“The Curse of the Authority”.

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The creation of an Authority at the workplace has often spelled trouble for workers. 

That is the way the Public Services Association, First Vice President, Felisha Thomas said she saw the Government’s continued creation of these entities that are designed to keep workers without any representation at the workplace. 

Speaking on the Trinidad and Tobago Revenue Authority(TTRA) bill presently before the Senate today, and the non-existence of any clauses that allowed workers to carry across their union representation, Thomas pointed out, “The intent behind the formation of these Authorities that are being created, is to remove union representation from workers.” She said that the Government takes pleasure in contractual work as it is dangled over the workers’ heads to force them into submission.

Thomas mentioned the Regional Health Authorities (RHA) as examples of how this transformation has affected workers’ representation. She said, “When the Regional Health Authorities came into existence, in and around 2003/2004, they used the same narrative of demonizing the workers, claiming that the current systems were incapable of meeting the needs of the population and pushing these Authorities as the solution to all problems. However, the PSA’s First Vice President questioned the difference that the Regional Health Authorities have made in the healthcare system saying she thinks it may have even gotten worse, that being no fault of the hard-working dedicated employees.

Although Thomas noted that under the Revenue Authority(TTRA) bill there was no provision made for union representation, she said it was a little different under the RHAs. In that version, transferred workers were allowed to continue having union representation but workers hired under the RHA were not allowed to fall into the bargaining unit and therefore they were without union representation. That battle is being fought in the Court.

As stated by Thomas, “Those Authorities are a way for the Government to remove union representation and offer workers less.” She said that health care workers are suffering. “They are underpaid and 90 percent of the workers in the healthcare system are on contract, retiring without a pension and they will do the same in the Revenue Authority.”

The First Vice-President stated that without union representation workers will lose all of their benefits. She said that without a union there is total chaos in the workplace. Thomas explained that unions are the countervailing force, that will stand up on workers’ behalf making it difficult for employers to abuse them. Asked about her view of the Government, First Vice President called them “EVIL”.

On Monday, PSA President, Watson Duke spoke with workers at the Board of Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise Division in a Zoom meeting. President Duke pointed out that unlike the other attempts at the Revenue Authority bill, the Government on this occasion did not seek any type of consultation with the PSA, which was the legal body representing the interest of workers. 

Today the debate entitled: “An Act to establish the Trinidad and Tobago Revenue Authority” continues in the Senate.