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posted 18 Jun 2014, 19:44 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 18 Jun 2014, 20:03 ]
The following statement was issued by the National Workers Union to mark the occasion Of Labour Day, June 19th, 2014


Freedom of Association is the most important issue facing trade unions across the planet. It is fundamental to workers organising themselves for the purpose of collective bargaining.

In T&T it takes a ridiculously long time to determine an application to the Recognition Board for recognized majority union status. Recognition claims may take as many as four years to be determined!


The Workers Agenda, which (now Minister of Labour) Errol K. McLeod piloted at an All Union COSSABO on April 18th 2010, called for the removal of this restriction among other issues. About the recognition process the Workers Agenda states: 
“A limit of three (3) months needs to be put in place for the determination of recognition claims…” 
McLeod and the party he led went into government in 2010. From then to now, when his party was in government and when he abandoned it to continue eating a food when they left, he has done nothing to advance the Workers Agenda. 
The members of the Recognition Board are not full time and do not manage the day to day process of determining applications for recognition. The board more or less accepts and ratifies recommendations from the Secretariat, the members of which are public officers attached to the Ministry of Labour and under the control of Minister of Labour McLeod. 

Trade unions have called for the repeal of the Industrial Relations Act as oppressive, anti-worker legislation enacted by a frightened PNM Government during a state of emergency in 1972. But the question of expedition in issuing recognition claims can be achieved even within the ambit of the law. 

Bitter experience over the years has  taught us that employers seize every opportunity to ignore and delay the recognition process. While we expect the employer to do all in his power to deny his employees trade union recognition, the processes employed by the Board have led us to the conclusion that the State shares the employer perspective and in fact acts consciously to protect the interests of the employers. 
While the government pays lip service to upholding workers' right to collective bargaining, it in fact actively participates in the attempt to delay, obstruct and ultimately prevent workers from exercising their right to trade union representation. 

The Recognition Board has developed Practice Notes that govern the process by which they go about determining applications. These are the cause of most of the problems. These Notes are the product of the Board Secretariat and can be amended without recourse to amending the legislation, if the Minister of Labour and his cabinet wish to do so. 

Of course that would meet with opposition from the employers who finance the political hustlers and confidence tricksters who infest the parliament. It is clear that McLeod and his government have aligned themselves with anti-worker, anti-union employers. 
The development of the Practice Notes and the implementation of the process of determining applications are not the product of the Recognition Board but that of the Secretariat which is under the control of the Minister of Labour. 

The process is twofold: The first step is determining the appropriateness of the bargaining unit(s); the second step is the checking of records. The Secretariat seems to believe that there is some high science that must be invoked to determine a bargaining unit and that within the secretariat they alone have the “expertise” to determine bargaining units. It’s all a load of rubbish! 

Step two is the checking of records which should be a relatively easy process, if not for the recalcitrance of the employers and the incredible level of superfluous detail that the Recognition Board requires from parties involved in the application. 

The National Workers Union supports the recommendations of the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) Included among these recommendations are that the following time lines should be introduced: 

1. A claim for recognition should be acknowledged by the Board within seven (7) days of its receipt; 

2. Within fourteen days, the Board should convene a meeting of the union and the employer to discuss what bargaining unit(s) would be appropriate (this is the time-line set out in the IRA for the Ministry of Labour to convene a conciliation meeting for reported trade disputes); 

3. The employer should be required to bring to that meeting all the information necessary to enable the discussion to take place on what bargaining unit(s) should be established; 
4. Where the parties can agree the appropriate bargaining unit(s), this should be accepted by the Board; 

5. The Board should establish interim bargaining unit(s) to enable the check of records to take place while further work is done on clarifying and dealing with outstanding issues. 
6. Time-lines can be varied by mutual agreement between the parties but the objective should be to complete the process within three (3) months 
7. Where the employer refuses to co-operate, ignores the process or deliberately delays the process, the Board should proceed on the basis of the information it has available from any source, including that provided by the union. This is already provided for in Section 23(1) of the Board Rules. 
The National Workers Union contends that McLeod, the Minister of Labour, has the authority to put an end to these never-ending frustrating delays. 
The National Workers Union calls on McLeod to use the power he has to bring an end to the delays in the recognition process now! Failure to do so would just confirm what all conscious trade unionists know - that McLeod is working to advance the cause of the employers and is consciously obstructing the advancement of the interests of the trade union movement and working people, all in the interest of eating a food.