Trinidad and Tobago is at the back of the class when it comes to expeditious procedures for union recognition says Phillip Jennings, General
Secretary of UNI Global Union. This damning statement was made by the international union official at a media conference held on 4th July at the Communication Workers Union, Henry Street in Port of Spain. UNI Global Union has 950 affiliate unions representing 20 million workers in 150 countries.
Jennings argued that while there may be a need for social dialogue, it must involve workers being able to organise and negotiate. He blasted T&T’s recognition procedures as long and drawn out and described it as a carnival for lawyers who are paid by the hour and whose interests have nothing to do with constructive labour relations. He strongly criticised the Royal Bank of Canada for drawing out the recognition process over several years.
Jennings said that UNI represented a new generation of workers; the new economy of telecoms, IT, media, broadband. He claimed that the sectors UNI represents are as important as oil and natural gas in T&T. He argued that there was a dog eat dog atmosphere in the marketplace and called for adequate investment in the sectors identified, the lack of which would handicap national economic development in the Caribbean.
Short term competitive pressures, he stated, are handicapping long term thinking. Ideas of future investment get put in the waiting room and other options are chosen like suppression of labour costs and degradation in the work environment.
Jennings said there was a troubled world economy for which workers are not responsible. The world financial crisis has fallen heavily on the backs of working people. The crash in 2008 was brought about by a banking system that was out of control fuelled by greed. The financial crisis became an economic crisis and now a social crisis. He called for a change in culture in the financial sector in Wall Street, in the City of London and in T&T
He lamented the widespread nature of youth unemployment and described the contemporary period as an age of savage capitalism. Unions, he said, must do more to attract young people.
Jennings who was on a tour of UNI’s Caribbean affiliates was a guest of UNI’s Caribbean Support Center in T&T, the co-ordinator of the Center is Joanne de Freitas, the indefatigable union activist who is no stranger to the National Workers Union.
He was accompanied by representatives of the Barbados Workers Union, Guyana Post and Telecommunication Union, the University and Allied Workers Union of Jamaica, the Antigua Workers Union and the Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union.
Local affiliates of UNI are the Banking Insurance and General Workers Union, the Communications Workers Union and the Postal Workers Union.
See video of Philip Jennings here