The Public Service Union has accused the ruling Unity Labour Party of ignoring trade unions, after “riding their backs” into office in March 2001.
PSU President, Elroy Boucher, told a press conference on Wednesday that there has been complete objection and reluctance to engage in collective bargaining with the unions and the Public Service.
“The Teachers Union signed one agreement in 2005, they have never signed another one. And I will reiterate, the government came into office on the backs of the unions, particularly the Public Service Union and the Teachers’ Union.”
He said the PSU submitted an agreement 10 years ago and it has “never, ever seen the light of day, even to have a discussion or an acknowledgement that you have received the document.
“These practices, these behaviours represent governments who are anti-union,” Boucher said.
He said he has heard Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves say that he is pro-worker.
“Workers have representatives, which are the unions. You have respect for the union? Demonstrate that, then, you will tell me you are for workers.
“They have made no effort whatsoever to enter into the collective bargaining process with the trade unions. That is frightening. In today’s world, especially coming from what we often hear touted as a labour government that rode the back of the union to get into office and today, they have refused to sit down and negotiate any collective bargaining agreement with the unions.”
Boucher said that the PSU has had some success with statutory corporations, whose boards have been willing to negotiate.
He mentioned an agreement that was recently signed with the National Sports Council, after 10 years of negotiations.
“But very importantly, why is the Unity Labour Party-led government afraid of the collective bargaining process when it comes to public servants?
“Why are they afraid or is it that they have no regard for the trade unions that got them into office? And that is a matter of grave concern to us,” Boucher said, adding that there are many things that can be achieved through collective bargaining.
He said that every time there is a breakdown in salary negotiations, the Unity Labour Party government legislates salaries.
The union leader said that the situation was different under the James Mitchell-led New Democratic Party administration, which the ULP replaced in March 2001.
“And I know persons would say we are talking about politics. But we have to make comparisons. Trade unions had always been able to sit down and negotiate with the Mitchell government. They respected the unions to sit down and have negotiations with them and say what they can do and what they can’t do. But when it comes to this Unity Labour Party government, the moment you sit down and say, ‘No, we have to negotiate’, there is not even a negotiating team set up to negotiate with the unions.”
He said that the union has asked the ULP government to appoint a negotiating team.
“We are tired of this meeting with one person. Put the negotiating team in place, let them negotiate with the trade unions, which is how it ought to be. That has never happened for the past 10 years, because there have been no negotiations.
“In 2015, that is memorable. We started out meeting with the prime minister. Talks broke down and that became a big bacchanal. These are problems we have as trade unions. And I am making the point that if this is truly a labour government, we have to demonstrate that in the way they behave towards trade unions,” Boucher said.