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posted 4 Aug 2011, 21:34 by Gerry Kangalee


by Sylvestre McLaren

The President of the Public Services Association, Mr. Watson Duke, recently held a press conference to announce that he had successfully concluded and signed Memorandums of agreement with the Regional Health Authorities.

 Without closer scrutiny, the public, no doubt, is led to believe, that such signing is normal and is consistent with the fact that the PSA represent employees in the Public Sector. The truth is that the PSA has no legal recognition status in the RHAs.

 A Memorandum of Agreement or Collective Agreement in accordance with the Industrial Relations Act 1972 usually deals with interest matters. These are wages, hours of work grievance procedure and so on. A Union can only negotiate such matters when the Recognition Board issues a Certificate of Recognition giving it the legal right to do so.

 However, a Union and Employer can sign a memorandum of Understanding/Agreement even when the Union has no legal status to negotiate such an agreement. It must be understood however, that such agreement, has no legal status and cannot be enforced, if any article is violated by the employer.

 This is not the first time the PSA is playing this role in the RHAs. During the tenure of the former President, Jennifer Baptiste Primus, such signing occurred. On this occasion however, it is even more scandalous, coming as it has, against the background of Mr. Duke’s betrayal of the rest of the trade unions.

 It is clear that he is fully in the camp of the PP government and he is being used to create confusion in the trade union movement. But Comrades Roget, Cabrera and the other leaders of the movement must be careful and must avoid engaging Mr. Duke in any public debate or argument at this time. 

We must not allow anything or anybody to distract us from the task before us. That task is to mobilize the working class to force the Chief Personnel Officer, managements of statutory bodies and state enterprises to come to the bargaining table free of the 5% wage cap; failing which they will have no choice but to take industrial action by way of a national shut down of the country.

 Mr. Watson Duke did not realize that when he signed the agreement to accept the 5% wage increase that he was handed a shovel to dig his own grave. Each occasion on which he signed such agreements in the public sector represents another shovel of dirt removed to make the grave deeper in which to bury him politically.

 But all of this is not new; we have had characters like Mr. Duke in the trade union movement before. During the period of the PNM under Dr. Eric Williams, trade Union Leaders such as James Manswell, Nathaniel Crichlow, Simeon Alexander, Vas Stanford, W.W. Sutton, Carl Tull, McDonald Moses and others were the Watson Dukes of their time. Many of them supported the passage of the ISA and IRA. These pieces of legislation have placed some obstacles in the path of the trade unions, making it a little more difficult but not impossible for Unions to mobilize to take industrial action.  Mr. Duke has now joined the ranks of this infamous bunch.