President: Unions should fulfil duty to country

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PRESIDENT Paula-Mae Weekes said trade unions are intrinsic to navigating the “new normal” as the economy reopens in a covid19 era. In her Labour Day address, sent via a press release on Thursday, she called on labour leaders to improve on the proud legacy of the architects of the labour movement by working not only to protect and promote members’ rights, but ensure they fulfil their duty to country.

Weekes said there will be no business as usual for the country for some time to come following the disruption on workers’ lives and livelihoods due to the covid19 pandemic. She said the architects of the labour movement fought for fair wages, better working and living conditions, and security of tenure.

She said the hard-fought tradition of trade unionism must keep pace with the current and evolving realities facing this nation at this time, and work towards equipping, supporting and guiding members to make the changes necessary to weather present and future storms.

She said while there are legitimate grievances to be settled, an adversarial approach must give way to collaboration and compromise. She said these adjustments must be made by all stakeholders even as the TT Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) and the Ministry of Education seek to come to an agreement regarding the Secondary Entrance Assessment and the TT Registered Nurses Association (TTRNA) lobbies for outstanding remuneration.

Weekes said workers, unions, government and other employers must heed the imperative of modernisation and seek to upgrade and transform their operations.

“Archaic and regimented systems cannot obtain in this new paradigm and institutions must embrace technology and become more accommodating in their employment patterns. During the pandemic, we witnessed many workplaces making use of Zoom and other platforms to facilitate working remotely or offer their services electronically. Others turned to diversifying their activities, manufacturing essential products such as hand sanitisers and masks.

She said while TT has done well in flattening the curve, businesses and institutions will do well to unite and develop strategies to manage the way ahead, each one learning from the other.

“As we emerge from this period of shut-in, let us resolve to work together, make sacrifices where necessary and support local initiatives. There are many people still experiencing severe hardship who require urgent assistance to stay afloat. Throughout the pandemic, I was heartened to see the generosity and compassion shown by local organisations and individuals to those in need. I urge Trinbagonians to continue their well-doing and in keeping with the spirit of Labour Day, be our brother’s keeper. In the immortal words of the late Pat Bishop, “Until all have crossed, none have crossed and some we have to carry.”

The President saluted all workers, from those who are at the frontlines of the crisis to those who contributed to the cause by simply staying at home. She wished all citizens a safe, happy and healthy Labour Day.

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