Acting president of the All Trinidad General Workers Trade Union (ATGWTU) John Jaglal has called on the government to state its position with regard to the future of the trade union movement.
Jaglal asked: "What is the role of the trade unions in Trinidad and Tobago and will the government participate meaningfully in the new global economy by attracting new investments and what is government's plan for fitting new labour legislation to deal with the current downturn in the economy?"
Jaglal made the call as he addressed the 74th annual Conference of Delegates yesterday at the Rienzi Complex, Couva.
Jaglal said the labour laws need changing.
"The same way we oppose the five per cent (wage offer), it is the same way we should oppose the existing labour laws and if they are not changed unions will be facing the ongoing crisis until 2012 and beyond."
Jaglal said the ATGWTU had supported several previous governments to get into office and its members have not benefitted in any way.
He called on members to ask themselves in what way they have benefitted.
"What did we achieve as a union throughout the political struggle? We did not get a thing but kick," said Jaglal.
He said the ATGWTU had been in the vanguard of efforts to get better opportunities for workers over the last 74 years.
Anand Tiwari, general secretary of the union, told members that the theme "The Impact of the Global Economy on Trade Unions" was chosen in order to provide proper explanations on the trade union movement.
"Lack of proper information could result in the trade union movement taking rational decisions that may not be in the interest of the working class. He said Government has been using the global economic situation as the benchmark for taking harsh decisions and positions.
"This scenario could impact directly on the collective bargaining process," said Tiwari.
Regarding the distribution of Caroni lands to ex-Caroni workers, Tiwari said: "The union has forwarded several letters to the Ministry of Food Production and Marine Affairs and have held several meetings with the minister. To date the situation remains the same, although nine years have passed and many of the ex-employees, although paying the full amount for lease documents, the transactions have not been finalised."
Tiwari said the process in giving recognition to trade unions needs to be changed.
Rudy Indarsingh, MP For Couva South and Minister in the Ministry of Local Government, said even though he is in the government he will continue to fight for the workers.
He said what has been happening in the world is also affecting Trinidad and tobago.
However, he praised the action by Finance Minister Winston Dookeran in his efforts to bring relief to people affected by the problems in the Hindu Credit Union and CL Financial.
"Not one worker has lost a single dollar since the intervention of Dookeran," Indarsingh said.
Indarsingh who is on leave from the office of the president of the union, said: "Come June 2012 my leave will be up and at that point I will decide what will come next."
When he took up the appointment as minister Indarsingh requested a leave of absence.
Jaglal, the first vice president of the union, was appointed to act as president.
Attending the conference were trade unionists Lex Lovell and Vincent Cabrera.