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THE WORKERS’ AGENDA

posted 12 Aug 2010, 18:24 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 12 Aug 2010, 19:10 ]

THE WORKERS’ AGENDA

Adopted at the Joint Trade Union COSSABO

Sunday 18 April, 2010

 

Within the past year, we have seen a rise in strategic collective actions by trade unions from both federations- FITUN (Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs) and NATUC (National Trade Union Centre), and by unions that are unaffiliated. These actions have consistently led to positive outcomes not only for their respective members, but for the country at large.
We can recall last October, when the entire labour movement condemned the move by the government to decertify the Communications Workers’ Union and the Transport and Industrial Workers Union. Together, unions responded in a massive show of force and solidarity. That plan to decertify those unions was aborted by the government. More recently, joint actions by the trade unions in their support of the Public Services Association and opposition to the Trinidad and Tobago Revenue Authority (TTRA) contributed to the eventual collapse of the Bill to establish the TTRA. We should also not understate the impact of the mass actions of The People’s Democracy in November 2009 and the picketing of Parliament on December 18th, the PM’s Office and the headquarters of UDeCOTT in contributing to the collapse of the Manning government.
 
Very significantly, the participation of trade unions in The People’s Democracy contributed immensely to our spirit of unity. Further, the bringing together of trade unions and other civil society organizations under the umbrella of The People’s Democracy enabled us all to deepen our appreciation of the fact that both the labour movement and civil society share common issues, concerns, goals and aspirations.
 
One of the discussions labour leaders have had is on the role that the labour movement must play in the current political landscape. The opportunity is now ripe for our collective intervention to influence the political direction that our country will go. Now is the time for us to intervene to ensure that we get not just an exchange of government but good governance in Trinidad and Tobago!
 
In this regard, leaders of the labour movement had decided that as we move towards consolidating a solid, strategic and direct plan for labour’s intervention the active participation of all our second rank officers and activists is necessary. We have therefore agreed to hold a Joint Conference of Shop Stewards and Branch Officers (COSSABO), with the overarching theme “Towards a Workers’ Agenda”. By this we are not referring to only workplace issues, but all the social, economic and political issues that affect working people, farmers, fisher-folk, self employed, small business people, the unemployed; men and women, young and old. Over 500 workers from 15 Trade Unions responded to call and participated in the COSSABO to develop a workers’ Agenda.
 
“There should be an adequate means of livelihood for all, that labour should not be exploited or forced by economic necessity to operate in inhumane conditions but that there should be opportunity for advancement on the basis of recognition of merit, ability and integrity”- Trinidad and Tobago Constitution
 
Labour
 
For many years the labour movement has called on the governments to conduct a comprehensive reform of labour legislation
 
The existing labour laws are archaic and do not comply fully to international labour standards.
 
The Gov’t has ignored the 4 CARICOM model labour laws, which have been designed by the ILO
 
The severe limitations on the right to strike should be removed: It should be noted that in Barbados there are no limitations on the right to strike.
Prevent Decertification of Trade Unions: There is a need to excise from the IRA, the provision which allows an employer to seek decertification of trade unions.
 
Facilitate Workers’ Right to Join a Trade Union of Their Choice: A limit of three (3) months need to be put in place for the determination of recognition claims which are made to the Registration, Recognition and Certification Board; the present requirement of fifty-one percent (51%) membership of workers in one particular union for that union to obtain recognition by the Recognition Board should be amended to twenty percent (20%); the law must allow for workers to join trade unions of their choice. The present restrictions on trade unions in terms of workers categorised in essential industries, violates international labour standards
 
Appointment of Judges to the Industrial Court: There should be security of tenure and pensions for Judges of the Industrial Court and their appointment by an independent body, similar to that of High Court Judges.

“Worker within the meaning of the Act”: Employers should not be able to use provisions related to “worker in good standing” and “worker within the meaning of the Act” to delay and prevent trade unions from representing individual workers, who come from a non-unionised environment.

Prohibition of Certain Sectors to Take Industrial Action: the prohibition of certain groups of workers from taking any form of industrial action, under penalty of eighteen (18) months imprisonment needs to be amended. 

All workers must be recognised as Workers: The term “worker” should be amended to include drivers, domestic workers, etc..

Ministry of Labour and Small and Micro Enterprise Development should revisit its mandate to make it functional to the needs of the labour movement

Amendments/Reform to other pieces of labour legislation:

Repeal of the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act, No 32/85

This law does not provide for payment of severance pay to workers who are faced with Company closure, such as winding up, receivership and liquidation. 

Amendment of the Companies Act
 
Severance payments ought to be prioritised in terms of ranking of creditors. It is wrong for payments to banks, shareholders, and other creditors before severance payments are made.
 
Repeal of Workmen’s Compensation Act and replace it with a modern Employee Injury and Disability Act
 
The present Occupational Safety and Health Act also need to be amended to deal with the environmental aspects of occupational health and safety.
 
Amendments to the Supplemental Police Act.
 
Amend the Supplemental Police Act to provide for (non-precepted) security officers to be represented by the Estate Police Association under the IRA.
 
The Public Sector Negotiating Committee (PSNC) to be disbanded immediately. This committee interferes with and delays the collective bargaining process
 
 The amendment of the Maternity Protection Act, 1/2000 to provide for fourteen (14) weeks maternity leave which is the international standard. In addition, Day Care Centers to be built by Government and Companies.
 
An immediate increase in the Minimum/living Wage
 
The repeal of the Master and Servants Ordinance, which is an old colonial law and contrary to the Decent Work policy of the International Labour Organisation
 
The repeal of all laws that prohibits the freedom of assembly.
 
  
A Proper Policy on Migrant Labour
 
 
We propose:
 
The immediate establishment of a tripartite authority to monitor and regulate migrant labour.
 
The reform of the system of work permits to ensure that jobs that can be performed by nationals are not being allocated to non- nationals, especially in the current economic crisis where unemployment is increasing; and the transfer of skills and knowledge to nationals in cases where non-nationals are employed. There must be trade union representation on the Works Permits Committee.
 
The cessation of policies and actions of restructuring state companies and the public service that results in retrenchment and the loss of trade union recognition.
 
The discontinuation of the policy of using Contract Labour in the Public Service, Teaching Service, and State Sector generally as this results in job insecurity, and inferior terms and condition of employment, and has been demonstrated to result in avenues for corruption. In industry, health and safety are also seriously compromised.
 
The immediate discontinuation of plans for the integration of the Cipriani College of Labour and Cooperatives with the University of Trinidad and Tobago
 
Constitution Reform and Local Government Reform
 
The working document on Constitutional Reform MUST be withdrawn.
 
The Ryan/La Guerre report on the public consultations conducted MUST be made public.
 
Local Government reform to give more power to local government to avoid more centralised power
 
There be set up a proper, transparent process for constitutional reform by establishing a Civil Society Oversight Committee and a Secretariat for informing citizens about the Constitution, collating viewpoints and proposals and putting them in the public domain for debate, and ultimate approval by referendum.
 
Possible reform for the constitution
 
Term limits
 
Fixed elections
 
Civil Society Senate
 
Referendum
 
Right of recall
 
Must address the relationship between Tobago and Trinidad
 
Transparency and Accountability
 
Forensic Audits based on the evidence of the Uff Enquiry and in UDeCoTT, in particular, and also at Petrotrin (billion dollar cost over-runs on refinery upgrade projects), Estate Management Development Company (EMDC), University of T&T (UTT) ought to be carried out as soon as possible. The outcomes of these audits including the T&TEC Street Lighting Implementation Union (SLIU) audit ought to be made public in keeping with our demand for maximum transparency and accountability
 
Investigation into Criminal Wrongdoing
 
That investigation into any possible criminal wrong doing based on the evidence given to the Uff Enquiry, be expedited by the Police and/or DPP. Similar investigations to be initiated following forensic audits re: UDeCoTT, Petrotrin, T&TEC, EMDC, UTT.
 
Good Governance
 
The White Paper on Public Procurement must be made law/implemented with immediate effect; the Anti-Corruption Laws must be urgently updated and must provide for whistle blowers to give evidence of wrong-doing.
 
Food Sovereignty
 
A new consciousness by the government to be reflected in the development, through a participatory process of a clear and articulate vision for farmers, farming and the administration.
 
A new farmer friendly incentive programme developed with the participation of the farming industry stakeholders
 
An immediate halt to the destruction of agricultural land and projects.
 
Immediate honoring of the Ministry of Agriculture’s own “Cost of dairy production survey” of 2006, plus inflation factors since then.
 
A comprehensive developmental plan for all sectors.
 
A farmers’ voice in the Senate (this in the context of our proposed process of constitutional reform).
 
Dialogue between cane farmers and the administration to develop an appropriate exit strategy articulated by the European Union:
 
Compensation for cane farmers;
 
Socio-support measures and;
 
A pending environmental impact assessment of the closure of sugar industry.
 
The development and implementation of a national land use policy through consensus with all stakeholders including all the lands formerly of Caroni (1975) Limited. Also lands of Petrotrin,Trento,Tritopec etc.
 
The immediate stop to the environmental destruction of the mangrove, hatchery beds and wetlands
 
An immediate review of the compensation plan for flooding and naturals disasters and notifiable diseases.
 
A comprehensive system of insurance for food producers.
 
A proper policy for ensuring adequate levels and skills of labour for the agricultural sector, including a “Farm School”, so that (young) persons who are either unemployed or employed in less fulfilling jobs could enter into food production.
 
The immediate establishment of the Fair Prices Commission so that price gouging could be identified and consumers could benefit from fair prices of food and other essentials.
  
Old Age Pensions and the Elderly 
 
 
The immediate reinstatement of the Old Age Pension Act. Pensions must be an entitlement and not a grant.
 
Harmanonization of NIB and Pensions.
 
All pensions should be indexed in line with inflation. And the OAP should be increased to a level that would allow the elderly to enjoy a decent quality of life.
 
All Public and Private Buildings should have available toilet facilities etc for the elderly in keeping with the law.
 
That there be established Community facilities for the Elderly
 
That special provision be made for the delivery of government and public services to all Senior Citizens, including such things as the renewal of passports, renewal of NIS status etc.
 
 
The Differently Abled
 
The adoption and implementation of a national policy on persons who are differently abled, which policies would ensure equal opportunities with respect to education and jobs. This policy must be based on the principle – “Nothing about us without us”.
 
That all public buildings and private buildings in which the public is required to visit, be required by law to enable easy access by persons who are differently abled. And that all such buildings also have available appropriate washroom facilities. That there should be proper access to street and highway crossings and walkovers and to public transport.
 
That special provision be made for the delivery of government and public services to the differently-abled, including such things as the renewal of passports.
 
Zero rated interest on loans/mortgages for housing to facilitate acquisitions of homes
 
Youth
  
The implementation of National Youth Policy (NYP) - adopted in 1999 - in an integrated manner, and not piecemeal as is the case.
 
The restructuring of the Project Implementation Unit for the NYP, so that it is driven by the youth and in their interests.
 
That 2011 be declared the Year of National Youth Development with programmes being implemented to facilitate Youth participation in all aspects of national development
 
 
Women
 
A participatory process to arrive at an appropriate national gender policy using at the starting point, the 2004 Gender Policy.
 
Ensure that state programmes do not exploit single mothers
 
Children
 
Labour inspectorate to ensure that Business do not utilise child labour
 
Strengthening of children’s Authority
 
Stiffer penalties for crimes against children
 
Establish safe homes for children who are being physically and sexually abused
 
Health
 
The immediate appointment by the Minister of Health of members of the Medical Board to the Council of the Board.
 
A larger percentage of GDP to be spent on health care. We currently spend 5% (total of both public and private) while it should be at least 8%.
 
Priority for primary health care with the percentage of the health budget for primary care being increased to the international best practice of 30%.
 
Establishing “Centers of Excellence”- for specialty areas e.g. Neurosurgery etc..
 
Improve Human Resource Management by having a single human resource management unit.
 
Pharmaceutical procurement policy to ensure that CDAP drugs are effective.
 
Established guidelines of Procurement and Accountability - as per the White Paper on public procurement.
 
Establishment of a Proper Burns Unit at the San Fernando Hospital.
 
Education
 
A participatory process involving all stakeholders to develop the education policies of the country and in particular the involvement of teachers in the plans and programme of the Ministry of Education
 
The system of education must be changed with the involvement of all the stakeholders to be of relevance to the society and must include the history of the mass movement and the role of labour and its leaders to our development thus far.
 
The recruitment of teachers to be done by the independent Teaching Service Commission and not a government agency that is subject to political manipulation.
 
The end of contract labour in the teaching service.
 
A participatory process to develop a comprehensive policy on indiscipline and violence in schools.
 
That there be no unilateral attempt to establish a system of licensing of teachers.
 
Proper security of all schools especially primary schools
 
Increased financial allocation to primary schools and greater priority to the primary school system
 
The introduction of a modern Mentoring & Apprenticeship Programme in all state enterprises in the first instance and offer incentives for other enterprise to do similar programmes
 
Culture
 
Minimum 50% quota for local programming and content on TV and Radio
 
Release for public comment on the Draft National Cultural Policy which will regulate the cultural sector, creating protocols for relationships between the Ministry and representative groups, policy for arts institution and funding for the sector amongst other things
 
The proper resourcing of Trinidad and Tobago Film Company and the TT entertainment Company by the tripling of their budgets
 
Repeal the colonial Theatre and Dancehall Act which has been invoked to censor artists in the recent past
 
3-5% of all corporate building budgets should go toward ‘corporate art’ on construction. 10% of that should go towards the creation of open-air art adjacent to or on the premises of the building or in the surrounding community
 
A percentage of National Lottery money should go towards a transparent grant scheme administered by a properly constituted Foundation for Arts.
 
Removal of work-permit requirements for artist movements between CARICOM Islands
 
The Activation of ‘the National Trust’ whereby certain people, places and things are declared national treasures and protected as such
 
Ratification of the UNESCO Convention on the Promotion and Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005) and the Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH)
 
The Steelband Movement
 
Set up a National Steelband Factory/Institute using the expertise at UTT’s Advanced Pan Tuning Programme (Manufacturing); UWI Engineering (Research)
 
Ensure all bands have security of tenure for their Panyards and to encourage economic activities at the Yards
 
The original legislation, Act #19 of 1999, should be re-instated and the following should be done immediately:
 
Restore the Board of Directors to administer the affairs of the orchestra
 
Develop a facility to be a permanent home for the orchestra
 
Introduce an apprenticeship system to expose a younger cadre of players to the standards of the TTNSSO
 
Drum Manufacturing facility to produce consistently high quality drums for the instruments
 
Chrome facility to produce high quality work on the instruments
 
Access and exposure to on-going scientific research on pan, metals, etc
 
Upgrade of tuning facilities of present cadre of tuners and pan builders
 
 
 
Rudy Indarsingh
President
All Trinidad General Workers’ Union
Vincent Cabrera
President
Banking, Insurance and General Workers’ Union 
 
Joseph Remy
President
Communication Workers’ Union
 
Edison Monroe
President
Estate Police Association
 
David Abdulah 
President
Federation of Independent Trade Unions & NGOs 
 
Charles Ramroop
President
Fire Service Association
 
Dr. Colin Furlonge
President
Medical Professionals’ Association of Trinidad and Tobago
 
Ancel Roget
President General
Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union 
 
Watson Duke
President 
Public Service Association
Rajkumar Ramroop 
President
Prison Officers Association
 
Roland Sutherland
President
Transport and Industrial Workers’ Union
Reginald Crichlow
General Secretary
Trinidad and Tobago Postal Workers’ Union
 
 
Rouston Job
President
Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association
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