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Labor rights to be discussed

The issues affecting some 50 million of the region's employees will bediscussed in a "worker specific forum" to be held at the University of theWest Indies' St Augustine Campus today.

The conference entitled "Forum of the Workers of the Americas" isexpected to feature some 153 trade unionists from 33 countries within theregion, President of the National Trade Union Centre of Trinidad and Tobago(NATUC), Michael Annisette, said yesterday.

The official opening ceremony of the two-day forum, which is expected tobe held at UWI's Sport & Physical Education Centre (SPEC), is scheduled tobegin at 9 a.m. today, Annisette said at a press conference held at theSeamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union Hall (SWWTU) on Wrightson Road,Port of Spain.

And both United States Secretary of Labour, Hilda Solis, along withlocal Labour Minister, Rennie Dumas, are expected to attend the forum'sfirst day.

"This is a first of its kind in the context that we are having all thesetrade unionists from the Caribbean and Latin America and the region whichwill sit down, discuss and articulate issues that affect the workers allover the Americas and the Caribbean region and therefore come up at theending of the day with a resolution," Annisette said.

"And that resolution we propose to take to the Foreign Ministers wherewe have been allotted 45 minutes to engage in discussions with the ForeignMinisters to articulate the trade unionists perspective of the globalcrisis and our views in the context of how we can reform this system thatplaces workers at a disadvantage," he said.

The region's trade union hierarchy are expected to meet with theministers on the Carnival Princess cruise ship on Friday.

This "cream of the crop" of the region's labour unions include LindaChavez-Thompson, President of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas(TUCA), her Secretary General Victor Baez and Stanley Gacek, AssociateDirector of the American Federation of Labour and Congress of IndustrialOrganizations.

"We want to make sure that the message is clear to all the Presidents,that while this economic crisis affects us all, we want to make sure thatwe are not unfairly targeted as workers are concerned," Chavez-Thompsonsaid.

Baez added that workers are not part of the problem but are part of thesolution for the current global financial crisis.