Indarsingh: Pay port workers their 12%

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Rudranath Indarsingh –

COUVA South MP Rudranath Indarsingh is calling on the State to honour the memorandum of understanding (MOU) and agreement reached between disenchanted Port Authority workers and management on increased wages.

Accusing the government of political interference in the process and an attempt to “hijack” the negotiations between workers and its union, Indarsingh also called for this practice to cease.

In a statement on Thursday, he expressed grave concern about remarks attributed to Port chairman Lyle Alexander that the hands of the port’s management is tied, as it pertains to the honouring of negotiations.

Over 1,000 port workers demonstrated in Port of Spain last week, in protest over the reneging on an agreement for a 12 per cent increase in salaries for 2014-2017, and an offer instead a 0-0-2 per cent for the same period.

Michael Annisette, president general of the representing Seamen and Waterfront Workers’ Trade Union (SWWTU), has given the port seven days to deal with the issue.

Contacted on Thursday, Annisette was unable to speak, as he said he was on a flight out of Guyana.

Commenting on the protest, which caused standstill traffic for hours as vehicles waiting to get on the Cabo Star sailing lined Wrightson Road, blocking other traffic, and causing a disruption in cargo activity, Indarsingh said it was a poignant reminder of the impact of industrial disruption by port staff.

“It is instructive to note that the management of the Port and the majority union representing the workers, the SWWTU, signed an MOU and agreement that paves the way for port workers to receive an increase of 12 per cent for the period 2014-2017.

He said the two per cent offer by the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) was “a slap in the face of all port workers and all TT workers.

“This move by the CPO reeks of political interference and undermines the collective bargaining process entered into by the workers and the management of the Port Authority.”

He said a feature of proper industrial environments is that management and workers are allowed to negotiate without interference from central government or other agencies etxernal to the company.

What is happening now, he said, is reminiscent of 2021, “when the Minister of Finance interfered with negotiations between the management of the National Insurance Board (NIB) and the recognised majority union, the Public Service Association (PSA), for the 2014-2016 bargaining period.

“The high hand of the Finance Minister upended any wage negotiations between the board and the workers.

“It seems as though history is repeating itself yet again. It seems as though the Rowley-led Cabinet is seeking to hijack the collective bargaining process by abusing the office of the CPO.

“I am calling on the State to honour the MOU and agreement reached between the workers and the management of the Port Authority, and for the minister to stop interfering in the collective bargaining process.”