The Union frequently comments on events or receives news of general interest and these are documented on this page.
News & Comment
The Chief Personnel Officer is the head of the Personnel Organisation, which under the Republican Constitution, is established by the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
The CPO is charged with the responsibility to treat with all matters concerning the employer-employee relations in all statutory authorities and in the Civil Service. These responsibilities include the fixing of salaries and other terms and conditions of employment consistent with market rates for public officers and the CPO also required to be the advisor to the Management of the statutory authorities with regard to same.
With respect to state enterprises, and quasi-state enterprises, the line Minister, can make recommendations for salary increases and the CPO is required to give advice and to also set the percentage limits on salary increases and other cost items that are being negotiated in the particular enterprise, bearing in mind the limits set by the government on recurrent expenditure.
It has never been the practice for the CPO to sit across the table in any negotiations with the representative unions in the Statutory Authorities. However, it would not be unusual sometimes for the CPO to be the proverbial “elephant” in the room. That is to say, that the Management of some of these enterprises who receive allocations from the government, use the CPO as an excuse when they are unwilling to respond favourably to reasonable proposals put forward by the representative unions.
When such situations occur, some union leaders have been known to seek the intervention of the line Minister as a party to the negotiations; refusing to recognize that the Minister has no legal standing in such matters, since the Minister is not a signatory to the agreement.
In the case of public officers, the CPO is deemed to be the employer and is charged with the responsibility to meet and treat with the recognised associations that represent police, prison, and fire officers and employees of the Civil Service. In this case it is the Public Services Association. With respect to the statutory authorities, the CPOs involvement is confined to advising the Boards of these authorities, on wages and salary increases and other cost items, by interfacing with the line Minister, who may also make recommendations on salary and wage increases.
The CPO is not deemed to be the employer of persons employed by the Regional Health Authorities. The Regional Health Authorities Act Chap. 29:05 became law on 19, December 1994. It speaks about the establishment of the RHAS. At section 4 (1) it says: “Each Authority is hereby created a body corporate to be known by the appropriate name given in the first column of the first schedule.” It goes on to say it shall be managed by a Board of Directors. Section 5 (1) says: Subject to sub sec. (2) “a Board shall exercise its powers and functions in accordance with such specific or general directions as maybe given to it by the Minister.” At section 13 – sub sec. (3) (4) and (5), provision is made for the Board to appoint committees to treat with any matter concerning resolving matters relating to staff.
We are to be reminded, that there are three types of employees whose services are currently engaged by the RHAS. These are free agents; persons who took voluntary retirement; persons on transfer and persons on secondment. The Act provides for persons on transfer and secondment to continue to enjoy all the terms and conditions to which they were entitled, when they were under the Ministry of Health. It is such persons for which the PSA is legally recognized to continue to represent.
Persons who received their VSEP packages and filled out an application for employment with the RHAS and were employed by the RHAS, even if they filled out a PSA application form that association does not have the legal right to represent them on matters such as negotiations and issues which are deemed interest disputes. These persons are free to form and join any trade union of their choice, subject to the nefarious essential industry provision of the Industrial Relations Act.
In the case of the hourly rated employees of the RHAS: they are deemed to be the successor to the terms and conditions of employment set out in the registered Collective Agreements entered into by the CPO and the recognised majority union representing hourly rated workers.
It is to be noted, that as the implementation of the Public Sector Reform programme continues its journey through what is left of the Civil Service, the office of the CPO will diminish in importance, as the Roads Authority, The Transport Authority, and the Drainage Authority are added to the existing Statutory Authorities and Special Purpose Companies, which will assume the roles and functions of the Civil Service.
Each Authority and Special Purpose Company already has its own Human Resource Department. What seemed to be ignored by organisations representing employees in the public sector is that the infrastructure for the dismantling of the Public Service is already in place. As a result, thousands of workers will be placed on the breadline or will have to seek employment with contractors who will pay decreased wages; while billions of dollars of public funds will be channelled into the pockets of the private sector.
But while some of these trade union leaders fraternize with these political parties who are sometimes in government or in opposition, they seem to be oblivious to these very real threats facing the trade union movement; as if they do not understand that these parties all endorse the dismantling of the public sector; which means the destruction of the unions representing the workers. This leads one to question the motives of these union leaders. Union members: a word to the wise!
The following article was published in LABOUR INSIGHT (issue 2/2015), the newsletter of the Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU) After 48 months of persistent battle with the Management, the Board, the Minister of Finance, the CPO and the Government’s Inter Ministerial Committee, the warrior workers of First Citizens have finally won a settlement of their 2012 -2014 and 2015-2017 negotiations. For the period 2012 – 2014, the workers will get a salary increase of 11%. For the period 2015 – 2017, the workers will get a 14% salary increase.
On top that, according to Comrade Don Devonish, 1st Vice President: “Grades 5-7 were first brought up to the market rates, and then the percentage increase was applied.” The icing on the cake, the milestone achievement was really the agreement on profit sharing. 5% of after tax profit will be shared equally among the workers. Comrades Deshand Joseph and La Vern Roban told LABOUR INSIGHT: “for 10 long years, we have fought for this. This was one of our hardest battles ever. We came out on top... it was a well-deserved benefit for the workers.”
These warrior workers of First Citizens took the fight to their employers. The battleground was everywhere. From the office with red ribbons to the Corporate Centre with candle light vigils, to solidarity marches with other state sector workers and workers in the Finance sector in front of the Ministry of Finance and the Parliament, to defending our national patrimony at First Citizens against corporate insider trading and plunder.
They even picketed the Bank’s Christmas Dinner and blanked their Family Day. This struggle was not just about the workers being united; it was also one that allowed them to unite with other workers in similar struggles (RBL, ECU, and TCL to name a few).
"It's as if the dark, distant days we predicted are now cascading upon us...and maybe there will be no scribe left to capture the holocaust on paper''. So wrote Eldridge Cleaver in his Post Prisons Writings. At the time awakened Africans called for Black Power, opposition to the genocidal war in Vietnam was escalating and the F.B.I was countering with programs like Cointelpro against progressive forces.
Ho Chi Minh, leader of the Vietnam liberation struggle, epic in that it saw a largely peasant country defeat the world's mightiest ever army had in his turn written:”When the prison gates open the real dragons will fly out." A reference to the fact that prison either breaks souls 'puts them on ice' as Cleaver said or makes revolutionaries.
George 'Soledad Brother' Jackson, like Cleaver, an alumnus of the California prison system, pointing out to the corruption of the prison system stated."I was in San Quentin for 10 straight years. I know everything that was brought in and by whom." George was sent to prison at age of 18 to do a 'life top' i.e. an indeterminate sentence of 1-life.He was assassinated 12 years later in prison during an alleged break out that featured weapons brought into the prison.
The tragic events of last Friday’s prison breakout are still fresh in our memories. Some of us hope that the agencies of national security, in the wake of routine daily murders, will be spurred to corrective action and finally come good; which if history is a guide means some more will be shot dead, circumstances not be investigated in the coming weeks.
Inquests into state killings are no longer on anyone's agenda. Or high profile cases will suddenly be “solved”. It is interesting to note the response of Dana Seetahal’s brother to the sudden breakthrough in his sister's murder investigation.
The ruling class in this post slavery society has always placed its faith in barbarism. The gun has replaced the whip as the arbiter of social problems.We tortured and hung the slaves and today we will either shoot, bribe or incarcerate our social problems.
When the masses in the Caribbean rise up the Royal Marines (then) or the Special branches/Tactical Units/Inter agencies Task Forces (now) respond with bayonets (then) and with tear gas, body armor and armored vehicles now.
In the coming days/weeks we are likely to hear more disquieting news from the prisons which, we were warned, will erupt. The prisons are now on ‘lock down' and with their near total power over inmates, 'restoring law and order' will be the agenda.
So on Sept 08 a new administration will inherit this social whirlwind which shows no sign of abating. The elections will simply see the lowering of some Party's flag and the raising of another to 'block light and sun'. It would surprise no one in our country to hear a Trini say: "All yuh hear it had a election yesterday? All yuh went?"
If the leaders of the trade unions are sleeping on the job then we must shout in their ears to let them know that the many Authorities established by governments, past and present, are the instruments designed to be used to dismantle the state and public sector.
We have to understand that the recent moves which the Finance Minister made of placing shares of First Citizens Bank on the Stock Exchange in an Initial Public Offering (IPO) and its decision to do the same with shares of Phoenix Park is really a trial balloon. They are testing the waters to see the extent of the political back lash, and there was none!
As a result, I am fearful that every valuable asset in those two sectors is up for grabs. They are preparing to auction the family jewels! This is because there is support for privatization within the middle class as well as among those elements in the trade union movement, whose job it is, and has been for many years now, to divert the attention of the movement away from such issues that are relevant to the survival of the workers.
We must not forget that privatization means that public funds are transferred into the pockets of big business and selfish individuals who do not have the interest of the working people and the poor at heart. So that when these funds which now are used to provide schools, health care, wages and salaries for roads water etc. are no longer in the hands of the government, these public goods cannot be provided to the citizenry.
The situation becomes clearer when it is viewed in the context of the developments on the geopolitical stage. Transnational capital has assumed the right to follow in the footsteps of those who plundered our resources and that of the world in the fourteenth century with impunity. In our case successive governments have been giving it to them willingly. The US ruling class is demonstrating that it can do as it pleases. It is pursuing neo-liberal policies, which include the destruction of trade unions (with the conscious assistance of some so-called trade union leaders) and the bullying of governments to remove rules and regulations which protect the integrity of the economy.
This has been made clear, by its ability to control the countries of Europe politically with an iron fist through the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the incursion into Ukraine, by orchestrating a coup through the use of right wing elements, which cherish memories of fascism. The fact that it was able to win the support of Germany and France, the leaders of Europe in that venture, speaks volumes about the extent of its dominance over the local and regional politics of Europe.
If it was able to bully these two countries, it is not difficult to see how easy it is to succeed here. However, what it has not been able to control so far is the determination of the working people of Europe to fight back in defence of their hard-won social and economic benefits. In that regard, there are some lessons to be learnt from the negative experiences of the Greeks, in their relationships with international finance capital. These lessons are inherent in the punitive austerity measures which they are fated to endure for many years. It speaks also to the vicious nature of international capital and it's penchant for making profit from the social and economic destruction of countries and their cultures.
The obstacle it faces in its attempts to run free over Eastern Europe is Russia which stands in its way, thereby preventing it from having the freedom to access energy and other mineral and human resources which it can exploit as it wishes. Having being limited by the rules of the World Trade Organisation, it is now seeking to impose new rules by which it is seeking to impose its will on the commodity and financial markets of the world through a new secretly negotiated trading agreement called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement (TTIP).
This raises the question of the role a right wing government will play in regional and extra regional politics. Such a party will be critical to the strategic interests of the USA. Especially, since it is so close to Venezuela, whose government is currently not in the good books of the government in Washington. But more importantly, the neoliberals need to ensure that their influence, in the Caribbean and Latin America is secured by controlling certain governments, who will guarantee that their strategic interests are not undermined.
So far, it is certain to have Colombia in its corner, as well as Honduras and a few others. Therefore, a right wing government in this country will fit nicely into the new approach it has now adopted in its relationship with Cuba and will also serve, when necessary, to heat up relations with Venezuela to create an excuse for intervention.
Such governments will do its bidding and set about weakening and destroying the trade union movement from within and without. That is why the leaders of the trade union movement must be vigilant and begin the mobilisation and recruitment of those workers who are not unionised.
The leaders of the movement must move with haste to focus on the real problems facing the workers and not on trivia. They must know by now that the Workers Agenda is dead and will not be supported by the PNM or the PP if or when one of the two should be voted into government.
Some of the issues include but are not limited to education and training of second rank leaders; ensuring that branches are formed and are functioning in accordance with the Constitution and rules of the union; ensuring that effective lines of communication exist and are functioning efficiently on the shop floor and between the shop floor and the union bureaucracy; ensuring that effective lines of communication exist between the leaders of unions; ensuring that effective lines of communication exist between branches in each union and the need to begin a dialogue between the two federations, with a view to bring all unions in the country under one federation.
If we recall the history of the movement during the 1950s-1970s when the Central Intelligence Agency infiltrated the Caribbean Congress of Labour, and succeeded in dividing the movement, when there were more progressive leaders in the movement; imagine what will happen to the movement now, when the leading unions in this country are led by elements who are incapable of carrying out basic tasks. Given this scenario, if drastic steps are not taken by elements that have the interest of the movement at heart, the task of the dividers will be easy.
This does not mean that the party that is currently in opposition is any better; not at all! If you recall, when that party was returned to office in 1991 the then leader announced on the night of the election, that he was going to continue to implement the structural adjustment policies which the NAR government had introduced in 1987. If you have been listening carefully, you might have heard him saying that his government will have to introduce strong fiscal measures upon assuming office on September 7, 2015. What he is saying, is that he will have to cut spending on social programmes, complete the implementation of the structural adjustment programme and then blame it on the out-going government. We will also hear, that the treasury was left empty, and all the sad stories which we have heard in the past from incoming governments.
So do not be fooled into believing all the ranting and raving on the platforms. If they win the elections they are going to continue the policies and programmes of the PP government and the war against workers will continue and, most likely, intensify!
Let's see now how this muddier than all elections stands at the moment. Moruga Cliff has thrown his perfectly coiffed carbon fibre hair piece into the political arena again. Errol has half paved Plaisance Park. I guess the other side will be fixed according to who comes out to see him during walk-a-bouts. Volney is still trying to explain Section 34 although he himself has been extradited out of politics. Jack has more secrets than Victoria.
The Chair of M.S.J has reportedly resigned because he has reached 60. What conVinced him to do that? No one has been able to tell us. Is the post pensionable? Or that the job of Senate President, successor to Wade, is truly out of reach?
Or is it that the J.T.U.M found itself alone at the Wrong Table? Now that the Farris wheel is on and spinning furiously again P.N.M has no need for adherents. Oh labour 'leaders', even as you find yourselves inhaling second hand political smoke again as in 2010 take heed! Should P.N.M win there is a former comrade of yours who we predict will strike with “great vengeance and furious anger'' now she has come out of the political closet after being royally humiliated by a Duke.
Speaking of the P.N.M.: it is clear that they have not changed! Can you imagine an Opposition leader opposing the incumbent administration because it is the most corrupt the country has ever seen? That is like the horner man asking a woman to leave her husband because he beats women worse than the horner man ever did. Come to P.N.M. for less licks! Yeah right!
So even as we hover on a mini "Attica” or "San Quentin 1971” prison riot, even as a certifiably insane Minister further readily adjusts himself to avoidable mortalities at home and abroad in the health sector, organised labour must recognise that to all these formations we remain the common enemy who stand in the way of their fully privatised Grecian paradise.
There was a very interesting article in the Express Newspaper of July 1, 2015, written by Mr. Theodore Lewis, Professor Emeritus of the University of Minnesota, entitled “Discriminatory effects of the Industrial Relations Act.”
The main thrust of his piece, was what he described as discrimination against “white-collar workers.” There is no question as to whether the act discriminates. In fact is does so in many ways. For example, while it was forced to recognize the right of trade unions to organise and to do collective bargaining, it placed restrictions on the right to strike, and through the Registration Recognition and Certification Board, the process by which recognition is granted is tedious and frustrating and could take years for Unions to know whether they are certified as recognised majority unions.
In dealing with this question which is of grave concern to the Professor, it is necessary to enquire into the mischief- as the Lawyers would say- that the law was enacted to prevent. In the thinking of the law makers at the time, the newly independent colonial capitalist economy had to be protected from the growing strength of the Trade Unions. So there were national security concerns as well as political and economic ones.
If one should read the act objectively, it would not be difficult to see the intent of the drafters. The Act established an infrastructure within which the relations between employer and employee are regulated. In that regard, the question as to who has access to the Court falls within the definition of who is a worker and who is not a worker.
There are certain categories of employment which fall within the definition of who is not a worker. This can be found in subsection
(3) which is headed Preliminary. (See sidebar).
So that while employers of unionised workers and the unions representing them have access to the Court, certain categories of workers described by Professor Lewis as white-collar, appear not to have the same right. It is in the understanding of these discriminatory definitions that one will discover the national security concerns which is part of the mischief that the law makers believe that they have prevented. The Trinidad and Tobago Police Social and Welfare Association seem to have refuted that belief.
You will observe that within the definitions at (e) (i) with respect to undertakings or businesses, persons who have responsibility for the formulation of policy or one who has an effective voice, is not deemed to be a worker. However, persons who hold low level management positions at sub- departmental and supervisory levels i.e. with no authority to hire and fire employees are workers within the meaning of the Act. Such persons can join a union and can be represented by a union and unions have represented such persons.
In the case of the category of persons employed in the Public Service and deemed to be public officers, in the case of disciplinary matters, these are dealt with in the Public Service Disciplinary Tribunal. In the case of Teachers, the Education Act provides the mechanism through which disciplinary matters are processed. All matters concerning collective bargaining which affect the remuneration of Teachers, Police, Prison Officers, Fire Officers and Public Officers employed in the Public Service, must first go through the Chief Personnel Officer and failing a settlement at that level they are then referred to the Essential Services Division of the Industrial Court.
In the case of white collar workers, who are employed in positions such as Chief Executive Officers, Finance Managers and so on, if the situation prior to and at the time of the dismissal of such persons, reveals evidence which indicate beyond a doubt that something occurred which led to the demotion of such persons, then the new conditions of the person’s employment create the possibilities which may be utilised to argue a case that such persons are workers, within the meaning of the Act.
It must be borne in mind, however, that it is well known that persons who hold such high positions in the private sector do not see themselves as workers, but as professionals. In most instances, a few of them may have a stake in the establishment in which they are employed, but their so-called middle class status blinds them into believing that they are far superior to blue collar workers And many of them choose not to join unions.
In the case of the powers of the Registration Recognition and Certification Board, the Act does not allow for the challenge of any decision of the Board. As a consequence, where the Act says that matters coming before it shall be dealt with expeditiously, the interpretation is stretched to mean years.
So that while the Professor's concern is valid there are Unions in this country to which white-collar workers belong. Therefore, it is not entirely correct to say this category of worker does not have access to the Industrial Court.
There is an expression in journalism called 'getting out in front of the story'. It is especially used when the facts of a story are clear and likely to damage the image of an individual. For example: a 'plant-like substance' was found at the home of a certain high local official sounds less incriminating and shifts the burden of proof to the investigator even more: meaning that 'plant like substances' are not reason for further investigation since they are not illegal.
By the time the story is sufficiently run, without reference to 'ganja' the culprit/home owner is now merely the victim of probable home invasions by tradesmen, repair men or public servants.
Fast forward to the shooting in the Emmanuel church in Charleston South Carolina! Let's see: the shooter is not Islamic, has not been radicalised by Sunnis, is American by birth, so we avoid words like 'terrorist/terrorism',' fundamentalists', 'crusades' which is the Christian version of Holy wars. We do not call in 'moderate/responsible Christian pastors' to explain his behaviour.
As Jon Stewart of the "Daily Show' put it, the "disparity of response' is so glaring compared to reporting on similar incidents in 'Islamic/Arab' countries, a description that avoids reference to the interference over decades by firstly colonisers and today foreign investors and lending agencies.
So, staying ahead, the narrative focuses on what type of flag flew over the state capital and protesters march to have it removed, even as 'good ole boys' fight for the right to preserve their 'historical identity.' Oh Adolf. You must be spinning in your ruined bunker. You would have been a darling of the talk shows today, but for the flag, those nine people would have been alive today.
And then we read that ‘terror attacks' occurred in Tunisia and in France. Darn right 'terror attacks'. They occurred in Tunisia and in France in a factory and at a hotel. Let us not make the error of calling them 'factory killings' or 'beach front assaults'. In America they are 'church/mall/school campus shootings'. Outside of America they are 'acts of terrorism'.
Poor France! The killings at the magazine offices of Charlie Hebdo, at a farm house later that week and now this attack at a chemical plant. Poor France who howled the loudest for Gaddafi's head, who intervened in Mali and who was the original coloniser of Tunisia and who carried out the massacres at Setif and Guelma of 40,000 plus Algerians according to estimates by their own sources.
So the narratives will always have a bias.The media are instruments of propaganda, which is not a bad word. Words in and of themselves are symbols. When activated they are used for a purpose. That is why the Morning shows in our country are so vapid and predictable. They are intended to have us view the world a certain way; to invalidate the everyday experiences of our daily lives and to define the world for us..To have 'them' speak and to have 'us' listen. The silence of the lambs, so to speak.
So next time you take in the news check and see what is out front
Whenever an individual makes himself available to serve the people he is expected to be full of integrity, morally sound and committed to service of the people. Only upon satisfaction of these basic principles is he supposed to be selected to face the polls at election time. This however does not happen in our political landscape. As such, party affiliation, nepotism, favoritism, loyalty to the Political Leader, political wealth and other cynical criteria are brought to bear on the selection process, which presents us with all types of candidates for Members of Parliament and Councilors. As constituents, we the people have little or no say in the selection process; as in most cases, if not all, the Political Leader has the last say on the selection of a candidate.After the elections, the candidate who gains the most votes in his constituency or electoral district is called the Member of Parliament or Councilor as the case may be, having gained the right to represent the people and the constituency. In that regard, when a Member of Parliament or Councilor is elected into office he has in effect signed a Contract with the constituents to be their representative in Parliament or Council.
It is therefore now the job of these elected representatives to work on behalf of all the people in the constituency, even those who did not vote for them. So, even if you voted for one of the other candidates and you strongly disagree with the views of the Political Party to which the elected representative belongs, he is still your representative, there to help you and the constituency with all matters for which Parliament, Central Government or Local Government is responsible. He is therefore now a servant of the people of his constituency.
In that regard, how is the performance of our elected representatives measured? Performance is deemed to be the fulfillment of an obligation, in a manner that releases the performer from all liabilities under the Contract. So let us therefore analyze and assess the performance of our elected representatives in the following context:
As candidates did they satisfy the principles of Integrity, Morality and Commitment to service of the people?
2. Do our representatives come to us to find out our positions on issues/or suggestions on what we want them to say in debates on behalf of the constituents they profess to be talking on behalf of?
3. Why do we have to take protest action to have issues affecting our constituencies addressed?
4. Are we approached or allowed the opportunity to contribute meaningfully on decisions affecting the National Community?
5. Do our elected representatives suddenly remember their constituents when elections are called or when they are in opposition?
6. Do our elected representatives blame being in opposition for their non-performance?
7. Are we allowed to participate in the governance of the country?
8. Do we have a say in the Legislative agenda and the impact this will have on our lives?
9. Do our elected representatives keep or honour manifesto promises?
10. Are we kept up to date on the stewardship of our representatives at any time during their term of office?
A careful analysis of these areas would easily cause all our elected representatives to fail their performance appraisals. This therefore raises the issue of what are we to do with these non performers. At present nothing is done; which suggests that something is radically wrong with our political system. In the circumstances, measures should be quickly put in place to meaningfully address the long outstanding Constitutional Reform, so that the right of recall for non-performing Parliamentary Representatives and all other representatives of the people can be immediately addressed and implemented.
In addition measures should also be put in place constitutionally to address checks and balances to safeguard against the abuse of power, respect for the voice of minorities whilst acknowledging the will of the majority, integrity in Public Office, containment and eradication of corruption and systems/mechanisms to facilitate participatory governance.
In the meantime, whilst we await this long overdue Constitutional Reform, our Members of Parliament and Councilors will continue to violate their contractual obligations as representatives of the people. At the work place we all know what the penalties are for a failed performance appraisal. So what are we as a people waiting for to demand the implementation of similar criteria for our Members of Parliament and other Representatives of the people? They are our employees as they signed a contract with us at election time and are being paid with our tax dollars.
My analysis suggests that these Representatives of the people would continue to feather their own nests, buy big cars, build big expensive mansions and give their friends and families the best opportunity for education and employment, whilst the masses themselves struggle to survive in these challenging economic times. They will continue to operate as owners of the nation until we the people demand accountability from them as servants of the people, with the attendant constitutional reforms in place.
The existing electoral process only generates power seekers who once elected into office lack humility and repeat the cycle of neglect for the people who elected them as representatives of the people. It is time to put an end to this charade and implement the necessary mechanism and legislative framework to demand accountability, integrity and performance from our Representatives.
These representatives of the people have signed a Contract with us as servants of the people and as such must consult with the constituents and act in their best interest at all times. For, after all is said and done, the will of the people must come before the position of any political party. We need meaningful Constitutional Reform now so that the existing political system could be addressed and tailored to facilitate the framework for good governance from those entrusted with the Governance of our beloved Country, Trinidad and Tobago.
WE MUST PROTECT THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF ALL DOMESTIC WORKERS
The proposed Amendment to the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) in Trinidad and Tobago promises to recognise domestic workers as "Workers" When I heard about it, I said we have something to celebrate, this is after decades of struggle. But when I heard and read for myself that the "Employer" is defined as a person who employs more than three domestic workers I was shocked at that under hand blow.
According to the ILO definition under Convention 189 - The employer of a domestic worker may be a member of the household for which the work is performed, or an agency or enterprise that employs domestic workers and makes them available to households. Therefore the IRA amendment would contravene Convention 189.
Article 3 (2) of The ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work For Domestic Workers states that "Each Member shall, in relation to domestic workers, take the measures set out in this Convention to respect, promote and realize the fundamental principles and rights at work, namely: (a) freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining...".The mischief behind this proposed amendment is to deny most of our domestic workers the right to organise and collective bargaining.
It can also be argued that if you hire one or two domestic workers then how can they seek justice in instances of wrongful dismissals when the person who hired them is not an “employer”? Who is the employer? Or is the legislation saying this is only the case when seeking certification for recognition status?
Is the government responsible or should I say accountable to Domestic Workers to explain the meaning of this proposed amendment? Have they sought an audience with domestic workers because it is these workers who would be affected.
Article 3 of The ILO Convention 189 goes on to state that "Each Member shall take measures to ensure the effective promotion and protection of the Human Rights of all Domestic Workers, as set out in this Convention".
I therefore wish to remind the legislators (and government) or should I say draw to their attention Article 5 of the Convention 189 which states "Each Member shall take measures to ensure that domestic workers enjoy effective protection against all forms of abuse, harassment and violence."
In my respectful view this proposed amendment is a true form of violence against women which must be thrown out completely. The proposed legislation with respect to the domestic workers is abusive and perpetuates a form of harassment of women. It must not even be entertained.
DOMESTIC WORKERS REMEMBER 16TH JUNE IS DOMESTIC WORKERS DAY
WE SHOULD ALL BE HOME RESTING AND COUNTING OUR ACHIEVEMENTS THUS FAR ON BEHALF OF DOMESTIC WORKERS EVERYWHERE
The following article was extracted from the newsletter SWRHA TODAY volume 1 No. 2, published by the National Health Workers Union (NHWU).
SWRHA (South West Regional Health Authority) is for all intents and purposes a den of inequity. SWRHA is the nomenclature for the South West Regional Health Authority which is a state-financed health care provider with approximately 4,100 monthly paid employees and 3,400 vacancies throughout its thirty-one health centres, three health facilities, two Extended Care Centres (ECCs) and two hospitals. There are also daily paid employees.
So the first statement that SWRHA is a den of inequity is not entirely correct. A much more precise statement is that there are members of top Management in SWRHA who are inextricably involved in the course of their duties and operations in nefarious activities.
They utilise their control over the San Fernando General Hospital to live high on the hog and to operate this critical public institution financed by public funds (our money) for private purposes. Some of them would have never found themselves in these plum positions were it not for their political connections and the colour of their tongues.
In their estimation, the health care system is just another means of accumulating capital for themselves, their families and their political sponsors and benefactors. We all know this, but as workers, we are placed under tremendous pressure to turn a blind eye and conform to a vicious and venal system because of the economics of survival.
We believe we are powerless because of the incredibly exploitative industrial relations system that prevails in SWRHA, particularly the use of short term contracts, the appraisal system as a weapon of victimisation and the culture of favouritism and discrimination that has developed over the years.
What this atmosphere does is to put worker against worker, all in a mad scramble to please the bosses so that favours may be bestowed on us as we struggle to keep our heads above water and sacrifice our dignity and integrity in the process.
We have a situation where instead of uniting across occupations to advance our interests as health care workers, we emphasise status differences, bad talk each other and exist in a state of low level conflict between groups of workers. So we have friction between doctors and nurses; RNs and ENAs; ENA’s and wardsmaids and on and on.
Of course, the management is orchestrating all this divide and rule nonsense and we are falling for it. The essence of the problem is that monthly paid workers in SWRHA do not have a negotiated collective agreement which would spell out in detail how the relationship between workers and management is regulated.
This collective agreement is registered at the Industrial Court, once it is negotiated and it becomes a legal document.
The only way SWRHA workers can enjoy the protection and benefit of a collective agreement is if they are members of a recognised majority union with which management is compelled through the force of the law to negotiate and meet and treat.
To become a recognised majority union the National Health Workers Union must apply to the Recognition Board for certification and this can only happen if more than fifty percent of members of the bargaining units in SWRHA become members of the union.
To speed up the process to the point where we can make an application to the Recognition Board, those who are already in the union must encourage those who have not yet joined that it is in everybody’s interest that they do so that we can put some order into the chaos and confusion that prevails in SWRHA.
We can transform this den of inequity from a den of iniquity into the best health care system in the Caribbean.