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posted 26 Mar 2015, 15:40 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 26 Mar 2015, 15:41 ]


Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar said at the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting on March 25th 2015 that her Government will negotiate with the unions in good faith. She said (unions) “must understand that with the decline in revenues, they cannot demand unrealistic salary increases.” She added: “I have no intention of giving into demands that could lead to or take us into bankruptcy”.

Let us look at the facts! The PM talks about “unrealistic salary increases” Since 2010, when last public sector workers got a pay rise, the purchasing power of the dollar has dropped by more than 30%. If workers salaries are increased by that amount they would be right where they were fifty one months ago. The Prime Minister seems to think that maintaining the purchasing power of one’s salary is “unrealistic.”

It is rather strange that the 14% which was settled with teachers and public servants suddenly becomes “unrealistic” when it comes to settling with other groups of public sector workers. When the Chief Personnel Officer settled with TTUTA and PSA weren’t “revenues in decline”? Why the discrimination in approach when dealing with negotiations in the public sector?

The principles governing the approach by the government should be consistent even though there are peculiarities to take into consideration with the actual nut and bolts of the various settlements. This approach to negotiations certainly does not suggest good faith.

The Prime Minister talks about salary demands leading us into bankruptcy. It seems the PM is not aware of what her ministers say or do. On Wednesday 18th March, 2015, Finance Minister Larry Howai, in addressing the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry & Commerce said: “the $1.0 billion fiscal deficit projected for the first quarter of this year as a result of the fall in energy prices, has turned out to be a $328.4 million surplus thus far over the first quarter of fiscal 2015.” Where is this decline the Prime Minister projects as a reason why salary demands should not be “unrealistic”?

He went on to say: “With respect to the recent civil service agreement, the entire increase is just about half of one percent of the budget and we have identified funding coming from unbudgeted repayments of loans coming in to Government and unbudgeted dividend payments which will allow Government to pay the outstanding commitment of backpay without negatively affecting our cash balances.” He also said personnel expenditure was down by 6.75 %.

So less than one half of one percent of the budget has been allocated to public servants which is the largest group of public sector workers and the bankruptcy scenario is no where close to being realised. It seems the Minister of Finance and his Prime Minister do not sit in the same cabinet!

The Finance Minister also added: “We have stabilized the domestic financial sector from the destabilizing head winds that was the CLICO crisis by pumping over $20.0 billion to bailout and stabilize this insurance behemoth.”

So $20 billion dollars, which is one third of the national budget, has been spent to bail out CLICO and the country has not gone bankrupt, but less than one percent spent on workers’ salary increase will bankrupt us. The logic escapes all reasonable persons, but the class bias of the government is as clear as daylight.

The National Workers Union is under no illusion as to what interests the government serves. The Prime Minister agreed to a Chamber of Commerce demand that CEPEP and URP labour be put under the control of the private sector. The same private sector that continually moans and groans about ending government subsidies are now salivating over the prospect of increasing their millions through the exploitation of government-subsidised labour.

At the very Chamber of Commerce meeting where the Prime Minister made her reckless and unsubstantiated statements, the spokespersons for the Chamber kept up their never-ending whining about their difficulty in accessing foreign exchange and the Prime Minister expressed her surprise that the situation persisted, as if this charade could fool anyone.

Capital flight, money laundering and the financing of illegal trading is in full flight and those who finance the politicians are demanding that the people’s foreign exchange be made available to them carte blanche; so that when the inevitable crash of the economy occurs they will be able to live high on the hog in metropolitan cities while we scramble for survival in the ashes.

The National Workers Union urges all workers in the country, whether in the public or private sector to step up their struggle for a living wage that would enable them to keep their heads above water as the income gap between the business elite and the working people grows and as the venal political elite utilises public funds for their private purposes.

Only the working people can advance their interests: the employers, the politicians and the business elite are busy advancing theirs.


Gerry Kangalee (National Education and Research Officer. Cell: 785-7637