Wednesday, January 17, 2018

‘Blatant disrespect, disregard’ over TDC

Three trade union federations pull out of Tripartite Advisory Council...

‘minister must resign’: A member of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) displays a placard yesterday during a protest outside Parliament at the International Waterfront Centre, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain. —Photo: CURTIS CHASE

port of spain
The three trade union federations have withdrawn from the National Tripartite Advisory Council (NTAC) because of the “blatant disrespect and disregard” shown “to the entire trade union movement” by the Government’s decision to dissolve the Tourism Development Company (TDC).
The Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM), the National Trade Union Centre (Natuc) and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and Non-governmental Organisations (FITUN) have pulled out of NTAC , which was launched in March 2016 with much fanfare at the Diplomatic Centre.
The Prime Minister stated then it was aimed at promoting “consen­sus-building and democratic involvement” of the key stakeholders of business, labour and Government on national development issues.
Communication Workers Union (CWU) president Joseph Remy, who led a demonstration outside Parliament in Port of Spain yesterday, said the unions were unified in their decision not to return to NTAC until the decision on TDC is rescinded.
He said the Government’s action was a breach of the principles of tripartism and consultation.
Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe’s “infamous” words (uttered shortly after the PNM assumed office)—“We in charge, deal with it”— came back to haunt her in some of the placards carried by the demonstrating TDC workers who demanded her resignation.
Cudjoe is currently attending a European Union conference in Belgium.
“Shamfa Cudjoe/ too wicked and bold/ dissolve the TDC like if is she own/ And every time/I get that Cudjoe feeling in me/I want to strike/with all meh might,” they chanted.
Remy said the CWU believed the decision to dissolve TDC was connected to Government’s desire to facilitate the Sandals project in Tobago.
“While we have no problem with the development of Tobago, and we don’t want anyone to feel this is a Trinidad versus Tobago issue...we are concerned with the other poli­tical motives behind this move,” he said.
Governments come and go 

On the call for Cudjoe’s resignation, he said this was an issue for the Prime Minister, who should do the “right thing”.
“She has committed a breach of fundamental industrial relations principles by not consulting with the RMU (recognised majority union), and we must start the whole process [of dialogue over TDC] all over. And in that case, they must rescind that decision (to dissolve),” Remy stated.
He said the first indication he got that TDC was to be dissolved was at 1.15 p.m. last Thursday after the Cabinet had already taken the decision, and Cudjoe, in a call that lasted just over one minute, said she wanted him to know before she made the public announcement. That announcement came shortly after at the post-Cabinet news conference in Tobago.
“Absolute disrespect, no discus­sion, no consultation. Nothing!” Remy declared, adding he was given no reason for the decision.
“If they want to go down the same road like the last government, that led to a government being vo­ted out of office; they want to follow that road, they know what the consequences will be,” he said.
One of the workers, addressing his colleagues, thundered: “Let us say to the Minister, to the Government and to Rowley, ‘Yuh better damn well take back that decision and make available to us all the information that would have caused you to make that decision’.”
A smiling Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar approached the workers but received a lukewarm reception as she attempted to engage them. They greeted Persad- Bissessar with the chant: “Governments come, governments go, but we never surrender O.”

Consultations ongoing 

Later in the House, in response to an urgent question, acting Tourism Minister Terrence Deyalsingh
said consultations with the union “were ongoing”.
He said a consultancy to review the institutional structure and ope­rational framework of the TDC was completed in June 2016 and provided said recommendations to the Government regarding the tourism sector.
He said “as announced at the post-Cabinet briefing of March 9, 2017, Cabinet agreed to the dissolution of the TDC; to the establishment of two entities with distinct organisational structures in Trinidad and Tobago, with responsibility for tourism destination marketing and product development, and that the Minister of Finance is to submit a note to Cabinet for the winding up of the TDC within 90 days”.
Noting the current staff complement of TDC was 114, Deyalsingh said current employees with the relevant skills, experience and qualification can transition to the new entities, similar to the process engaged during the transition from TIDCO to TDC.
He said employment opportunities will also be available upon the establishment of the Trinidad and Tobago Tourism Regulatory and Licensing Authority. He said affected employees can also register with the National Employment Services at the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development where op­por­tunities for employment are available.
Labour Minister:
There will be a meeting

Via a telephone interview yesterday, Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus said the unions were given the undertaking that as soon as Cudjoe returns on Friday or Saturday, there will be a meeting.
“I am confident the situation will return to some degree of normalcy. I am not the chair. It is unfortunate labour representatives would have suspended their input. They are withdrawing their participation until the Ministry of Tourism meets to discuss the TDC issue. They are demonstrating, which is their democratic right. And I can’t say what date. I am not quite sure when the meeting will take place,” she said.

—with reporting by Michelle Loubon