The office of the Chief Personnel Officer is not aware of the nine per cent agreement said to have been brokered with the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) and the National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW).
In response to enquires from the Express last Friday, the CPO’s office—which, according the provisions of the Industrial Relations Act, is the employer of public servants—said “an agreement is yet to be reached between the CPO and the NUGFW”.
In the days leading up to the Government’s pre-budget rally and budget reading, both NUGFW leader Senator James Lambert and Government Ministers boasted of a nine per cent settlement.
This also contradicts statements by Michael Annisette, leader of the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC), which is the umbrella organisation for NUGFW.
Last Saturday, both Annisette and Lambert called a news conference at the newly refurbished and renamed James DE Lambert Conference Room on the NUGFW compound at Henry Street, Port of Spain. The men had said then the Government agreed all unions under the umbrella organisation would benefit from the nine per cent increase negotiated by the NUGFW, the Amalgamated Union and the Contractors and General Workers’ Trade Union.
Michael Prentice, head of the Amalgamated Workers’ Union, yesterday confirmed he was not aware of any agreement negotiated on his behalf by either Annisette or Lambert.
“I am not feeling right about this,” Prentice said in a telephone interview yesterday.
Prentice is a vocal member of the Joint Trade Union Movement and attended a meeting last week Friday with the Movement for Social Justice, the People’s National Movement and the other civil society organisations at The Normandie hotel in Port of Spain. The Express learned that, at the same time, another meeting was taking place between two Government ministers, Annisette and Lambert.
“I don’t know what discussions they had on my behalf, but I spoke with the CPO’s office on Friday and up till then there was not directive to settle these negotiations. I am not saying it may not happen, but it’s been over a week and no one picked up a phone and told the CPO anything yet,” he said.
Prentice said stalled negotiations were already before the Industrial Court and if it was settled, even verbally, then it should be pulled back from the court and put before the CPO for the sign-off.
Lambert, who is currently in Barbados, yesterday confirmed his agreement was with Finance Minister Larry Howai and not the CPO.
“We have not signed anything. It was an arrangement between the Minister of Finance and NUGFW, and NATUC will benefit from it as well as other affiliated unions,” Lambert said.
“As far as I am concerned, we have an agreement with the Government,” he said.
Howai, in a telephone interview yesterday, confirmed he met with Lambert and Annisette and “was agreeable to their proposal”.
Howai said while there were additional issues still outstanding; wages and salaries was the main focus and he did agree on the nine per cent.
Howai said he has not been able to communicate that “directive to complete the negotiations” to the CPO in the past week because of the budget debate.
“I will do my best to get hold of her this week,” he said.