National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW) leader, Government Senator James Lambert yesterday called for greater separation between labour and politics.
Lambert made the call as his union signed off on a nine per cent wage settlement for the 2008-2010 period at the James Lambert Conference Centre on Henry Street, Port of Spain, yesterday.
Lambert said his union would not be participating in Friday's planned march, a collaborative effort between the Opposition, the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) and several civic groups.
"The union will not sanction anybody to go to join in that march because political parties do not join with trade unions to demonstrate. The National Trade Union Centre, of which NUGFW is an affiliate, will not be participating in any demonstration," he said.
Lambert said he used to be a member of JTUM, but he was always a member of the United National Congress (UNC).
"We had joined the Joint Trade Union Movement for a cause. We met, we had several demonstrations; now that the negotiations are over and have been concluded, I will not be joining or asking the union members to join," Lambert said.
"I see it (JTUM) as somebody is politically oriented and people trying to use people for their own personal gain, and I will not be used, " he said.
"The NUGFW will not be used and neither would we be misled," he said.
He said affiliated unions under the National Trade Union Centre (Natuc), like the Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU), could still participate in the march, even without the sanction from the umbrella organisation.
"We will not be associating with any union/political party for that purpose or whatever their objectives are," he said.
Lambert said JTUM has tried to "persuade" him to rejoin their ranks because they are "dependent on our numbers".
But even while calling for that distinction between Government and unions, Lambert admitted his Government appointment may have influenced the nine per cent settlement for daily-rated workers.
"Maybe or maybe not; I'd leave that for you to judge. Sometimes, perceptions are right, but I would not be the one to tell you that you are right. So if you consider it to be an influence, it may well be so," he said.
The union was able to change the cost of living allowance (COLA) calculations for its members and instead of a flat $4 per day, got $5.75 per day in year one, $5.75 per day in year two and $6.60 per day for the third year, along with the nine per cent on wages and salaries.