“The Minister is just being politically correct.”
That was the response of the Communications Workers’ Union, Secretary-General Clyde Elder to the Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales’s adamant claim in the House of Representatives on Friday last.
Minister Gonzales, in response to Couva South Member of Parliament(MP), Rudranath Indarsingh’s question that was posed to him asking if 455 workers stood to lose their jobs in the Caribbean Workers’ Union bargaining unit said: “The government of Trinidad and Tobago has stated its position that it is not privy to the ongoing discussions between TSTT’s management and the representative union. So, I cannot confirm the information that is being put forward by Couva South,” Gonzales said.
In a follow-up question, Indarsingh reiterated his question: “So, Minister are you telling this house that given the majority shareholding that the government has in TSTT that as the line minister you have not been privy to the discussions that are going on between the Communications Workers’ Union and the management of TSTT?” Indarsingh asked.
Minister Gonzales once again denied the government’s involvement by stating that both the union and TSTT’s management are governed by a collective bargaining arrangement that does not allow for the government’s involvement. He stated: “Therefore we will comply with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. That is as simple as that.”
However, when PSA Media contacted Elder on the matter he said that the Minister is simply stating what needs to be said, but the truth is the government sets policy and therefore it will be the government’s policy that the management at TSTT will be working with. He further stated if the management at TSTT began doing whatsoever they wanted then they would be fired and replaced by others who were doing what they were told. He pointed out that, “In other words, the government is always behind the scenes.”
Elder confirmed with PSA Media that it was 455 workers from the Communications Workers’ Union’s bargaining unit that was set to lose their jobs if the government decided to go along with their restructuring plans, but added: “It will be about 600 workers in total.” He said the others came from the Estate police Association and some Managers that they heard will also be targeted.
However, Elder also cautioned that the matter is not simply a TSTT matter since the government has also put their aim at the Water and Sewage Authority(WASA), the Port of Port-of-Spain which they are set to privatize. He said the first target was Petrotrin and that has been completed.
He noted that the government seems intent on destroying all large unionized workforces in the country where trade unions have fought for the benefits of workers.