One month the delivering a letter to the Finance Minister in which they requested priority focus be placed on the settlement of outstanding salary negotiations to all public servants, the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) today delivered a “gentle reminder” to Colm Imbert that 2020 may not begin as smoothly as the government is anticipating.
Addressing reporters as he exited the Ministry of Finance, Port-of-Spain around 10.45 am after delivering the letter, JTUM leader Ancel Roget described Imbert’s silence as a mark of disrespect to the hard-working employees who ensure the wheels of governance keep turning.
The JTUM leader said, “Our purpose here this morning is to communicate to the Minister of Finance that we sent to him, on November 21st, a document detailing all of the outstanding negotiations that come under the umbrella of the JTUM.”
Roget claimed this represented, “Approximately 40 negotiations for different periods of collective bargaining dating to as far back as 2005 to present.”
He said in some cases, there were consecutive collective bargaining periods that were yet to be settled.
Stressing that JTUM had been forced to turn up this morning to follow through on its’ original correspondence, Roget said, “From then to now, we have had no acknowledgement or response to such a very important and crucial document.”
Surrounded by the leaders from several of JTUM’s members, Roget explained, “This represents a debt that is owed to all of those workers who are represented by various trade unions, for different periods of collective bargaining.”
“We feel it is a gross insult to the workers that continue to work steadfastly from then to now and have had to endure all of the vagaries such as cost of living and inflation, and still continue to produce.”
Unwilling to reveal if Imbert had been given a deadline by which to respond, Roget hinted that if he failed to respond in a timely manner, next year would not be without some surprises of its’ own.
Declining to say more, he likened the response to Government’s recent surprise regarding the changing over the old $100 bills to the new polymer bills.
He said, “I think this Government likes to implement the element of surprise and one such element of surprise is what they sprung on the population right as we speak. People are going through the hardship of having to line up in the sun and rain to change out their own money and we want to afford ourselves the same opportunity for the element of surprise.”
Roget commiserated with the thousands of banking employees who had been placed under severe strain and hardship with this change-over as he said their physical, health and mental well-being was in jeopardy because of the longer hours in unhealthy and unsafe environments.
He questioned where were the “elitist” crowds lining up to change their money as he said, “They have the most amount of money to change but you don’t see them having to bear that pressure.”
He said JTUM had decided on giving the minister a bit of a gentle reminder that discussions needed to be had as it related to outstanding negotiations which need to be settled within the shortest possible time.
Roget said it was time that discussions with the relevant government officials as to how and when this debt is going to be discharged.
He said, “A debt is a debt and ought to be repaid.”
“It is a gross disrespect to owe workers and not discuss how you are going to pay this debt.”
Among the unions that turned up today was the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association; the Aviation, Communication and Allied Workers Union; the T&T Registered Nurses Association; the Postal Workers Union; the Communication Workers Union; the Sanitation and Industrial Workers Union; the Amalgamated Workers Union; the Banking Insurance and General Workers Union; the Goat and Sheep Farmers Union; and the Oilfield Workers Trade Union.
Roget concluded, “All workers must be treated fairly and justly. We are not asking for anything that we don’t deserve or did not work for, we are asking for what is ours and for workers in this country to be treated with the requisite level of respect and dignity.”
Story by ANNA-LISA PAUL