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posted 23 Nov 2015, 19:48 by Gerry Kangalee
Secretary General of the Communication Workers' Union (CWU), Joseph Remy issued the following statement on 2015.11.23.

The Communication Workers’ Union is deeply concerned about the recent announcement by the National Gas Company (NGC) about the implementation of a Wage and Benefits Freeze at the parent company and its subsidiaries, National Energy (NE), Phoenix Park Gas Processors Ltd. (PPGPL) and NGC CNG for the years 2015 and 2016. This decision was revealed to workers by the parent company in a Memo sent to them on November 16, 2015.

In addition to the Wage Freeze, the Company has also stated that it will cut Bonuses to its staff. In the current market driven economic environment, this is in effect a Wage Cut since there has not been any concomitant policy position on Prices and as such, these workers would now have to pay higher prices for goods and services on the same salary, which would effectively reduce the purchasing power of their dollar.

This announcement ironically comes just after the Prime Minister met with the Joint Trade Union Movement and on the eve of a meeting between the Joint Trade Union Movement and the Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development. From all reports coming out of the meeting between the Prime Minister and the Joint Trade Union Movement, the issue of a Wage and Benefits Freeze was not discussed nor brought up by the PM.

The CWU questions the process for this decision since from all reports; the Government indicated that it would engage in Consultation with Key stakeholders before any major socio- economic impacting decisions are going to be made. We need to remind that NGC is a fully owned State Enterprise which saw a new Board being recently appointed by the Government upon its assumption to office. This action therefore sends the message that there is some untold policy position of the Government as it relates to the Wages and Benefits in the State Sector, such a policy, we posit, was not discussed with the Labour Movement.

The CWU is not oblivious of the current economic circumstances and environment, nor are we oblivious of the current situation in the Energy Sector. We however wish to state that when such major decisions are to be taken that impact fundamentally on the general welfare of workers, then the obvious approach should be one of consultation before implementation.

This approach by the NGC has found favour with the Prime Minister who has publicly stated that it is a responsible act. But how can this approach be responsible when there was neither indication nor consultation with the Labour Movement, who is supposed to be one of the major stakeholders in the much touted Tripartite Process that the Prime Minister has committed to engage in very soon. From where we sit as a Union, we are concerned about the signals that this action sends and the trend that it can initiate. As we saw with the previous Peop|es’ Partnership Administration, the attempt to introduce a 5% Wage Cap was trumped and follow suited by both the State and Private Sector. This was only reversed through unified mass action by the Trade Union Movement.

As such, based on past experiences, we anticipate that the State and Private Sector would also seek to emulate the NGC and attempt to use the current self-inflicted economic crisis as a means to roll back on hard won terms and conditions of employment and benefits that workers rightly deserve. The CWU is strongly opposed to such an unjust reversal and would continue to agitate for the interest of the working class and less possessed in society, who perennially have been saddled with the burdens of whatever austerity measures and adjustment policies that Governments wish to implement when there seems to be some economic challenges.

When the Economy was buoyant, the working class did not reap any tangible benefits, all went to a chosen few who resides within a certain class structure. Now that we are having some economic challenges, once again the working class and the less privileged are called upon to socialize the losses and share the burden of adjustments.

with the recent endorsement by our Annual National Convention to recommit to the Butlerite Tradition of Trade Unionism, we stand in defence of the working class and less privileged in our society and as such, we call on the Government to reconsider this approach and immediately engage the Labour Movement in genuine consultation on the current state of the Economy and the determination of a mutually acceptable way forward to arrest the current economic challenges that we are faced with to ensure equity and social and economic justice.

A word to the wise is sufficient