BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, May 2nd 2017 – President of the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union (SKNTLU), Mr. Joseph O’Flaherty said Monday that despite the removal of VAT from food, medicine and funerals, the cost of living in St. Kitts and Nevis has skyrocketed.
Addressing thousands at the end of the traditional Labour Day March, the trade union leader said consumers of goods have been betrayed, government has failed to monitor prices, businesses have been raking in huge profits and employers have been breaching the country’s labour laws and the Constitution.
“The Government removed VAT on foods, medicine and funeral expenses, as they said, to make living a bit easier on your pockets. While the improvement was felt for a while, the benefit has significantly been eroded. The unchecked, unregulated merchants were allowed to take what would have been a saving to you and make it into a profit margin for themselves,” said O’Flaherty, who added:
“How did they do this? They gradually increased their mark-up on goods, replacing what was the VAT with their own pure profit. So, you no longer benefit, the government has lost the VAT income, and the merchants level of profit increases on their bank accounts. So you see, you are no longer benefiting, as many merchants are forcing you to pay more, or just as much as before, while their profits get healthier.”
He said trade unionism has been struggling and called for other unions in St. Kitts and Nevis to meet in an effort to map out a way forward in the effective representation of professionals and all workers.
“Kittitians and Nevisians are suffering from no collective representation at their work places. And this came about for a strategy of propaganda facilitated by the merchant class and their political surrogate that pursued strategies to prevent workers from joining a union of their choice. These persons did the country and its workers a disservice because non-unionized workers have been disadvantaged over the years, and even today, there are some companies in this country who make it clear when one is being hired that you should not join a union,” Mr. O’Flaherty.
“These employers are in breach of the laws and the Constitution of the country and the time has come for this practice to end. It is unfortunate, that many workers are not receiving the benefits of the collective bargaining process. In fact, the fall-out of the anti-union campaign has had a damaging effect,” said O’Flaherty.
He said the formation of new unions is non-existent, and even the associations that have been formed are suffering from the difficulty in progressing towards effective collective representation in the workplace.
“Take a look at the Teachers Union and the St. Kitts Nurses Association. These two organizations are not in a position to represent their membership effectively. What this means, comrades, is that the time has come for all Unions and Associations to meet and discuss a collective path of solutions in order for workers in this country to be effectively represented across the variety of professions, trades and services,” the trade union leader said.
He gave an assurance that the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union intends to play a critical role in getting that process started, because in the end, it is all the workers of this country who will benefit.