STATEMENT BY UNIONS ATTENDING MEETING OF THURSDAY APRIL 28,2022
Unions in Dominica have made one more step towards greater unity and more effective representation of workers in Dominica.
Over the past seven years Workers in Dominica like other Dominicans were confronted by the hash impacts of Tropical Storm Erica, Hurricane Maria and more recently the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to the squeeze caused by other shocks. Many are Coping, they are still recovering, being weighed heavily under the strenuous reality of these crises but they have continued to rise to the occasion to serve the Dominican people and the public at large. COVID-19 has exposed the value of domestic and care workers, cleaners, sanitary workers, and frontline workers and revolutionized the concept of “essential workers”.
Leaders of the Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU), the Dominica Association of Teachers (DAT), the Waterfront and Allied Workers Union (WAWU) and Dominica Amalgamated Workers Union (DAWU) at a meeting of Thursday April 28, 2022, convened at the DPSU building on Valley Road, placed emphasis on the tremendous work done by public sector workers and those in the private sector to respond to these events and to help Dominica in its recovery efforts. In the words of the notable unofficial anthem of the labour movement penned by Ralph Chaplin in 1915, The Unions held the sentiment of the Solidarity forever song that “without workers, not a single wheel can turn.”
The Unions reemphasized the value of the workers of our country and recommitted to defending labour and human rights in Dominica and the wider Caribbean region. The Unions agreed that workers must be better valued and regarded, and Unions must reclaim the observance of May Day, reignite the labour struggle and inspire greater interest in the relevance and critical role of trade unions in the advancement of society.
On the hills of May Day 2022 being observed in Dominica on Monday May 2nd the members present described the meeting as historic and challenged themselves to be more visible, proactive, the need to have more frequent joint activities which they were optimistic would inspire greater interest and activism of members.
The Meeting agreed that the issues confronting workers in Dominica are too important for Unions to remain quiet, apart or discouraged by failed attempts for greater Unity. The Unions present decided it was time for action, seize new opportunities and to address the challenges affecting workers.
- Very high on the agenda were the issues affecting workers in a COVID19 era, particularly the heavy-handed approach by some employers to force mandatory vaccination on employees, which is neither in the spirit or guidance set by the State nor in any legal framework in Dominica. Vaccination was also being flagged as a new condition of work or pre-requisite criteria for finding employment, while unemployment remained at an all-time high level, more so for young people.
- The Issue of the implementation of the revised Minimum wage also was discussed as a priority. The Unions further emphasized that every worker in Dominica deserves better than just minimum wage. Workers should receive a decent pay or at minimum a living wage.
- The issue of pensions was agreed as a priority issue. In the absence of a national retirement age, employees retiring at 60 are grossly affected, since Social Security benefits are now paid at 65. Those who choose to accept benefits before 65 are penalized. This sharp reduction in income is causing many to seek menial employment to survive or is pushing them closer to poverty, beyond the age of 60.
- Occupational Health and Safety was highlighted. The issue of mental health and wellbeing of workers was emphasized. It was made clear that employers must ensure that the workplace is well sanitized and made safer for workers as well as for customers. In a COVID19 era the Unions believe that there ought to be clear policies at work locations; to stipulate the wearing of masks by all, physical distancing, and the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for staff who need them and cleaning supplies to sanitize workstations.
Other high priority issues were also discussed to include:
- Dominica’s participation in the International Labour Conference, reporting to the International Labour Organization (ILO) and for the Government to take steps to ratify Convention 190. It was noted that the last time Dominica ratified an ILO convention was in 2004.
- Precarious/contract work, victimization and discrimination of workers were also seen as issues to be addressed more fervently.
- COVID-19 has forced many workers to operate virtually and as such digitalization is affecting these workers. The impact of technology on work, control and access to privacy and dependence on technology to operate today is frightening and concerning. Over the past two years many teachers have had to transition without much preparation and invested their own resources for internet, data, and IT teaching devices.
The Unions at that meeting made a commitment towards greater solidarity and collective action and with the endorsement of their respective Executives, agreed to this joint statement, and to meet again in one week to put in place a plan for more concrete action and to establish a more formal arrangement to treat with matters of mutual interest.
We the Unions, congratulate and celebrate all our workers in Dominica and wish to acknowledge all the employers who value their workers and respect their Trade Unions as equal contributors to production, innovation, and advancement in Society.
Solidarity, Liberty and Fraternity and a Happy and peaceful May Day 2022 to all.
Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU)
Waterfront and Allied Workers Union (WAWU)
Dominica Association of Teachers (DAT)
Dominica Amalgamated Workers Union (DAWU)
This 29th day of April 29, 2022 on the Occasion of May Day 2022