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posted 10 Oct 2012, 18:36 by Gerry Kangalee



9 OCTOBER, 2012


The Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) is very concerned that once again for a fourth time the country is faced with a deficit budget in the amount of $7.2 Billion. The JTUM is also very concerned that this is the largest budget we have had to date amounting to some $58.4 Billion. We also note that the government anticipates revenue in the non-oil sector of $30.6 Billion but failed to state clearly how this will be achieved.

The JTUM is disappointed with the budget presentation’s as it refers to the Industrial Relations Climate by only making a passing comment about the Minister taking“proactive measures to bring to an end a number of trade disputes”. These comments came in the face of the major industrial relations crisis our country is currently experiencing.

Firstly, the JTUM wishes to point out that these agreements are all expired collective agreements and no mention has been made as to provisions for the current negotiating period. Going forward, we wanted to hear how the Minister intends to deal with the current period. Attempting to impose a cap as we have witnessed will never be the answer.

Secondly, The JTUM wishes to remind the Minister of Finance of the following outstanding negotiations:- Teachers, UWI Workers, Postal Workers, Medical Doctors in the RHAs, TSTT, Hilton, Cipriani College, CARIRI, CARDI, TTMF, Security and Exchange, Export Centres, Deposit Insurance Corporation, Eximbank, St Judes School and not to mention the EPA negotiations at UWI, Plipdeco, Lake Asphalt, Airport Authority. 
The JTUM is therefore calling on the government to settle ALL outstanding negotiations. We will not be at rest until all negotiations are settled not just some. We have always maintained that there can be no development if there is no industrial peace and stability.

The JTUM is also very concerned about the reduction in the fuel subsidy for premium gasoline and views this as a first step in government’s attempt to reduce the gas subsidy in its entirety. The JTUM is strongly opposed to the reduction of the gas subsidies as we believe in the principle that the natural resources of the country belong to the people and therefore every citizen must be afforded the opportunity to benefit from this resource and it is the only way for every citizen to benefit. 

The JTUM does not share the view that it is only high end vehicle owners will be affected by the increase in price premium fuel as many workers who purchased new vehicles are required based on manufacturer specifications to use premium gasoline. In addition, many equipment such as weed ‘wackers’, pressure washers and even boat engines are required to use premium gasoline. Many poor people who use the equipment for small jobs to maintain their livelihood will be adversely affected. The JTUM therefore calls for a halt to any further reduction of the oil and gas subsidy and further call on the government to take immediate steps to maximize the country’s crude oil production.

With regards to the removal of VAT on all food items and alcoholic beverages, the JTUM views this measure as a means to enrich importers and will not in any way trickle down to ordinary consumers through reduction in food prices. In fact it will only hurt local farmers. Besides, most food items are already zero rated.
The JTUM has major concerns with regards to the provision of transferring CEPEP and URP workers to private companies. It is well known that many of these companies do not have a good track record for observing workers’ rights and good industrial relations practices. We therefore view this move as opening of the door for naked exploitation of an already exploited workforce.

The JTUM has also observed with grave concern that there is no mention of increasing the minimum wage. The JTUM is therefore calling on the government to consider making proper adjustment to the minimum wage so as to mitigate the impact of inflation on workers at the bottom of the rung. We have also observed that many employers continue to violate the existing Minimum Wage Order and call on the government to take more stringent measures to ensure that companies are complying with the Order.

It is the general view of the JTUM that this year’s budget is a major disappointment and does not demonstrate that the government has any vision for Trinidad and Tobago. The fact that the budget includes many incentives for companies and offer very little for workers tells us that the government has taken a position to subsidize the private sector in order to facilitate further handouts to friends and supporters.

The Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM)