Friday, December 21, 2012

Letter: Worker-friendly PP government settles 40 IR matters

The Industrial Relations environment on May 24, 2010 was cluttered by several Industrial Relations Agreements which were unresolved. In other words, the former PNM administration bequeathed to the PP Government an Industrial Relations inheritance that can best be described as unhealthy. 

Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar in her wisdom had invited the venerable Labour Leader Errol MCleod to contest the Pointe-a-Pierre Seat and subsequently made him Minister of Labour. I heard on the news that over the last 30 months forty IR matters left unresolved by the PNM have been settled during the term of this government including the very testing PSA, Police and TTUTA salary negotiations.

This is a remarkable achievement for this government and for that matter for any government and demonstrates that the Prime Minister knows what the priorities of the government should be. 

This achievement flies in the face of the accusations by Ancil Roget and company that the Government does not care for workers. Roget and the OWTU will do good to tell the country what is the status of those workers who are still on the breadline after the TCL strike and further how many will lose their jobs.

For those who have been saying that the Peoples Partnership Government is anti- worker and anti-trade union, this track record in a mere 30 months should be noted. 

It ought to also be recalled that many of these matters were for periods before May 24 2010. Further, let it also be recalled that the former administration had offered increases from 0% to 1% which were deemed insulting to the working class. 

The People's Partnership allowed the free collective bargaining process to take place resulting in agreements of up to nine per cent, which when other benefits are added will be even greater than nine per cent.

This government came into office with the support of most of the labour unions. The government is not unaware of this support of the working class and understands its responsibility to the working class, though some may wish to create other perceptions. 

In this light, it is very unfortunate that David Abdullah took the position of being an antagonist against the government rather than using his knowledge to effect even greater changes from within which would redound to the benefit of the working class. McLeod seems to understand his role in government as bringing balance between the several stakeholders whose contributions affect the state of the economy and must be congratulated for his contributions to these wage and salary settlements/agreements.

While the workers may not have gotten the percentages they desired, they must appreciate that a government has to look carefully at its ability to pay and to sustain such payments over the medium term and at least for the three years of the agreement. 

The government also has to be careful that in the settling of wage and salary negotiations in the public sector that it does so in a manner and at a level which is in keeping with the state of the economy and also in keeping with what the private sector can also afford. 

It must keep all of this in mind because it also has to ensure that workers are not retrenched in both the private and public sector as a result of both government and the industrialists being unable to maintain the level of wages. It is a formidable balancing act. It also requires patience and dialogue as well as compromise. That all of these factors (including the appreciation of government’s position by the trade unions) played out in the interest of the nation must be highly commended.
The PP government has been knocked for all sorts of things, sometimes very unfairly. Here is an opportunity to praise and congratulate the government for a major success, industrial peace which is the forerunner to productivity and economic progress. 

The settlement of these agreements also involved two Finance Ministers, Winston Dookeran and Larrry Howai. Both must be congratulated for the leadership they gave alongside the Prime Minister and her Cabinet.

An important lesson should be learnt from these 40 settlements and it is this: the PP Government is people-centered and committed to improving the lot of the working class. 

In addition to the wage agreements the government continues to try to find ways to ease the cost of living. The removal of VAT, subsidized HDC homes, free travel for students in uniforms, fuel subsidies to keep transport cots lower, no new personal and corporate taxes since coming into Office on May 24, 2010 are but a few of the other actions of the government aimed at improving the overall quality of life.

Let us be generous in our praise for good governance, the kind that allows for stability of the economy and healthy industrial relations.

Chandra Harnanan | St John’s Road Via Cipero Road , San Fernando

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai