Trade unions have called on all public servants to prepare to send a strong message to the government by shutting down the public sector in the coming days, in rejection of its counterproposal for 2014-2021 salary increases.
The Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) Dr Daryl Dindial, in his counterproposal to trade unions, offered no increase for the period 2014-2017, one per cent for 2018, no further increase for the period 2019-2020, and one per cent for the 2021 negotiating period. That amounts to a two per cent increase over eight years.
The offer was made to hourly, daily and weekly rated workers of central government, the Tobago House of Assembly and Municipal Corporation employees.
Emotions ran high among union leaders and their members at an emergency press conference hosted by the National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW) on Friday afternoon as they addressed what they described as an insult to the working class.
The briefing was attended by National Trade Union Centre (Natuc) general secretary Michael Annisette, president general of the Amalgamated Workers Union Michael Prentice, Contractors and General Workers Union general secretary Ermine Debique and Transport and General Workers Union president Judy Charles.
The unions said they were hopeful that after Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced the government’s decision to use some of its $1.98 billion revenue surplus to pay public-sector wage increases, workers would have been given a fair share.
But Thursday’s offer left unions speechless as NUGFW president general James Lambert said that was the first time in history “such a disrespectful, shameful and hogwash proposal has ever been made.”
Lambert told his members the CPO’s proposal was made to provoke unions and public servants into rebellion.
“Who has an ear to hear must hear and who have eyes to see must see. Today isn’t about the political party, it’s about the livelihood of our children. The time has come for us to shut down the country.
“That will be the only way we would make the government realise and bring them to their senses that enough is enough.
“He’s boasting he raised gas and they didn’t riot. We are worse off and you expect us to work with smiling faces?”
The unions were planning to meet on Friday afternoon discuss their next step.
“This is dictatorship! In eight years you have given us zero for six. The government of the day should be ashamed of themselves. You boasted of the windfall and the monies generated from the energy sector.
The unions bashed government for the take-it-or-leave-it negotiations and collective bargaining approach
“Could you imagine the people who have sacrificed during the pandemic – nurses, doctors, policemen – have left their family home to come out to ensure the country functions. And now you give them zero, zero, zero. What about those how have retired?”
He explained the unions were expecting a fairer offer especially after they offered to forego some allowances in their own initial proposals.
Across the country, union leaders expressed their disgust on that matter throughout the day.
While NUGFW met to condemn the government’s offer, Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union president general Ancel Roget touched on the matter during a press conference hosted by the union.
“The most important bills they have to pay is to the workers. Zero, zero, zero is not an offer, we are not going to accept that,” Roget said.
Simultaneously, nurses at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, marched through the compound during a small protest against the wage-increase offer.
Idi Stuart president of the TT Registered Nurses Association, told Newsday the protest was not led by him and was an impromptu move by the hospital staff.
Nurses at the San Fernando General Hospital are also expected to protest on Saturday.
“This offer isn’t for us. The offer to nurses is far worse. They have zero on the table because they are under the regional health authority and the CPO isn’t responsible for RHA workers.”
However, he said his union would stand in solidarity with other unions to reject the proposal.
“We need to negotiate with CEO of the RHA but Imbert has not given the instructions for CEO to begin negotiations.”
He said the union was giving the CEO until June 19 until it takes action. He said it would be fighting side by side with members of the Joint Trade Union Movement.
TT Unified Teachers Association vice president Marlon Seales said the general council would discuss the matter when members meet on Monday. TTUTA is also prepared to send a message to government.
Police Social and Welfare Association president Gideon Dickson said while police stand in solidarity with unions to reject the offer, they will not neglect their duties to express their frustration.
“The general members will send a response appropriately to the CPO no later than June 10. The public must appreciate we are law enforcers and we must enforce the law. It was very unfortunate what was offered to police, especially what we have endured over the past years. That offer is disrespectful.”
Public Services Association president Leroy Baptiste said, government had clearly declared war on public officers, calling the offer “a complete disrespect.
“And really, you could not add a greater insult to public officers than what had been meted out to them now. We will fight for workers to have fair treatment.”
Calls and messages to Dindial for a response went unanswered.
Attempts to reach Minister in the Ministry of Finance Brian Manning were also unsuccessful.