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posted 1 Jan 2014, 13:13 by Gerry Kangalee
Vincent Cabrera, President of the Banking Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU) issued the following statement:

As we get ready to bring in the New Year 2014 we are minded to look back at our experiences over the past year. Without a doubt 2013 saw the Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union and the wider Trade Union Movement continuing the battle against the government policy of wage restraint.

As an example alter 4 years Export Centre Company Limited, a state enterprise still cannot make a wage offer to the Union. Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage Finance (TTMF) though willing to pay a 15% salary increase to its workers were forced to offer only 9% because of their line Minister’s instruction not to.

Notwithstanding this anti-worker policy, our Union was able to score important victories in several work places. At Republic Bank the workers got a 14% increase. Central Bank workers also got a 14% increase, while workers at Guardian Media Limited got 12% and also regained COLA alter 20 years. This is just to name a few of our successes

The year 2014 will see us continue to struggle to improve the standard of living for workers and their families. Negotiations with thirty (30) employers are still ongoing. These include First Citizens Bank, Export Center Company Limited, TTMF, TV6 and others. In addition negotiations are due to begin in ten (10) companies.

We want to indicate to all our members and the national community should take note that we shall continue to organize and mobilize our members to engage in legitimate forms of protest and action in order to bring about decent salary increases and settlements for workers we represent.

Well aware that the present government has continued the policy of the previous administration to interfere in the free collective bargaining process between Trade Unions and employers in the public sector, our Union has shown over the years that we will never be daunted by their obstructionist policies.

It is a major eye sore to all that some employers like TTMF and others are willing to pay more but are ordered by their line ministries to pay less. In other instances there are other employers who refuse to make a wage offer for years because they are still waiting on Ministerial approval to do so. In 2014, we will no longer have patience with such an approach.

2014 will also see the Trade Union Movement intensify its campaign against the governnment’s policy to privatize the assets of our people into the pockets of the ruling elites. The Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) is at the forefront of this struggle.

This policy will result in the worsening of the distribution of wealth in our country. Our Union has already made it abundantly clear that we are opposed to the privatization of TTMF, Eximbank and First Citizens Bank. We maintain the view that the asset and wealth of the people of Trinidad and Tobago must be managed to the benefit of the people and not be put into the hands of big business.

Against this background and against the news of better performance by the economy of Trinidad and Tobago, 2014 promises to be a year when the industrial relations climate will be waxing very warm as Trade Unions prepare to push forward in a more resolute manner than before so that workers can enjoy a better quality of life.

We take this opportunity to serve notice of our intention to intensify our campaign for reform of labour legislation and implementation of the WORKERS’ AGENDA. We shall build on our demonstration held on November 11, 2013 against the Recognition Registration and Certification Board (RRCB) when we protested against the inordinate and frustrating delays by the Board in determining applications for recognition of specified groups of workers made by unions. We repeat our warning that the industrial relations system will collapse if the government does not carry out the reform of labour legislation that we have proposed.

Globally the world lost its premier citizen and freedom fighter of the Anti-Apartheid Struggle, Nelson Mandela in 2013. At the national level BIGWU lost its founding President, Michael Als who passed on after a long struggle. Their legacies and its impact will no doubt live on for generations to come.

2014 will also be an important milestone year for BIGWU and its members. We shall be celebrating our 40th Anniversary in the month of May 2014. In addition in 2014 the Union will have its 6th Conference of Delegates preceded by the great exercise in democracy will take place in September when our members will once again get to exercise their constitutional right to elect a new Central Executive Committee.

A Happy New Year to Trinidad and Tobago and to the members of the Union!