Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves has made a strong appeal for public servants to join the Public Service Union (PSU), saying it is unacceptable that the majority of public servants are not members.
He made the appeal while making remarks last week at a ceremony held at the Methodist Church Hall in Kingstown to mark the 80th anniversary of the PSU.
Expressing disappointment at the attendance at the ceremony, Gonsalves said “We should have more, we should have a majority….I say that all the time. People should join the unions… we have to be honest when we talk these things.”
He said he wants to see the unions stronger and for the members to have greater solidarity with the unions. However, they must not be partisan political.
“Because being in the union is politics but not partisan politics. Solidarity in relation to your interest and that of the country because we can’t be looking for yourself alone, you have to look at your other brothers and sisters on the dangerous road to Jericho who are not as fortunate as we are. So that you don’t look as if you are an aristocracy of Labour.”
Gonsalves said civil servants could use their education to help the union with advocacy. He said they should not feel that because they were educated that they don’t need unions, adding that some wanted the benefits of the union but did not want to be in solidarity or to bear the burden of it.
He cautioned members against acting in individualist terms, saying they will not get anywhere and if they extol the atomized individual, they will not make progress.
The Prime Minister said he was happy to hear the mantra “The cause of one, is the cause of all” but noted that, “The cause of one cannot be the cause of all, if every single one is not in solidarity with one another.
“You can’t be separate from each other and have an entirely individualist approach whether it is in relation to your body or your being. “You have to act in solidarity with other human beings. That is the only way that we can have progress by the working people.”
He noted that although the PSU sometimes had disagreements with the government, which is the employer, it was critical to revisit some matters and revive them to make them better.
Gonsalves said he has always been in very strong favour of a social contract between the government state apparatus and civil society. He noted that with a small country with limited resources, there ought not to be fights with the union and that it was important not to “poison the well of cooperation.”
Addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, the Prime Minister stated that while there were differences of opinion with some civil servants over the vaccine, he wasn’t being political he just sought to save lives and livelihood.
He said since then, many have got back their jobs.
“And I am saying to you again, at this moment where persons were applying to come back into the civil service. I have no opposition to them coming back and the Public Service Commission is having them come back.”
He however confessed that he was not clear about the situation in relation to the Police Service Commission.
He called on trade unions to be more flexible and said that the freedom for public servants to talk is greater now, more than ever before.
He boasted that he was the only member of Parliament who was beaten and tear gassed for trade union activities and other activities. He said he was also the only one who ever got banned from a country and declared persona non grata.
And, he is the same man today as he was then.
“… I want you to know that anytime you feel tempted to cuss me, remember…remember that this man standing before you, I love you very much and I love the working people of this country and that is what sustained me in politics.”