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HOPE HAS COME TO THE PSA

posted 17 Jul 2013, 04:00 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 17 Jul 2013, 04:02 ]
We publish a bulletin issued by the Team Phoenix Movement of the Public Services Association (PSA) dated July 1st 2013. It is directed to members of the PSA.
 
Even with recent salary increases, do you not feel poorer than you did a few years ago? That feeling is grounded in the reality that the rates at which your salary is adjusted have failed to keep pace with the rate of inflation. For the period: 2008/2010, inflation was 29%, and as we are painfully aware, salaries rose by the notoriously minuscule 5% The subsequent 4% adjustment effected from 2011 has been swallowed up by 20% inflation to date,

Generally, you have become 16% poorer since. As public employees, we are mandated to discharge a range of critical functions of central importance to national life. We have been doing so with the highest standards of integrity and professionalism. However, a gulf has grown between the importance of our work and the pay we get such that we have become a peculiar labour market category — the impoverished professionals.

Sinking deeper into poverty, we are also stalked by privatisation, with its corrosive effects on our terms and conditions of employment. This is really what has been underway in the health sector with the introduction of the Regional Health Authorities. It looms at WASA. Everywhere, "Public/Private Partnerships" has become the new buzzword.

Contract employment abounds, with the accompanying insecurity, eating through the public services like a cancer. Pensions are under threat. The World Bank wants the Government to dig into the shallow pockets of public officers with the introduction of a contributory pension plan, as well as to reduce pension payment levels.

An encroaching private sector management style has resulted in increasing disregard for the Regulations, and our rights therein. Arbitrariness, nepotism and despotism now reign, with the complicity of the Service Commissions. It is as though we no longer have a union. Indeed, it is worse than that. It was the leadership of the PSA that facilitated the imposition of the 5% cap on our salaries for the last contract period.

They are signing agreements for privatisation in the health sector. They make hollow noises about contract work, but do effectively nothing about it. There has not been a whimper coming out of Abercromby Street over the threat to pensions. A multitude of grievances raised by members simply go unattended. Such a sense of futility pervades that many just do not bother to raise grievances any more.
 

A DYSFUNCTIONAL UNION

Since their election, the current Executive has been embroiled in obscene and expensive squabbling. None of their differences is over matters of principle. The President, delusionarily referring to himself as the "Duke of Abercromby", has been routinely suspending members of the Executive. In reaction, the latter’s methods and tactics have been infantile and comical. The whole gang has demonstrated themselves to be clueless about the issues affecting us, and driven only by naked self-interest.

Democracy absolutely does not exist in the PSA anymore. The influence of the mass membership over the Executive has been blocked as a result of the President`s sacrilegious conduct towards the superior bodies - the General Council and the Conference. Members of the General Council who have sought to carry out their duty on behalf of their Sections, of exercising democratic oversight over the Executive have been suspended from the Association.
 
They have largely been replaced by handpicked stooges, unrepresentative of their Sections, who vote in support of any measure brought to the General Council by the President, this, on the promise of a house. Also, The President refuses to carry out his constitutional responsibility of convening meetings of the Association’s supreme authority - the Conference.

Rule 104 which enshrines the right of Sections to have their views prevail in matters peculiar to them, and to participate in representations ‘at all levels". is more honoured in the breach than in the observance

We do not enjoy the luxury of indifference to this state of affairs. There currently is a global onslaught against the material interests of workers everywhere, from Greece and other parts of Europe to the South African miners. This has intensified in the wake of the global economic crisis brought on by the 2008 crash. Everywhere, the global elites are bent on offloading the costs of this crisis onto the backs of workers. Public employees are their special targets.

Public Servants in St. Lucia were recently moved to weeks long strike action to resist salary depression. In Wisconsin and Ohio the authorities actually abolished collective bargaining in the public sector in their drive to effect the same. Calls by the IMF for fiscal austerity in T&T will translate into similar attacks on us. Is the PSA in any condition to deal with this?

THE IMPERATIVES

The situation requires leadership that is at minimum, loyal to the interests of public employees and focused on the issues affecting them. None of this is in evidence at the moment. But even more, the situation requires a radical transformation of the mode of operation of the Association to allow for greater membership participation in its work. Problems that present themselves at both the macro and micro levels will grow in ferocity. Their handling will require all hands on deck.

The situation demands a new model of governance and operation where the membership will be integral to, and active in the generation of solutions to industrial relations problems rather than being passive purchasers of trade union services. This speaks to yet another requirement, that is, a culture of membership ownership where members not only enjoy constitutionally stipulated democratic rights but understand that these rights will not be worth the paper on which they are printed unless we - all of us - exercise our democratic responsibilities within the Association.

This is the most crucial issue, for it is when we abandon our rights of influence - when we fail to exercise ownership over the affairs of the Association - that undesirables fill the vacuum of authority left, with perverse results such as 5%. T

There is widespread consensus about the need for the cleaning of the Augean stables at Abercromby Street, and the Team Phoenix Movement is organizing towards that end in the context of the coming Executive elections.

But the governance structure of the PSA requires more than that. In that regard we call upon each and every member to ensure that the union is organised at their workplaces through the election of Staff Sides and Section Committees, and further, to ensure that representatives regularly account for their work, especially in their roles as representatives to the General Council and Conference of the Association. It is only through such activity that ordinary members may exercise authority over the Executive. This is our only real guarantee against renegade leadership serving other interests than ours.

The removal of "the Duke" and that court of jesters is only incidental to what really needs to be done in the PSA. That can only be accomplished by you, that is, your assumption of power at all levels, in the hundreds of offices that exist throughout the Association,

We therefore invite you to join us, a movement of ordinary members like yourselves, in raising our great Association out of its current crippled state, now an agency of Government low wage policy. Join us in rescuing the PSA from the present morass of unseemly squabbles, bacchanal and infighting. Join us as we seek ascent, like the mythological Phoenix, out of the ashes of despair. And when the mass of us ordinary members take charge, then we may joyfully declare: Hope has come to the PSA!
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