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PSU, SVGTU felt negative impact of lack of solidarity

PSU, SVGTU felt negative impact of lack of solidarity

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If the public service workforce had been able to stand together last year when the Public Service Union (PSU) and the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU) were engaged in talks with the Government over salary increases, they would have been able to force the hand of Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves.{{more}}

But according to Elroy Boucher, who is president of the PSU and also president of the Caribbean Public Service Association (CPSA), both the PSU and SVGTU felt the negative impact of the lack of solidarity among workers, politicians and even the executives of both organizations.

Boucher shared his observation at the gathering of the 46th Annual Conference of the CPSA, which was held at the Russell’s Auditorium last Sunday, July 17, under the theme, “Building stronger public service unions through solidarity and unification”.

Addressing the gathering that was made up of, among others, Prime Minister Gonsalves and Minister of Labour Camillo Gonsalves, Boucher said that solidarity must not only be spoken as a buzz word, but must be practised.

“The PSU and SVGTU, we felt the negative impact of a lack of solidarity, we experienced this absence of solidarity when we were engaged with the government for increased wages. This lack of solidarity was felt within the executive, among the members, among local trade unions, we were attacked from within and without; the politicians attacked the union, the members of the union you were fighting for attacked the union, the executive attacked the union and that is why the issue of solidarity and unification is one that I hold dearly and have a passion for and that I would really like to see get established,” stressed Boucher.

He went on, “if we were able to stand together it would have been possible for us to force the hand of the Honourable Prime Minister. It is not an easy battle when dealing with our honourable Prime Minister; he is experienced and he knows just what to do to achieve what he wants to achieve and I don’t fault him for that. He has a goal to achieve and he goes out to achieve it.”

Boucher said that in his opinion, for us to move forward, workers must understand that workers’ issues are workers’ issues and they are not political or partisan political issues.

The trade unionist said that if we are unable to achieve solidarity, even the simplest issues become a challenge.

He said that the PSU, by nature, is pro-worker, but sometimes the Government thinks that they are anti-government.

“Maybe I am naïve, but it baffles me at times,” said Boucher, who stressed that the unions have a mandate to fight for workers; so, within the Caribbean, the notion that trade unions are anti-government may exist when workers are not treated fairly.

“We are not anti-government; in fact, it is our duty to build a more efficient public service. It is our duty to join with the Government to build a stronger economy. We want solidarity even from the politician, because we support the policies that are good for the country and we want to work with the Government to execute good policies and that is part of our mandate and I do wish that the Caribbean leaders would see it that way”, said Boucher.

Also addressing the gathering, Labour Minister Camillo Gonsalves said that Caribbean PSUs have a particularly difficult task relative to other PSU entities around the world, because the Government plays a huge role in the development of the country.

He said that Caribbean governments have larger than normal civil services and demands that are different from other countries, so it is important to work together, with everyone doing their part.

The Labour Minister used two of Barbadian pop star Rihanna’s songs, “Work” and “Better have my money,” to get his message across.

He said that the song “Work”, “speaks to the productivity of public servants and the need, especially in times when resources are tight, for there to be a relationship between your productivity and what you are requesting of the state.”

According to Gonsalves, “…we must in light of the theme, have solidarity…but solidarity is not a solidarity to act as a battering ram against oneself, but to have a genuine sense of unity through which all of us, the unions and citizens of countries can advance their collective and shared interest”.

He said that unions may view an action as punitive against them, but with solidarity they will realize that is not so.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, in his presentation, said that labour is in his blood and that fact that he was in the past, invited to speak at a number of events regionally that had to do with trade unionism speaks volumes and shows that he is in no way anti-union or anti-worker.

He said that this is not the first time that he has addressed the CPSA conference, as in August 1999, he delivered a lecture.

“I’ve been across the region too in speaking on matters touching and concerning the public service…” said the older Gonsalves.(LC)

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