Two workers’ unions set for another clash
February 3, 2006

Two workers’ unions set for another clash

It may be a question of back to roots. That’s the scenario that is looming at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Port Authority.

The Commercial Technical and Allied Workers Union (CTAWU), and the National Workers Movement (NWM) seem set for another clash at the Port. In 1990, the NWM replaced the CTAWU as bargaining agent for workers at the Port.{{more}}

Matters seem to have gone full circle.

Negotiations between the management of the Port and Noel Jackson, NWM’s general secretary, were delayed last Tuesday, January 31. An appearance by executive members of the CTAWU altered that agenda.

Port Authority’s manager Paul Kirby summoned Labour Commissioner Pat Roberts/Samuel, and according to Lloyd Small, CTAWU’s general secretary, the machinery is being placed for a poll at the Port to determine which union has the majority of workers.

Small described his Union’s intervention as “an impromptu visit.” He disclosed that he urged the Port to “put a stay of execution on negotiations.” (with NWM).

Failure to do that may cause a “disruption of the Port,” Small outlined. He mentioned that his Union was aware that “we are competing with other regional Ports.” Small also indicated that his organisation was operating “in the interest of the nation’s economy.”

Noel Jackson, NWM’s general secretary, described a situation recently where “the same group who are dissatisfied are trying to bring another Union on the Port.” Jackson expressed confidence

that “democracy has to prevail” and he chided the other workers “to let them go and get their experience.”

Jackson disclosed that Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, under whose portfolio the Port falls, had called from Jamaica where he was attending the signing of the Caribbean Single Market treaty.

Signals that a storm might have been heading for the Port surfaced last week with a letter by a Retired worker. That appeared on Page 12 of the January 27 Searchlight edition.

That letter compared the bargaining qualities of the contending unions. The suspension of negotiations between the Port and the NWM and plans to conduct a poll signal an undercurrent of industrial discontent.

One heavy duty equipment operator at the Port expressed dissatisfaction with the NWM and declared that “workers lost benefits.” He attributed the cause to “poor leadership.” He complained that there had been no increases to workers over a certain period.

Another concern of the workers was that NWM represented management of the Port.