Augustus addressed WAWU's conference on Thursday

Augustus addressed WAWU’s conference on Thursday

Secretary Treasurer of the Waterfront and Allied Workers Union (WAWU), Kertiste Augustus, says the union is concerned that presently there is no government minister whose specific portfolio is labour.

Augustus raised that concern while addressing the union’s 18th Biennial Delegates conference held at the WAWU Headquarters in Roseau on Thursday.

“Of concern to us in the Waterfront and Allied Workers Union is a fact that for the first time in 47 years we do not have a minister whose portfolio is labour,” Augustus said.

According to him the labour portfolio is presently stitched to the Ministry of Justice, National Security and Immigration and based on what has been happening in the Labour Department the union is worried and “we are realizing that will be experiencing severe labour pains.”

Sir Brian said he is shocked there is no Ministry of Labour

Sir Brian said he is shocked there is no Ministry of Labour

Keynote speaker at the conference, former Acting Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, Sir Brian Alleyne, said he is shocked that there is specific Ministry of Labour presently.

“As a former Minister of Labour, I am frankly shocked to consider that there is no Ministry of Labour specifically so designated at this time,” he noted. “Because the industrial relations and environment is no less relevant today to the development of Dominica than it ever was. Indeed the issue never disappears…”

He urged the government to take the issue of industrial relations very seriously and to illustrate that seriousness by designating a specific minister and ministry to the issue of industrial relations.

Meanwhile, Augustus is of the view that the conference is taking place at a time when there are many issues being faced by WAWU.

“Our conference is taking place under difficult conditions, such as the gradual increase of the retirement age to 65 and its implications for port workers in particular,” he stated. “We need to revisit that policy and to agree on a waiver for port workers.”

In terms of health, he said, it is particularly difficult since Dominica does not have national health coverage for workers generally, “notwithstanding calls from the WAWU for such.”

“We are making a similar call for severance pay provision to cover the workers who have remained in one company for twenty years and more and who have forced by circumstances to retire,” he explained.

Another challenge of the union, Augustus noted, is the non response of government in relation to the lifting of the ceiling placed on redundancy payment, especially for workers who exceed 20 years of service with a company.

He also stated that not one of the island’s three governments in recent times, the Dominica Labour Party (DLP), the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) and the United Workers Party (UWP), has recognized the contribution of port workers by awarding national recognition, “be it meritorious service or service award of honour.”

“The fundamental question is why are port workers not recognized when all other classification like the teachers, the nurses, the fishermen, the farmers, the policemen and bus drivers, all deserving of their awards, are given national awards?” Augustus questioned.

The conference is being held under the theme: “Expanding and Consolidating for Continued Relevance”.

WAWU is also celebrating its 50th Anniversary as a registered union.

Union members at the conference

Union members at the conference