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CWU EXPOSES MINISTER OF TOURISM

posted 13 Mar 2017, 06:31 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 13 Mar 2017, 07:04 ]

The Communication Workers’ Union, (CWU), would like to publicly express its grave

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Minister of Tourism, Shamfa Cudjoe
concern with respect to the recent announcement by the Minister of Tourism, Ms. Shamfa Cudjoe that the Cabinet of the Peoples National Movement Government has taken the decision to dissolve the Tourism Development Company, TDC. This decision was announced by the Minister at a Post Cabinet Weekly Media briefing at the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort on Thursday 9th March, 2017. 

The Union would like to bring some clarity to this situation so that the citizens can be more educated and informed. 


THE MANDATE OF THE TDC


TDC Is a special purpose State Enterprise established in 2005 with the expressed mandate to develop and enhance all aspects of the tourism sector in Trinidad and Tobago.  With that mandate was the clear delineation between Trinidad and Tobago, with the TDC having the responsibility for the development of the Tourism product while the Tobago House of Assembly had specific oversight for Tourism development in Tobago. 


BACKGROUND


When the PNM came into Government office in 2015, they appointed Ms. Denise Demming as the Chairman of the Board of Directors and the then CEO Mr. Chin was removed from Office. Mr. Warren Solomon was appointed as the Acting CEO. Early in the life of the new Board, confusion started with the Line Minister removing Ms. Demming as the Chairperson and replacing her with Mr. Richard Duncan.

The Union wrote to the CEO on August 23, 2016, seeking to have several outstanding issues impacting on the Employees employment relationship resolved. We thereafter wrote to the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Mr. Richard Duncan, via letter dated September 21, 2016, alerting him to the obstinacy of his Executive Management and to the Company’s blatant and flagrant violation of the Industrial Relations Act of Trinidad and Tobago. We did remind the Chairman that the TDC, as a State funded Entity, had an obligation to abide with the Laws of the Country.

At a Standing Finance Committee during the debate on the 2017 Budget which was held in the Lower House. The Minister was on record as stating that the Tourism Development Company was now undertaking a comprehensive Structural Review including a Human Resource Review and that she was sure that there were some positions that were not relevant to the operations of the Company. She also stated that there is a problem of duplication of positions at the TDC that will be treated with. All this was said in the face of a significant reduction in Budgetary allocation where staffing was concerned.

TDC workers jobs under threat as government continues assault against working class.
The Union wrote the Minister via letter dated October 24, 2016 seeking her intervention and an urgent meeting based on the challenges we were having with the Chairman of the Board of Directors and in the face of her recent articulation in Parliament. We got no response from the Minister, but sometime in November, the Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development called the Secretary General and seeking to facilitate a meeting between the Union and the Minister. This meeting was held on December 01, 2016.

At that meeting, the Union indicated to the Honourable Minister, that the Job Security of the members of our Bargaining Units was placed under threat as several Contracts were not renewed and there was no indication as the future tenure of the workers. We also reminded the Minister that for years and under successive Governments, the TDC was used as a Political Football with the staff suffering from the negative effects of mis-management, cronyism, nepotism and flagrant political manipulation which were all allowed to fester to the benefit of whichever regime was in power.

We also articulated that the excellent professional, analytical and creative work done by the staff was ignored and sidelined in favour of un-professional and disingenuous strategies and plans which only facilitated the obscene plundering of the state coffers. While all this malfeasance was taking place, the positioning of Tourism as an alternative means of economic development and diversification was derailed and abandoned. 

As such, the CWU which now has Recognized Majority Union status for those de-motivated Bargaining Unit Employees has taken the position that we will not allow this economically challenging period to be used as the excuse to endanger the Job security of those workers who would have shouldered the burden of the responsibility for keeping the TDC afloat while politicians were having a field day. The Minister did indicate that the Ministry was undertaking a Human Resource Audit at the TDC and she would consult and engage the Union on the completion of this Audit on the way forward for the TDC.


THE TRUTH



To our chagrin and in a most disingenuous manner, at 1.14 p.m. on Thursday 9th March, 2017, the Secretary General of the Union, Comrade Joseph Remy, received a call from the Minister. She indicated that she was at a Cabinet Meeting and she was taking the opportunity to inform the Union before the Governments Post cabinet Meeting that the Cabinet had taken a decision to dissolve the TDC. The Minister also stated that there would be a new regulatory body and in response to a query about the status of workers of the Bargaining Unit, she stated that she would have to engage the Union in subsequent discussions; the conversation with the Secretary General lasted a whopping one minute and forty eight seconds (1min 48 sec).

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CWU investigating Maracas Bay contract to Beckles Environmental Services.
The Union would like to make it pelluicidly clear that we were never consulted prior to this decision being taken. We wish to state that in January 2017, the TDC commenced an investigation into the award of a Contract to Beckles Environmental Services Limited on July 7, 2016 relative to Drainage and Associated Works along the Maracas Bay Car Park. This Contract was awarded after the names of four (4) Contractors were allegedly submitted by the then Minister of Works. Subsequent to that, the Ag. CEO was sent on vacation Leave in January 2017 and has been on leave since then. Two other employees have also been sent on Vacation Leave and Administrative Leave simultaneously, one of them being a member of one of the CWU Bargaining Units.

A meeting which was supposed to be held on Monday 6th March, 2017 to reveal the findings of the investigations was subsequently postponed. On Wednesday 8th March, 2017, the staff was introduced to a Mr. Cliff Hamilton who was identified as the Interim CEO of the TDC. Curiously on Thursday 8th March, 2017, the Minister hastily announced the Cabinet decision before the findings of the investigation are revealed.


CONCLUSION

The Union questions the timing of this decision, which was done before the investigation into the award of this contract can be revealed. We are left ask what would become of the findings of this investigation. In addition, we believe that this decision reeks of anti-union, anti-worker tendencies. Months after the Union submitted its proposals for a new Collective Agreement for the workers of the TDC, the Government wants to now dissolve the Company and start over with two (2) new entities. In effect, the Government would be denying those workers their right to have Trade Union representation, which they are legitimately entitled to have.

The CWU would like to advise the Government that we would not roll over and allow the workers at TDC to be trampled upon. We are convinced that this decision is wrong, misguided, ill-timed and ill-conceived and were not done on the basis of any cogent analysis on the operations of the TDC and on the benefits that would have been derived if a proper reorganisation and restructuring was done in collaboration with all stakeholders, inclusive of the CWU.

As such, we signal our intention to engage in an intense struggle to protect the jobs of all members of our Bargaining Unit and by extension the livelihood of their families. We want to advise the Government that the previous People’s Partnership Government attacked workers and ordinary citizens of the Country and they paid the ultimate political price. As such, they must immediately annul this decision and engage in meaningful consultation with the CWU on the way forward for the TDC and its employees. Failing which would only result in them suffering the same fate as the Partnership Government.

For this we “Dare to Struggle”.

A word to the Wise is sufficient.

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