Trade Unions demand to be recognised as essential services

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Trade Unions demand to be recognised as essential services

Three trade union groups are demanding that they be considered a part of the essential services in Trinidad and Tobago.

They are calling on the Government to have them included among the list of entities recognised as essential services, saying that last year trade unions were included as an essential service under the Public Health [2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)] (No. 14) Regulations 2020 (‘Regulation No. 14’), which was issued on May 13, 2020.

The federations voicing their concern are the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM), the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC), and the Federation of Independent Trade Union and NGOs (FITUN).

The trade union federations said they wrote to the Minister of Legal Affairs on May 6, underlining the importance for the operations of trade unions to be considered as essential, and it is dismayed at the government’s decision to exclude them as an essential service under the most recent regulations.

The federations said: “Trade unions represent a significant majority of workers in the essential service industry. Therefore, by deeming us as non-essential, severely jeopardises the ability and right of representation and security of workers who are very vulnerable at this most critical time.

“Additionally, a major function of trade unions is representing workers at the industrial court which, based on the ordinance, is considered an essential service, and remains open. With this essential service open, trade union officers are therefore required to represent their members at the Industrial Court.”

They said “How can a trade union officer effectively provide representation if they are prevented from being at their workplace? We hope that this was an error of omission and that our instant enquiry would have this situation rectified soonest.

The federations added “We wish to make public our understanding of the current situation, and the fact that we are not against the measures. Rather we believe all that is being done with respect to the restrictions, are required under the current circumstances to ensure the preservation of life. However, we implore the government to readjust its stand with regard to trade unions for the betterment of our membership and the people of this country.

“We, the three federations wish to reiterate that in accordance with the regulations implemented under the Public Health Ordinance via Legal Notice 81, there is a provision under Section 3 (aq) that allows for the Minister to authorize a person or group of persons to conduct a particular trade business etc.

The section states: – (aq) any trade, profession, business or service, activity or public gathering authorized to be carried on by the Minister.