Unions, CPO continue talks on Monday

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

National Trade Union Centre general secretary Michael Annisette, centre, alongside trade union leaders during a media conference at the Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union head office in Barataria on June 8. – File photo by Sureash Cholai

TRADE unions and the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) Dr Darryl Dindial will meet next week to continue public sector wage negotiations.

On Saturday, National Trade Union Centre (Natuc) general secretary Michael Annisette said the National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW), Contractors and General Workers Union (C&GWU) and the Amalgamated Workers Union (AWU) will meet with the CPO on Monday at 1 pm. Annisette will be part of that delegation.

He said the unions will be looking at collective agreements over the last three years and a merger of cost of living allowance (COLA).

“The CPO unilaterally offers wage/salaries increases over an eight-year period. All the collective bargaining periods were always for three years.

Annisette said, “Changes to the period must be agreed to between parties to the collective agreement.

The CPO, he continued, stated that the consolidation of COLA to salaries and wages before any wage increase then the application of a new COLA will no longer apply.

“He proposed instead that there will be increases on the existing COLA only.”

Annisette reiterated that the previous offer of a two per cent increase from the CPO is unworkables.

He said this offer over an eight year period cannot deal with economic, financial and social realities over that period.

“We are prepared to struggle until better sense prevail and the Economic financial and social realities that workers are facing are meaningfully addressed at the negotiations table.”

In a statement on May 12, the Public Services Association (PSA) said it had received an offer of zero-zero-zero-zero-one for salary increases for public officers for January 2014-January 2018. The CPO also offered zero-zero-one for salary increases from January 1, 2019-January 1, 2021

The offer was a two per cent salary increase for hourly-, daily- and weekly-rated workers of the Central Government, the Tobago House of Assembly and municipal corporations over an eight-year period spanning 2014 and 2021.

PSA president Leroy Baptiste said the union is due to meet with the CPO on June 21. But he added that meeting could be brought forward.

Contacted on Saturday, Dindial said, “Another offer will be forthcoming on Monday.” He added this was indicated to the TT Police Service Social and Welfare Association during a meeting on .June 10.

“I also indicated to them that any offer will result in significant sums being borrowed to settle any potential agreement and the State must continue to exercise responsible leadership with regard to what can be sustained going forward.”

The covid19 pandemic and ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine has created great uncertainty that may have further economic impacts worldwide.

Against this background, Dindial said one of the Government’s primary objectives remains the preservation of jobs. “Notwithstanding the current circumstances there was a commitment to improve the earning capacity of workers with whatever little resources may be available.”

When he presented the Mid-Year Review in the House of Representatives on May 16, Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced that TT achieved a surplus of $1.98 billion at the end of April instead of a deficit of $5.7 billion

He said some of his additional revenue could be used to play increased wages for public servants, once agreement is achieved between the CPO and the respective trade unions.

Speaking in the Senate on May 22, Imbert rejected Opposition claims that Government unilaterally changed collective bargaining periods which are currently being discussed between the CPO and trade unions.

Section 41 (1) of the Industrial Relations Act states that a collective agreement shall be for a minimum of period of three years and can be for a maximum period of five years.

“Therefore there is no unilateral change to anything. This is entirely within the law.” Government will not negotiate collective bargaining agreements in public.