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posted 24 Mar 2015, 18:32 by Gerry Kangalee
In a shameless display of self righteous indignation employer groups in this country came out with guns of hypocrisy blazing and attacked the police officers who have been attempting to secure a decent collective agreement from the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO).

The Chamber of Commerce, the American Chamber, the Manufacturers Association, the Bankers Association, the heads of the parasitic conglomerates whined about the loss of productivity, about inconvenience and about holding the country to ransom: the usual cries whenever workers seek to advance their interests by deciding how to deploy their labour in their constant struggle to secure a decent quality of lives for themselves and their families.

Do these paragons of capitalist virtue condemn the rapacious price gouging that takes place in the food import and distribution sector? How can they? They would have to condemn themselves!

Do they condemn those who corner the foreign exchange that emanates from the energy industry which belongs to all citizens and through fraudulent practices conspire to stash away capital that should be used to benefit the citizens of T&T. They claim that is not robbing the people of the country blind, but is just, good, commonsense business practice.

Do they condemn government officials for the widespread corruption and nepotism that has cost this country billions of dollars as government after government take their turns feeding at the trough? How can they when they finance the political parties and receive favoured crony status from the politicians as they laugh all the way to the bank with funds that belong to the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

Did they condemn the practices by the banksters who launder money, finance the cocaine trade and who wrecked the regional and local economies by utilising illegal, immoral and unethical practices like the CLICO scandal which cost the people of this country more than twenty billion dollars and yet nobody has been jailed.

Do they condemn employers when they dismiss workers’ leaders and utilise stalling tactics to block their workers from joining unions? Do these jacket and tie hypocrites condemn non-unionised employers when they fire workers at will without just cause or utilise their economic power over employees to sexually harass low paid workers.

Do they condemn employers who put their employees’ lives in danger on an everyday basis by operating unsafe equipment and processes all in a bid to maximise profits.

Did they condemn Larry Howai for accepting a ten million dollar parting gift from FCB yet calling upon state sector workers to exercise restraint? Entry level constables in the police service earn just over $60,000 per year. Howai’s gift represents approximately one hundred and sixty six years salary for them. Yet this former head of FCB, former head of scandal-ridden NGC who is now in charge of public funds, our funds, dares mumble platitudes about restraint!

This same Howai had the brass face, after settling with the public servants, to deliberately chook a jep nest in the face of policemen, firemen, prison officers, state enterprise and statutory authority workers by trumpeting that no other group will get 14%

Did our money changers in the temple condemn the CPO for reneging on the agreed to comparator scale with the police officers? This is called negotiating in bad faith and is universally held in industrial relations as being a mortal sin.

The National Workers Union (NWU) is of the view that workers have a right to decide how their labour is deployed. This is integral to International Labour Organisation’s Conventions 87 and 98: the right to organise and collective bargaining and freedom of association.

In T&T the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) places restrictions on workers’ right to deploy their labour. Workers, therefore, have to find other ways to protect their interests.

Workers in essential services like police officers, health care workers, electricity workers, sanitation workers etc. are legally denied that right outright. According to the IRA, these workers, unlike other workers, cannot legally strike. They are considered essential because of the functions they carry out, but are not considered essential when their legitimate entitlements to proper wages and working conditions are concerned.

While the public was inconvenienced, the police, like all other workers, have the right to defend their economic rights like police in other parts of the world. When any group of workers deploys its labour in a manner it sees fit in pursuing its interests, inconvenience must be the outcome; otherwise it will not be able to affect the position of the other party in their negotiations. That is how industrial relations in modern capitalist societies operate, except under authoritarian regimes.

Police officers have not had a raise in pay since 2010. Their negotiations are dragging on and on and going nowhere. What other option do they have?

In 2010, their earning power was reduced by an inflation rate of 10.6%; in 2011 by 5.1%; in 2012 by 9%; in 2013 by 8.1% and in 2014 by 8.4%. Just to maintain the purchasing power they had at the end of 2010, police officers need to have a salary increase of more than 30 %.

These wage negotiations should be settled in a calm, responsible way by the CPO and this can only happen if the CPO negotiates in good faith. And this should be the approach with all the other outstanding negotiations. In the meantime the National Workers Union advises all the mealy mouthed spokespersons of the employers to keep bumping their gums so that their hypocrisy, selective condemnation and class bias could become clear to all working people.