PM tells Labour Unions be reasonable, in Labour Day message

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PM tells Labour Unions be reasonable, in Labour Day message

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is telling the labour movement to be reasonable in its expectations from the CPO and the Government.
In his Labout Day message the Prime Minister said that he is aware of the rumblings of the Labour Movement, however he reminded there is only so much the Government can do financially.
He also assured that despite the negative pubic declarations the Government supports and stands resolutely with unions and workers in T&T.
See the PM’s full speech below:

Greetings to all workers in Trinidad and Tobago.
Salutations are extended on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, my family and myself, as Prime Minister.
They are extended genuinely, with the same sincere intent as they have been over the past years of my Government, and in spite of the dissatisfaction, openly expressed by some leaders within the Labour movement.
I will admit that the strong language, which is being repeated in the public space has left me a bit puzzled, because it does not reflect, either normal industrial relations practice, or the economic realities facing Trinidad and Tobago.
It is being said that the Labour movement feels disrespected by the initial offer to Public Sector trade unions, although I, clearly indicated that the offer was the initial negotiating position, and that negotiations would soon begin with the various bodies.
I explained further that because of the Russia-Ukraine conflict our Treasury received an unplanned, short-term financial boost, part of which the Government intends to share among State employees, who have been pleading for wage-salary increases for the past eight years.
The Chief Personnel Officer made a two per cent initial offer over an eight-year period from 2014-2021.
The offer has since been increased to four per cent over a six-year period 2014-2019, which will cost the Government $2.5 billion in back pay up to June 2022, and be committed to a further $500 million, annually, just for the civil service, teaching service, defence force, protective services and daily rated workers.
To this must be added the cost of a wage increase for statutory authorities and state enterprises, which will increase the total cost of a four percent increase by as much as a further 50%.
Should negotiations be settled at eight per cent, those figures will literally double, taking back pay to over $5 Billion and the annual recurrent cost to over $1.5 Billion.
Fellow citizens, we should note also the recent statement by the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, which warns that this current windfall in energy revenues was “temporary” and should be used, instead to fund the adjustments in the national Budget, caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Significantly, it added that “care must, therefore, be taken to avoid considering this windfall as permanent.”
This could be likened to an unrealistic situation of a person, who maintains a comfortable, heady lifestyle, and when an unexpected financial benefit comes, he or she immediately splurges it — still continuing to borrow to pay his/her monthly rent.
Fellow citizens, should Trinidad and Tobago pursue such an example?
My Government, I would say, has attempted to be financially prudent, performing a tight, day-to-day, balancing act in spending, because it has a full grasp on the realities facing this country.
Each member of my cabinet, I will also say, brings to our weekly meetings the real-life, daily experiences of those they serve, so collectively we are aware of the difficulties of the many thousands living on the marginal line.
We are also aware of the larger, looming challenges facing the labour movement. Over the past decades, the digital revolution has been transforming the retail, media, entertainment, and advertising industries; in short, up-ending old business models and industries.
On the horizon is the larger prospect that every job, every business, and every aspect of 21st-century life will be restructured. No job, particularly, the unskilled, no company, no government, and no economy will be immune to disruption in this century.
The reality of the century is a fast-paced revolution, which is re-shaping every pocket, every job, every family, every infrastructure, all Government, and all economies.
Larger challenges are still ahead, because every organisation, private or public, will have to transform itself, from within — in multiple ways or fade and die. The psycho-social-economic effects of such changes on the average worker worldwide, regardless of where they are placed, are yet to be understood.
The challenge to the Labour movement is to ensure that the worker in this century understands the realities, places his or herself within the larger picture and recognises the need to “Up-skill” for the new market — not lose energy on short-term gains.
A national economic safety net?
My Government made the population aware of the billions it has borrowed to provide citizens’ day-to-day relief, during the Covid-19 pandemic.
But our future is not all gloom. The technological revolution, with its disruptive forces, is a global reality, closing familiar doors –but at the same time new doors, and new possibilities are opening.
Fellow citizens let us not dwell on or be overcome by our basket of passing difficulties. We are not alone. The whole world is facing this most difficult period. Our difficulty will only overcome us if we fail to see it for what it is and make long-term decisions on short-term illogic that defy our God-given talents.
It goes without saying that the role of the Labour movement has been pivotal in advocating for a fair and better deal for the employees of this country and Labour will always be expected to protect and defend the interest of the working class, especially, those who are facing the worst of these trying times.
The Government of Trinidad and Tobago, in all its policies and social programs, stands with Labour in representing these and all of our citizens who expect the best of what the country could afford.
The Government stands resolute in defence of our future, even in these uncertain times, confident that with the support of all, including Labour, Trinidad and Tobago’s success is assured.
Happy Labour Day to all our citizens.