from wages

· In some companies, security officers have to pay what is called a bond when they are hired, which is really one month’s pay held by the company and which is not repaid when they leave the company

· In some companies, workers must pay for their uniforms but must return it when they leave employment

· There is gross violation of all best practices concerning shift hours with particular emphasis on sentry duty. Workers work extraordinarily long hours (as much as thirty-six and forty-eight hours without relief) without subsistence allowances and are exposed to abnormal health, sanitary and personal and property safety issues.

· Failure to comply with these unsafe, unhealthy and slave-like orders quite often leads to unfair and unjust disciplinary actions by the employer.

· Workers are subjected to ridiculous fines for amazingly trivial offenses. This is really a means of recouping labour costs, by using these fines as a revenue earning/cost saving mechanism.

· Covid has exacerbated the situation: there are problems with Personal Protective Equipment, (including at state enterprises), already long hours have increased as much as 36 and 48 hour shifts; there are serious problems with transportation to and from worksites; workers with children are under strain.


The future of the trade union movement lies in organising these hundreds of thousands of minimum and sub-minimum wage workers. The trade union federations, JTUM, NATUC and FITUN and individual unions must urgently devise a campaign to organise these workers and launch a battle to ensure that they enjoy as decent conditions of work as is possible under a capitalist system.

In the words of Cecil Paul: “We, in the labour Movement, must ensure working people do not end up weak, exploited and in a crime-ridden society where both labour and lives are cheap and in steady regression, sinking more and more into a hell-hole for the dispossessed.”

Failure to do so will result in the relevance of the trade union movement becoming a faint memory in the minds of working people.

NWU SAY LOCK THEM UP

posted 7 Oct 2020, 14:54 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 7 Oct 2020, 14:55 ]

DPP ROGER GASPARD
While many in the country were focussing on the budget, many workers who have been retrenched have been subjected to criminality by employers, who seem to believe that they could get away with illegal acts and further downpress already demoralised workers.


The following letter dated 5th October, 2020 was sent to Mr. Roger Gaspard, Director of Public Prosecutions from the National Workers Union (NWU). It was signed by President Dave Smith and General Secretary, Carla Walcott.


Dear Mr. Gaspard,

Within recent times, several of the retrenched workers from The Myerson Company Limited have approached our Union for advice and representation. In the process, they raised with us some concerns over their contributions to NIS, only to discover that no contributions were remitted to NIB for parts of 2018, none for 2019 nor 2020.

The Union sought a written explanation from the Company but to no avail. The employer did not comply with Section 38A of the NIS Act when they failed to give each such worker a statement of contributions deducted and paid to nib for the year within 30 days of termination of employment. This is a criminal offence and is punishable on summary conviction with a fine of four thousand dollars ($4,000.00) and six (6) months imprisonment.

In addition, under Section 40 of the Act, an employer who fails or neglects to pay or effect payment of contribution is also committing another criminal offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of four thousand dollars ($4,000.00) and six (6) months imprisonment.

Our Union has had similar complaints for quite some time from other groups of workers. The time has come to enforce the law. The situation affects thousands of workers. The Annual Reports of NIB showed that in 2018, employers were in arrears of over $437m. In 2017employer arrears amounted to $565m. In 2016 it was $383m. In fact, every year employers’ arrears are hundreds of millions of dollars. It certainly appears that the law is broken with impunity by employers. These criminal offences must neither be condoned nor allowed to continue.

In the circumstances, we are calling on you to take the necessary steps to launch an investigation into the arrears owed by employers and their failure to give terminated workers certificates of contributions paid to NIB under Section 38 of the NIS Act. The time has come to bring the offending parties to justice.


FOR EASE OF REFERENCE:

National Insurance Act, Chapter 32:01

38 (A) Every employer shall issue his employee within thirty days of termination of employment of such employee a certificate setting out—

(a) the employee’s total insurable wages for the contribution year;

(b) the total amount of contributions deducted from those wages;

(c) the total amount of contributions paid to the Board; and

(d) the number of contribution weeks covered by those contributions.

(2) A copy of the certificate issued to the employee shall be forwarded to the Board on the same day the certificate is issued to the employee.

(3) An employer who fails to issue the certificate referred to in this section to an employee or fails to forward a copy of such certificate to the Board is liable on summary conviction to a fine of four thousand dollars and to imprisonment for six months.


40. An employer who fails or neglects to pay or effect payment of contribution in respect of any person in his employment who is required to be insured under this Act, is liable on summary conviction to a fine of four thousand dollars and six months imprisonment and in the case of a continuing offence shall be liable in respect of each person for whom he neglected or failed to pay or effect payment of contribution, a further fine of one hundred dollars a day for each day that the offence continues after conviction

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