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As the Government goes to the people seeking re-employment for the next five years, the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) is calling for an acknowledgement and discussions of workers’ outstanding wage negotiations throughout the public sector. “A debt is a debt and a debt must be paid,” JTUM leader Ancel Roget said at a media conference yesterday.Cognizant of the falling revenues and economic decline, Roget said that member unions do not expect the government to quantify and immediately payout its debt to the working class, but wants discussions to begin.

Sitting among JTUM representatives at the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) Paramount Building in San Fernando, he said the unions would even discuss the option of housing, lands, shares and other tangible items with the government to settling the arrears.

With letters in hand, Roget said the JTUM tried to raise the issues of wage negotiations and job evaluation with Minister of Labour Jennifer Baptiste-Primus and Finance Minister Colm Imbert on several occasions, but neither responded. Many of the unions are in their third period of outstanding negotiations.

“Our position back then, our position throughout and our position this morning is not to call for a percentage here or a percentage there or for the total settlement of our proposals in any one of these negotiations. Indeed it is quite different. Let us, understanding all of the challenges that face us as a country, recognising that at the end of the day that what is necessary for the economic wheels of this country to continue to turn are the workers. Workers are the most important part of this equation and if anything at all could have reminded us about that, it is the COVID-19 situation.” Roget said during the COVID-19 lockdown, the country saw just how crucial workers were, from the lowly-paid supermarket and sanitation workers to the doctors, nurses, utility workers and journalists who the Government deemed essential. He said it was the workers and not Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh or National Security Minister Stuart Young to carry the country through the pandemic “This country can run without PNM and UNC, but it needs workers.”Members of the JTUM outlined their outstanding negotiations, some dating back to 2005. Roget said while the government created some of the issues, it inherited some from the People’s Partnership government.General secretary of the Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union.

Trevor Johnson said 2010 was the last time Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies’ administrative staff had a salary adjustment. Meanwhile, academic staff are working with the salaries they had since 2005. Negotiations are also outstanding at the Central Bank and the Occupational Safety and Health Agency.

Communication Workers’ Union general secretary Clyde Elder said that although the Telecommunications Services of T&T (TSTT) agreed to a new collective agreement, the company is refusing to meet and sign the document.Contractors and General Workers Trade Union general secretary Ermine De Bique-Meade said that while the board of directors of Lake Asphalt failed to come clean about the future of the company, one of its members is contesting the election. De Bique-Meade called on La Brea residents to question the candidate about Lake Asphalt during his campaign, as the company was essential for the community. She said that while some people label workers as lazy, at the San Fernando City Corporation, there are no tools for the daily paid staff.

At the Port-of-Spain City Corporation, Amalgamated Workers Union general secretary Cassandra Tommy-Dabreo said they are still awaiting settlement of two periods. Tommy-Dabreo said if the government does not have the money to pay workers, it should meet the union to work out the debt. While the Government is battling a pandemic, T&T Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) general secretary Kady Beckles said the government should have negotiations for the 2014-2017 and 2017-2020 periods before March. Beckles said teachers continue to work on 2011 salaries.

Postal Workers Union general secretary David Forbes said since 2010, a firm carried out a job evaluation on TTPost and recommended an 18 per cent salary increase for workers.

However, no increase came.In defending JTUM’s stance, Roget said lead up to an election was the best time to highlight the poor labour climate in T&T.

He added that the unions consistently highlighted the struggles of the labour movements throughout the years.

And while the JTUM calls for the various negotiations to begin, representatives of the various unions are demanding that the Government sign over the Pointe-a-Pierre Refinery to the OWTU’s Patriotic Energies and Technologies Co Ltd.