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posted 19 Oct 2010, 14:28 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 19 Oct 2010, 20:31 ]

St. Vincent Street echoed to the beat of tramping feet as thousands of public servants, escorted by scores of heavily armed police officers, accompanied the leaders of the Public Service
Association (PSA) to the office of the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO).

They abandoned their offices and workplaces on the morning of October 19th 2010 to show their disgust at what they termed the government’s “disrespect” for public servants by making them a wage offer over three years of 0%-0%-1%.

They were: men and women; young and not so young; of many different complexions, creeds and ethnicities.

They came from all points of the compass by private car by maxi, by taxi, by articulated bus, by coach, by water taxi. They were pumped up and they showed it. Port of Spain echoed to union songs and chants. They chanted: “we want we money just like the police.”;No money...no wuk.”; “We will keep on struggling until we get a better wage.”; “our union makes us strong.”

When their leaders came out of the CPO’s office, the gathered thousands marched down to the Brian Lara Promenade and gathered before the twin towers where the Ministry of Finance is located. They were addressed by Nixon Callender and President of the PSA, Watson Duke. The CPO hadn’t budged, they informed the masses.

There were references to what was taking place in Greece and the rest of Europe. There was much talk of war; force for force and power for power.

 There was criticism of the Minister of Labour and the President of FITUN (Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGO’s), Senator David Abdulah, for what was seen as their abandonment of the workers’ struggle. The workers resolved to keep up the struggle: no retreat...no surrender...they vowed. As they were winding up the heavens opened up and hastened the end of the meeting.

The public servants have kicked off their struggle for a decent wage in a powerful and militant fashion. The next few weeks are going to be interesting - to say the least. No one knows what the future holds, but the outcome of this battle between the government and the PSA is going to depend on who is better prepared; on who is better organised and on whether other contingents of public sector workers and their unions who are also faced with long-delayed negotiations stand by and look or themselves engage the government in battle. The class struggle is certainly heating up. As Walter Annamunthodo used to say – we shall see what we shall see!