Finance Minister Colm Imbert. File photo/Ayanna Kinsale
FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert dismissed Opposition UNC allegations that Government unilaterally altered collective bargaining periods, which are currently the subject of negotiations between the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) and different trade unions.
Responding to a question in the House of Representatives on Monday, Imbert said these claims were based on a false premise “which is typical for members opposite.” He referred to Section 41 (1) of the Industrial Relations Act to support his argument.
That section, Imbert continued, “indicates that a collective agreement shall be for a minimum of period of three years and can be for a maximum period of five years.”
He declared, “Therefore there is no unilateral change to anything. This is entirely within the law.” Government will not negotiate collective bargaining agreements in public. Imbert added, “Certainly not with the Opposition.”
What has been publicly published is a counter-offer from the Government in response to a request from trade unions.
In a statement on May 12, the Public Services Association (PSA) said it had received an offer of zero-zero-zero-zero-one for salary increases for public officers for January 2014-January 2018. The CPO also offered zero-zero-one for salary increases from January 1, 2019-January 1, 2021
The offer was a two per cent salary increase for hourly-, daily- and weekly-rated workers of the Central Government, the Tobago House of Assembly and municipal corporations over an eight-year period spanning 2014 and 2021.
Imbert reiterated, “There is no unilateral anything.”
Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh asked for an assurance from Imbert that any agreement reached between trade unions and the CPO will not be investigated by him.
Speaker Brigdid Annisette-George told Indarsingh, “I rule that question out of order.”
Naparima MP Rodney Charles claimed Imbert is not legally required to negotiate with trade unions
He asked, “Do you not think it will be good industrial relations practice to engage them so that there is a consensus rather than a bitterness and an animosity?”
Imbert replied, “That is a typical attempt at misinformation. Typical UNC. I never said anything about not being legally required to engage anyone. That is just a falsehood.”
At a news conference on May 21, the Prime Minister noted the concerns expressed by some trade unions to the the CPO’s counter offer.
Dr Rowley said despite the frustration public servants may feel, he urged them to consider that there were no job cuts throughout the covid19 pandemic.
He added that while the government would have liked to satisfy the requests of the trade unions, it was careful to balance any wage increase with public debt.
“Clearly what has been offered has offended some people, but let’s have a quick look at what it is, because we did, from time to time, have to say to the population, particularly the public servants, given what the government has done and what the government is doing, try and not get derailed by wanting more from less.
“We have a little bit more now, and therefore a little bit more can provide a little bit more. Reason is required and patience is an essential ingredient.”