In T&T: Howai consults with unions

18 July 2012


Who wins? Duke wants ‘double’ and Howai points to budget constraints.

Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke yesterday told the government he will settle for nothing less that “double for our trouble” in the new round of public sector negotiations.

But Finance Minister Larry Howai said in a meeting with the PSA yesterday that consecutive national budget deficits “constrained the ability to be generous”.

Duke met with Howai at the Ministry of Finance in Port of Spain yesterday as part of national budget consultations.

“In substance I would say we are incrementally closer to solving our negotiations issues,” Duke said.

In the last rounds of negotiations, Duke settled for five per cent for the 2008-2011 collective bargaining period.

He said this time he would not be settling for any figure along the same lines.

“We would not want to force the minister or put him under duress, we simply told the minister that the bitter taste of five per cent is still in our mouth and we do not expect to pay twice for the growth of the country,” he said.

“We have asked him to give us double for our trouble, our members will not be willing to sacrifice or compromise in a manner so as to find themselves challenged financially,” he said.

Duke said he was “optimistic” that under Howai the PSA would be able to settle the outstanding negotiations with the National Insurance Board (NIB), Metal Industries Concepts (MIC) and the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) and finalise the issue of VSEP at the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA).

But while Duke was optimistic, Howai said the consecutive budget deficits “constrained the ability to be generous”.

“I know we can’t be fully responsive to every single stakeholder, but we could listen to what each stakeholder has to say and to see to what extent we would be able to incorporate the recommendations and proposals those stakeholders may have,” he said.

Howai said a “big challenge” remained the three-year budget deficit.

“We will continue to run a budget deficit going forward in the future and that severely constrains what we are able to do and how much we are able to do,” he said.

Howai also met with members of the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC) and the Federation of Independent Trade Union and Non Governmental Organisations (FITUN).

Joseph Remy, FITUN’s president, said he presented a detailed document to Howai.

“This is the fourth or fifth time we involved in this and nothing tangible ever came out of it. We hope something comes out of this one,” he said.

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