Fri | Nov 16, 2018

Trinidadian union supports laying off of port workers

Published:Wednesday | September 26, 2018 | 3:05 PM
Port of Port of Spain - CMC photo

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – The Seamen and Waterfront Workers’ Trade Union in Trinidad and Tobago says it supports an initiative to dismiss more than 600 workers in a bid to save the financially-troubled Port of Port of Spain.

SWWTU president Michael Anisette, speaking on a radio on Wednesday, repeated statements he made to reporters 24 hours earlier indicating that his union was supportive of a plan to reduce the 1,500 workforce at the state-owned port.

The Trinidad and Tobago government is yet to announce any plans to reduce expenditure at the port but Anisette said it was important for it and the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT) to meet immediately with the union to come up with a retrenchment programme.

“You have our members who have been saying…that they want to leave the port because they are fed-up. We have been having discussions….over a long period, over time, so that those discussions would have been had with the representatives of the branches.

“People who have a five-year horizon you pay them a golden handshake and their full pension benefits. And all that will do is immediately cut down on the wage bill for the port authority, which will give [it] some breathing space,” he said.

Anisette said that the proposal had been submitted to the then People’s Partnership government in 2014 and a Memorandum of Understanding had been signed between SWWTU and the PATT.

However, he said the government reneged on its word.

“There’s a sign off document to that effect. Documents that we signed to that effect. Let me repeat it again because that was part of the 2014-17 collective bargaining period where the management and the board had agreed to implement a 12 per cent wage increase and all the areas of efficiencies and inefficiencies we would have discussed as part of taking the port forward.”

He said that the PATT was now refusing to meet with his union to discuss the matter.

Earlier, Anisette told reporters there was a “concerted and devious” effort by the government to undermine the union and PATT by getting rid of the port “so financiers and business elites can get what they want to get.

“There is a sinister motive by private enterprise to huff that land on the port for their personal use,” he said, adding that based on the age demographics of his membership the authorities “can safely send home more than 45 per cent of the labour force… pay them their full pension benefits and give them a good golden handshake and the port, within two years, will be up and running.”

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