Union head: Government in war against workers

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

President general of the Contractors and General Workers Trade Union, Ermine De Bique-Meade. – File photo

CONTRACTORS and General Workers Trade Union (CGWTU) president-general Ermine De Bique-Meade says Government is on the warpath against workers. She made this statement at Harris Promenade, San Fernando at the end of a May Day march through the southern city on May 1.

De Bique-Meade told trade union members that workers have been under attack by Government over the last nine years.

“The Government is on the warpath against the working class. We in the trade union movement we are ready for that war.”

She urged all workers and their respective trade unions to be resolute in resisting any attacks by government against them.

De Bique-Meade warned that if workers and trade unions are divided in this struggle, gains that have been won by the labour movement for workers could be rolled back.

She also warned that if workers and trade unions are divided, they could easily be exploited by employers and outdated legislation which may not protect their interests.

She asked the assembled workers, “Are we going to allow the Government to roll back?”

The crowd shouted, “No!”

De Bique-Meade said the labour movement was more than ready for the war that is to come.

“History and justice are on our side.”

De Bique-Meade highlighted some recent successes of the labour movement.

One of them was the Court of Appeal recognising the Aviation, Communication and Allied Workers Union (ACAWU) as the recognised majority union to represent employees at state-owned Caribbean Airlines (CAL). ACAWU previously represented workers at CAL’s predecessor BWIA which ended operations in January 2007.

De Bique-Meade said between May 1 and June 19 (Labour Day), the labour movement will be seeking to have several matters addressed by the relevant authorities.

These include settlement of outstanding wages, amending the Industrial Relations Act to allow workers to join a trade union of their choice and amending relevant legislation to allow for paternity leave for fathers of young children.

On the latter, De Bique-Meade told the crowd, “Brothers, we have not forgotten you.”

Earlier in the day, Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) political leader David Abdulah and representatives of different trade unions highlighted areas of concerns for workers outside of Paramount Building, San Fernando.

Abdulah said, “We have to unite to fight and fight to win.”

He added that workers’ fight for their rights cannot only be in the courthouse. “It must be in the workplace. It must be on the streets.”

Abdulah said it cannot be a case of an elite minority benefitting from the country’s wealth while the rest of the population “is sucking salt.”

Fire Services Association (FSA) president Keone Guy called for some 280 auxiliary fire officers to be made permanent members of the Fire Service.

Guy also said the FSA continues to lobby on behalf of its members on a wide range of issues, including proper health and safety standards.

ACAWU general secretary Rudi Atwell welcomed the Court of Appeal’s decision that allows the union to represent CAL workers.

TTUTA president Martin Lum Kin said the union is non-partisan in its approach to all matters and does not align itself with any political party.