Natuc president general James Lambert at a media briefing in May. At his left is Natuc general secretary Michael Annisette. – File photo
National Trade Union Centre (Natuc) president James Lambert has said the union will not return to the National Tripartite Advisory Council (NTAC) unless the government outlines a process for the arrangement.
He was responding on Saturday to Labour Minister Stephen Mc Clashie’s call for the trade union movement to rejoin the NTAC.
In his Labour Day message on Friday, headlined – It is imperative that the trade unions return to the NTAC, Mc Clashie commended the trade union movement for its unwavering commitment in championing the rights of workers in Trinidad and Tobago over the years.
However, he said the country would only progress towards decent work by “a collective effort comprised of labour, business and government representatives, the very basis of social dialogue and tripartism.”
Mc Clashie urged unions to avoid operating in silos or avoid dialogue just because it might be hard to find a middle ground.
He said the NTAC mirrors the work of the International Labour Organisation by providing a forum for members of a tripartite body to advance workers interests.
But speaking briefly to Sunday Newsday, Lambert said, “We will not be going back until the conditionalities are put down.”
Lambert, who is also the leader of the National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW), said he has received correspondence asking for Natuc to return to the NTAC.
“But we have been there for four years and nothing was done for labour. We put forward our proposals and they made promises but they never did anything. So we will not be going back just based on that request.”
Natuc general secretary Michael Annisette said the labour movement pulled out of the NTAC on principle.
“We have not seen any improvement. There has to be a fundamental change and an understanding of what the committee is all about.”
He added, “We cannot be in something just for PR. Labour issues do not get the prominence it is supposed to get. So we have deep concerns over the authenticity of the committee and it having the freedom and flexibility to address issues.”
Annisette, who is also the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union president general, said labour, government and business are “critical constituents” in pushing the economy forward.
“So it cannot be a talk shop. We have to make the difference that is necessary.”
Lambert and Annisette are expected to address today’s Labour Day rally at the Scarborough Esplanade, Tobago.
In April 2021, Natuc, Joint Trade Union Movement and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions claimed the NTAC was dead.
They withdrew, saying their participation in it was sacrilegious to the objectives of the labour movement.
The groups said, then, the NTAC was conceptualised as a tripartite process.
“We wish to state that tripartism is a process of social dialogue that has been institutionalised by the International Labour Organisation( ILO) as one that is constituted between the three main social partners within the economy… government, business and labour,” the unions had said.
On that occasion, the groups also noted that the ILO had described tripartism as “the interaction of government, employers and workers (through their representatives) as equal and independent partners to seek solutions to issues of common concern.”
They said that with labour no longer being part of NTAC, “there is no basis for the government to claim that NTAC is still functional.” NTAC also includes the private sector.