The National Workers Union (NWU) noted with interest the statement by the Minister of Labour that the Maternity Protection Act is to be amended and the Master and Servant Ordinance is to be repealed.
We have heard this before from the Minister. On September 21st 2010 (more than 13 months ago) the Minister of Labour told a forum of the Employers Consultative Association at the Hyatt in Port of Spain that the Maternity Protection Act would be amended.
The NWU seriously questions that twenty months after coming into office the government is only now moving to amend the Maternity Protection Act which involves changing the word thirteen to fourteen and amending the relevant National Insurance regulation along the same lines.
The Master and Servant Act, an old colonial law, just needs repealing. And to think one newspaper cites the Minister of Labour as saying: “We’ve done quite well.” That statement would be laughable if it wasn’t so disrespectful to the labour movement!
The National Workers Union reminds workers that the PP government promised in its manifesto to put workers at the centre of development. If they were serious about that they would have already begun to implement the major recommendations of the Workers Agenda.
Some of these recommendations include: removals on limitations on the right to strike; removal of the power to decertify trade unions; the speeding up of the tediously long process of union recognition; removal of prohibition on industrial action by specified groups of workers.
Other recommendations include: legal recognition as workers by groups of workers now denied such recognition e.g. domestic workers; repeal of the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act and the Workmen’s Compensation Act; amendment to the Companies Act; repeal of all laws that infringe on Freedom of Assembly etc.
The National Workers Union finds it is simply not good enough for the Minister of Labour to pick out two of the least controversial recommendations of the Workers Agenda after twenty months in office and then beat his chest and say: “We’ve done quite well!”
The legislative changes to the Maternity Protection Act and the repeal of the Master and Servant Act are not listed on the Parliament’s order paper so it is no surety that they will be made in a decent time frame. After all twenty months have already gone since the PP came into office.
The National Workers Union insists that in addition to implementing the recommendations of the Workers Agenda which in the main applies to unionised workers, the PP government must enact into legislation a minimum floor of entitlements to apply to all workers.
This legislated minimum floor of entitlements must include: an annual review of the minimum wage which should be no less than two thirds of the national average wage; sick pay; vacation leave; overtime payments; payment for public holidays; the right to have a pay slip; employer challenges to individual workers being represented by unions should be abolished; the right to a written contract; service pay for termination of any kind; the establishment of a severance fund to be funded by employers, coverage to include loss of employment when a company closes down; unemployment relief to be administered by the NIS.
The National Workers Union calls upon the PP government to bring to parliament and enact legislation to implement the recommendations of the Workers Agenda and the minimum floor of entitlements for all workers within six months.
Failure to do so will further confirm the widespread belief that the PP government is an anti-working class government bent on pauperising the masses in the interest of the employers and their capitalist financiers. It is simply not good enough to say: ‘We’ve done quite well!” The government, in fact, has done quite poorly!
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Gerry Kangalee (National Education and Research Officer – Cell: 785-7637)