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posted 18 Jun 2013, 13:31 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 18 Jun 2013, 13:33 ]
According to Planning and Sustainable Development Minister Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie the Government has settled 66 out of 75 collective bargaining agreements for workers at a cost of some $8 billion. 

The National Workers Union finds the good doctor’s statement rather curious. The government only negotiates, through its Chief Personnel Officer, with those unions that represent specific groups of workers. Some of these workers include: public service, police service, prisons service, teaching service, fire service, government daily paid etc. These workers are certainly not covered by seventy five collective agreements. 

Unions in statutory authorities and state enterprises do not negotiate with the government but with the managements of the enterprises where their members are employed. It is a violation of industrial relations norms for the government to conduct negotiations with unions in statutory authorities and state enterprises. But Tewarie’s statement further re-confirms the position of the trade union movement that the government had attempted to impose a five percent wage cap. 

Is the government claiming credit for settling all those negotiations, private sector, public service, statutory authorities and state enterprises, which were settled whether bilaterally or through industrial court arbitration? 

According to the law, the Ministry of Labour may engage in conciliation to try to bring parties closer together in a situation where a negotiation has been reported to the Ministry (generally referred to as having broken down). The Ministry does not settle negotiations. So what in heaven’s name is Tewarie talking about when he claims government has settled sixty six negotiations? 

When Minister Tewarie says these negotiations have been settled at a cost of $8 billion dollars what does he mean? Minister of Finance Howai claimed in his presentation to the parliament during the debate on the Finance (Supplementary Appropriation) (Financial Year 2013) Bill 2013 that approximately $1.8 billion of the $2.8 billion approved by parliament has been allocated for settlement of wages and salaries for 2008-2010 collective agreements as well as “interim settlements” for the 2011-2013 bargaining period. These Ministers better get their stories straight. 

According to the Review of the Economy 2012 government expenditure on salaries and wages was expected to increase to $7.5 billion as a result of the settlement of some negotiations which “have since been paid”. 

According to Dr. Tewarie’s statement sixty six negotiations were settled at the cost of $8 billion dollars, but the government’s figures say that the entire wage and salary bill of the government was expected to be $7.5 billion in 2012. 

The Estimates of Recurrent Expenditure for 2012-2013 budgeted for a government wage and salary bill at $8.6 billion which is 16% of recurrent expenditure. The difference between the 2012 and 2013 figures for government’s wage and salary bill is $1.1 billion, but Howai went back to parliament for $1.8 billion, which is $700 million more than the budgeted figure. 

Howai makes reference to “interim settlements” for the period 2011-2013. Collective agreements are settled when unions and managements sign off on the texts which are then registered in the industrial court and become legally binding documents. What are these “interim settlements” and with whom have they been made? Something certainly smells rotten in the state of T&T! 
The National Workers Union calls upon the government to cease circulating disinformation in the public domain in an effort to confuse and mamaguy members of the public who may not be conversant with the industrial relations process. 

The National Workers Union calls upon the government to clear up these confusing figures put out by Ministers Tewarie and Howai by itemising the sixty six agreements they claim to have settled and publishing the cost of those agreements and the total figure of government expenditure on wages and salaries. Additionally they must publish their estimates of cost for these so-called “interim agreements” they have entered into with unknown parties.   

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Gerry Kangalee (National Education and Research Officer – Cell: 785-7637)
Gerry Kangalee,
18 Jun 2013, 13:31