Head of the Fire Services Association Leo Ramkissoon. FILE PHOTO –
THE MAJORITY of members of the Fire Services Association who attended a virtual meeting over the weekend has reportedly told the union’s leadership to end its months of resistance and accept government’s four per cent wage offer.
However, association president Leo Ramkissoon says no final decision has been taken as yet.
The members’ apparent change of heart comes after the TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) became the latest arm of the public service to give in and accept Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) Dr Daryl Dindial’s four per cent offer.
Speaking last week after TTUTA’s capitulation, Ramkissoon said nothing had changed for the Fire Services Association. He said steps were being taken to fully apprise his membership of new developments with respect to a special tribunal treating with its resistance to the four per cent offer.
However, over the weekend, fire services association members attended a virtual meeting with the union’s executive where – Newsday was told – they were addressed by an attorney and then an economist, before being asked to vote for or against the offer.
Association sources said 56 per cent of the membership who attended the virtual meeting voted in favour of acceptance. Contacted for comment on Sunday, Ramkissoon confirmed no decision has been taken.
He said members are still discussing and deliberating “at this time” and the union was still awaiting the end of discussions before deciding whether or not to accept the four per cent.
If the Fire Services Association accepts, it would join the Amalgamated Workers Union (which represents PoS City Corporation workers), the TTPS, the TT Regiment, the Prison Officers Association and TTUTA as unions representing various public servants to take the four per cent, which covers two periods of negotiations: 2014-2017 and 2017-2020.
The Public Services Association (PSA) – which represents the largest body of public servants – is yet to accept the four per cent. PSA president Leroy Baptiste has denied social media claims that his union had conceded.
Baptiste said the PSA will have its day before the special tribunal on May 25, which should determine the union’s next course of action.
He opined that the special tribunal was forcing trade unions into a ten-year collective agreement which would take away their ability to collectively bargain from 2020 and beyond.
It was for this reason, he said, unions are eventually accepting the four per cent offer, and not because they believe it is a just and realistic one. He said unions do not want to be hamstrung by the tribunal’s ten-year collective agreement formula.
This explanation was also given by TTUTA president Martin Lum Kin as that union’s rationale behind the decision to accept last week.
Former PSA general secretary and general council delegate Oral Saunders said while he is not in favour of the four per cent, he is advising Baptiste to accept it and then negotiate for allowances.
“Presently, we are not in a position to fight because the union remains divided. I believe the PSA should take it now because unions have been outfoxed. This is a negotiation from since 2014 and the PSA especially would have wasted valuable time,” Saunders said.