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posted 20 Jan 2014, 16:04 by Gerry Kangalee



On January 14th the Communication Workers Union (CWU) issued the following statement to its members:
Comrades, Cost Of Living Allowance, COLA as it is popularly referred to, is a long standing means of creating an economic buffer to maintain the real purchasing power of your Dollar against the ravages of inflation. COLA was started way back in the War Days and eventually was pegged to the Government’s Index of Retail Prices as determined by the Central Statistical Office. This was the genesis of COLA by Indexation.

This principle means that COLA would be calculated based on a mutually agreed to formula between parties to a Collective Agreement using the basis of calculation x the Index of Retail Prices as published by the Central Statistical Office. Over the years, the Union and the Company engaged in Free and Fair Collective Bargaining to arrive at a mutually acceptable formula for the calculation of COLA.

The Central Statistical Office would publish an Index of Retail prices approximately every 10 years and this Index would be used as the base for calculating the COLA. When the CSO changes the Index they would normally advise on a conversion factor to move from one Index to the other. This has been the accepted practice between the Union and the Company over the years.

The last signed collective agreement between the Union and the Company had the following Article to determine the Cost of Living Allowance: "For the purpose of assisting in meeting increases in the cost of living, an allowance shall be paid to each worker in the Bargaining Unit as follows; The basis for calculation shall be the Trinidad and Tobago Government’s Index of Retail prices using u base of 132.9 points; An allowance of 11 cents per hour for every one (1) complete point rise above the base of 132.9 points; The cost of Living Allowance shall be calculated each month on the number of hours work including overtime, but the hourly rate governing the addition, shall be the same during overtime as during normal working hours; payments of this allowance shall be calculated for each such month to each worker in the Bargaining Union in accordance with the increase in the Cost of Living Index over the base of 132.9 points".

This Article was based on the 1993 Index of Retail Prices. When the Court gave its judgment for the Junior Staff bargaining Unit in December 2010, the Central Statistical Office had published a new Index of Retail Prices effective 2003.

Based on advice from the CSO Office, COLA was thereafter calculated for the Junior Staff Bargaining Unit from December 2010 based on the use of the CSO’s advice of using a conversion factor of 1.509.

When the Senior Staff Agreement was signed in December 2011, the principle of the calculation of COLA was supposed to be applied similarly to what applied for the Junior Staff Bargaining Unit arising from the Court Judgment of December 2010. Again, this was proposed with the clear understanding that the advice of the CSO’s Office would be adhered to and the conversion factor of 1.509 would be used.

Unfortunately, the then EVP Edghill Messiah decided to use the 2003 Index of Retail Prices without applying the conversion factor of 1.509.  As a result the COLA for both Bargaining Units was reduced from $570.90 to $380.00 in January 2012. This resulted in the Union going to the Court for an interpretation of the 2010 Judgment and we all know that the Union was successful in getting the Court to rule that the conversion factor had to be used as advised by the CSO’s Office.

The Company and the Union signed a Terms of Settlement for the Senior Staff Bargaining Unit on December 17, 2013 ensuring that COLA was to be calculated based on the conversion factor.

To our dismay, on December 19, 2013, the Company proposed to have COLA calculated using the 2003 Index of Retail Prices without using the conversion factor as advised by the CSO’s Office despite signing a Terms of settlement on December 17, 2013..


Comrades, our new and now slippery and deceptive EVP, HARI JHINKOO in his update of January 12, 2014 stated that "the Honourable Court recognizes that parties to a collective agreement may make proposals for a change of Index and parties to collective agreements will have to decide on what changes are necessary to deal with the increasing obsolescence of a discontinued Index once a new and rebased Index is introduced". He deliberately failed to state what the Central Statistical Office advised when they moved from the 1993 Index to the 2003 Index.

Comrades, we need to expose the Deception and Dishonesty of the TSTT Executive Management, in particular JHINKOO. He was a stranger to the truth when he stated in his Employee Update of January 12, 2014 that the Company was increasing its COLA offer from 11 cents to 13 cents, when in fact the 11 cents on the 1993 Index of retail prices converts to 16.5 cents on the 2003 Index of Retail prices consistent with the CSO’s Office advice and the statement in the Court Ruling of September 2013.

As a matter of fact, the real COLA based on the CSO advised conversion factor would be $1235.00 and not $988. 42 as HARI want you all to believe. He deliberately refused to quote the following excerpt from the Central Statistical Office publication of the 2003 Retail Prices Index which states:

"The previous Index can be linked to the new or revised Index by a simple arithmetic method. As at January, 2003 (the base period of the revised Index), the previous or old Index was 150.9 with the revised Index being equal to 100.0; Thus, 1.509 units of the old Index being equivalent to1 unit of the revised Index. Therefore to link the revised Index to the old Index, the revised Index is multiplied by 1.509. Conversely, to link the old Index to the revised Index the old Index is divided by 1.509. It should be noted that from the month of April onwards, the figures shown in the table of this gazette for the ALL Items Index (September 1993=100) were not derived independently but were linked to the All Items Index (January 2003=100) as described above”.

In addition, he deliberately tried to mislead you all when he stated that "there was no Industrial Court Judgment or Order fixing which Cost of Living Index (1993 or 2003) or what conversion factor, if any, is to be used in settling COLA for any period of Collective Agreement between the Recognised Majority Union beyond December 31st 2007”.

But he failed to state that in the Industrial Court ruling on the Interpretation of the December 2010 Judgment, the Court states that: "the guidance on conversion here provided by the Central Statistical Office indicates its recognition that the rebased 2003 Index of Retail Prices figure CANNOT be substituted for the pre-existing 1993-based figure WITHOUT CONVERSION.

The corollary of this recognition, in terms of arithmetic, is a need to "convert” the number at cents per point if the 2003 based figure is to be substituted for the 1993- based figure. This is so because each point of the 2003-based Index has a value such that, upon conversion, it is equivalent to a greater number of points on the 1993-based scale".

That is why 11 cents on the 1993 Index must be multiplied by 1.509 to convert it to the 2003 Index. This would result in 16.5 cents.

Now that we have unmasked the real HARI, we must expose him to all employees. We must let workers know how sly and deceptive HARI is trying to be. He was of the belief that he can smile and charm this Militant and Progressive Trade Union into giving up on our Hard Won COLA benefits.

He thought that because he came from the Industrial Court, that he can baffle workers with his B-S since he failed to dazzle them with his deceptive Charm. HARI has been exposed for the FRAUD that he is and we must now ensure that he gets the treatment that he deserves. 16.5 CENTS IS MORE THAN 13 CENTS HARI!  WE WOULD NOT BE FOOLED BY YOUR ATTEMPTS AT DECEPTION!