Unions come in for licks

After walking out on the government’s negotiating team last week, the Trade Union Federation resumed talks on Thursday, with negotiations going into yesterday, Friday. Union representatives had last week walked out of the discussions after what they deemed “insulting” and “unacceptable” Government’s offer of a zero per cent increase and a one-off payment of EC$1000, in response to their request for a 5.5 and 6% increase over 2010-2013. Following an emergency meeting on Monday with Unions and public servants, which caused a disruption in schools here, the membership gave notice that they would settle for nothing less than a 16% increase. On Friday, whilst the Government’s negotiating team was meeting with the TUF, one union, the National Workers Union met with its members at the Castries City Hall, to apprise them of what had transpired so far. Following the meeting several workers seemed quite disgruntled at the fact that nothing concrete had been agreed to, with some commenting that things were tough, particularly with the introduction of VAT here on October 1. And while the Government has been taking the heat from the Unions lately the NWU was on the receiving end from one set of workers on Friday, particularly Government paid day care employees. They are claiming lack of adequate representation by the NWU and wanted out. Monica Wilson one of the day care workers of Mon Repos told the STAR that after Friday, she wants no part of the NWU. “Based on what came out of that meeting it seems like the NWU did not put anything on the table for day care workers. So I asked the question, what did they negotiate for us and he (Tyrone Maynard) said he is trying to get the janitors up. But I said they were supposed to negotiate for a reclassification of grade,” Wilson said breathlessly. According to her during the last negotiations it was agreed by the PS in the Ministry of Education that the workers would move from Grade 1 to Grade 3 with supervisors moving to grade five. “Because our salaries are so little an increase would not take us anywhere and that reclassification was not done,” she went on. “So right now I just want to leave the Union because they are accepting our money and not doing anything for us,” she added. A number of other day-care workers, janitors, cooks and attendants, all female, stormed the NWU office on Bourbon Street to air their grievances with NWU president Tyrone Maynard who sought to clarify the matter. But whilst some who were quite vociferous appeared calmer after meeting with the union head, a number of them still stated their interest in leaving the union. Tyrone Maynard told the Star later that they had been bargaining for the workers in the past with Victor Poyote during the first trianium negotiations seeking an increase for the workers in some cases from EC$700 to EC$900 with cooks moving from EC$500 to EC$900. He agreed with the workers that a critical point is a need for reclassification which had not been done. “Now I can understand how some of them feel. People are in economic pain, it’s tight for everybody in this country. Sad to say the politicians are not the ones that are feeling it the trade unions have to take all the pressure. But I am saying that as soon as we meet government most of these problems we will be in a position to resolve,” Maynard went on to say. He however disclosed that after going through the records Friday positive decision were made in the past. “But we never followed up. And I have to say to them that we would accept the blame. But now let us put our heads together and let’s move ahead.” With a meeting scheduled for Wednesday, many of the workers are still not optimistic, stating that they have suffered for too long. Kola Sandiford who has been working with the Mon Repos Day care now for more that seven years says that a take home pay of less that EC$1000 is not enough. “I went as far as furthering myself and getting training. I brought in my certificates to the Ministry and nothing has changed,” she told us. “The Union nor the Ministry is in our interest. We have concerns like our salaries, conditions and so on and no one is listening. So right now I just want to withdraw my membership from the union,” she says. Catherine has been employed with the Dennery Day Care Centre now for 19 years and she too wants out. “The union has not done anything for me. I am dissatisfied with the conditions we are working under. We have to get involved in doing everything in the day care, we have a variety of jobs but all for the same little pay,” she contends. “They have told us about a meeting Wednesday, but I still don’t believe anything positive will come out of it,” she says. The TUF is scheduled to resume talks next week with little signs of a compromise before Christmas between Government and the public servants being represented by the unions. Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Kenny Anthony has already cautioned that any increases given will have to be borrowed and there is need for understanding and sacrifices on all sides especially in the current economic climate.

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