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posted 4 Jul 2013, 07:45 by Gerry Kangalee
The following letter by Dave Smith, General Secretary of the National Workers Union (NWU)was sent to Minister of Finance and the Economy, Larry Howai:

4th July 2013 

Senator, the Honourable Larry Howai
Minister of Finance and the Economy
Eric Williams Finance Building
Independence Square
Port of Spain 


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. 

As you should be aware 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. 

Do the sixty six negotiations include those in the private sector, public service, statutory authorities and state enterprises, which were settled whether bilaterally or through industrial court arbitration? 

When Minister Tewarie says these negotiations have been settled at a cost of $8 billion dollars what does he mean? You, as Minister of Finance, have been cited in the media as saying in your 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. There certainly seems to be a disconnect between your statements and Minister Tewarie’s 

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. The difference between the 2012 and 2013 figures for government’s wage and salary bill is $1.1 billion, but you went back to parliament for $1.8 billion to settle negotiations. This is $700 million more than the budgeted figure. 

You made 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? 

In the interest of those much vaunted buzzwords transparency and accountability, the National Workers Union calls upon the Ministry of Finance to clear up these confusing figures put out by Ministers Tewarie and yourself by itemising and publishing the sixty six agreements you claim to have settled; the individual cost of those settlements and the total figure for government expenditure on wages and salaries. Additionally the Ministry should publish its cost estimates of these so-called “interim agreements” the government has entered into and the parties with which they have been entered. 

Dave Smith
General Secretary
Gerry Kangalee,
4 Jul 2013, 08:43