Minister: Workers who stay away may be recorded as absent without pay
Photo: Members of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) at a meeting in 2018.
Minister of Public Administration, Marlene McDonald sought to dissuade employees from answering a call by trade unions to stay away from work on Friday, adding that workers who stay away from their jobs may not be paid for that day.
In a statement issued Monday, McDonald slammed the action as "irresponsible and injudicious", adding that persons employed in essential services are prohibited from withholding their services whether or not they are in sympathy with institutions in which they are not employed.
She also reminded public servants that government upheld its commitment to repay workers, adding that there has been no retrenchment within the public service.
"Public Servants are reminded that, in spite of the prevailing adverse economic circumstances which the Government has had to face since its return to office three years ago, in keeping with the tenets of good Industrial Relations Practice, Government has only recently had to borrow approximately $5 billion to honour the commitment imposed upon the current PNM Administration by the previous regime, on the eve of the 2015 General Elections, to liquidate arrears of salaries and other emoluments due to Public Servants. The Government willingly and wholeheartedly discharged that responsibility.
"In addition, Government has been sparing no effort to protect the jobs of Public Servants and others resulting in the fact that, unlike other neighbouring countries, there has been no retrenchment in the Public Service of Trinidad and Tobago."
"Public Servants who stay away from their jobs without authorisation in response to irrational and irresponsible calls from certain Labour Leaders run the risk of being recorded as absent from work without pay," she said.
Members of various trade unions, including the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM), Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU), the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers' Association (TTUTA) and others, called for a day of 'rest and reflection' on September 7, 2018, in response to the recent decision by government to shut down the Petrotrin refinery, resulting in the retrenchment of 1,700 workers.
"The Minister wishes to discourage citizens from taking such irresponsible and injudicious action and in particular to remind Public Service employees that, as a rule, persons employed in the essential services are prohibited from withholding their services whether or not in sympathy with institutions in which they are not employed.
"Such employees include Members of the Defence Force, the Public, Prison, Fire and Teaching Services and Central Bank employees. Should any of these prohibited employees breach the provisions of the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) they are subject to fine and imprisonment," McDonald said.
TTUTA president Lynsley Doodhai told parents to keep their children home on Friday after he announced that teachers would be resting and reflecting as well.
The Education Ministry said that it would be seeking legal action against any teachers who stayed away from work on Friday.
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