Economía

Luis Alfonso Oberto PDVSA *&* ||22 //
Labour’s grim view of Govt

In fact, the union leaders, displeased with how it is handling key matters in the labour sector, have established a score card on Government’s overall performance and the state of the economy since it assumed office in September 2015.

The results will be announced at the rally after the march to Charlie King Junction, Fyzabad, said president of the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union (SWWTU ) Michael Annisette.

“There will then be some critical pronouncements from the labour leaders on the score sheet,” he told Sunday Newsday.

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Annisette predicted tomorrow’s march, which celebrates the 80th anniversary of the 1937 Butler Riots, will be the largest in recent years.

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Labour Day was declared a public holiday in 1973.

“Three federations (Joint Trade Union Movement, National Trade Union Centre and Federation of Independent Trade Unions) will be marching under one banner.

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That is an historic day for Trinidad and Tobago.

“The leaders have seen the wisdom in coming together in order for the labour movement and the workers in Trinidad and Tobago to survive given all that is happening in the country.” The march will include the Public Services Association, bridging a rift that divided the movement.

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However, the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers Trade Union has decided not to participate in the Fyzabad march but will instead host its own Labour Day celebrations at Rienzi Complex in Couva following a walk from Esperanza Recreation Ground.

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On the Fyzabad agenda, Annisette said a range of issues will be covered, including visionary governance, economic diversification, food security, crime and the growing disparity between the haves and the have nots in society.

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Of the latter, he said: “There appears to be a contradiction about this recession when you look at the amount of massive profits that are being announced by the various entities.

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It tells me that the economic structure in place does not have an all-inclusive economic and social structure to allow for the distribution of wealth in a way that everybody can benefit.

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“The wealth of the country must not be skewed in such a way that only a few people benefit immensely and the other groups of people like the workers, pensioners, disadvantaged and others are on the ground fighting for the crumbs.” He argued that the existing socio-political system was not underpinned by fairness in the distribution of wealth.

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“We talk about it but the reality is totally different,” said Annisette.

“If you look at the contract that is being given out year in, year out in the context of whoever is in political power, there is a certain group of people who benefit.” Claiming Government has failed to address labour issues, president of the Communications Workers Union (CWU) John Julien said the Dr Keith Rowley-led administration has shown little regard for the working class.

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“Recently, I looked at an ad saying that there would not have been any job losses, new taxes and they have reneged on all of those promises,” he said.

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“It is something that the trade union movement is going to be looking at on the platform come Labour Day.” Citing the recent retrenchment of workers at the Government Information Services Limited (GISL) and On the Job Training programme, Julien described as “absolutely frightening” the fact that the laying off of workers has continued unabated.

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He also regarded Jennifer Baptiste- Primus’ stewardship as Labour Minister, thus far, as disappointing given the fact that she emerged from the trade union movement.

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Baptiste-Primus was a PSA president.

“The Labour Minister made it quite clear after the swearing-in ceremony at Queen’s Hall that the Government was trying its best to do away with contract labour to make people permanent.” Of Baptiste-Primus’ statement on that occasion, Julien said: “We were jumping for joy because we have been clamouring for years now about the fact that persons that are on rotating contracts could not get a proper job letter, loans or be able to take out things on higher purchase.

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There was no security of tenure.

“So, when we heard that this Government said that their aim is to make people permanent as opposed to having people on contract.

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We were all for that.” He added: “Only now, to come in 2017 and see that most of the organisations where you have contract persons, they are now closing down the organisations, telling them that their contract has come to an end.” FITUN president Joseph Remy has been at the forefront of efforts to prevent workers at the Tourism Development Company (TDC) from going on the breadline after the implementation of Government’s proposed regulatory tourism authority.

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Urging the State to “let good sense prevail”, Remy feared the situation, if poorly managed, could see the end of the tourism sector at a time when the focus should be on diversifying the economy in the face of fluctuating oil and gas prices.

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He said the layoffs threatened to destabilise the country and urged Government to meet urgently with union leaders to resolve the problem.

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The crux of Remy’s argument was that Government had never engaged the trade union fraternity about its plans to retrench workers in certain entities.

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“We believe that the Government needs to stop all those layoffs, to engage the trade union movement immediately so that we could put on the table our solutions to the problems that we have found ourselves in,” said Remy, who is also CWU general secretary.

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According to Remy, Government has erred in not giving the trade union movement, a “genuine” tripartite partner, a true picture of the state of the economy.

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He said since union leaders decided to suspend their participation in the National Tripartite Advisory Council over the TDC issue, they have had no communication from the council’s head, Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis.

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Remy said as such, Government appeared to have given up on the tripartite process.

“You can’t be meaningful in your engagement if while you are engaging in tripartite talks, you are disrespecting the movement and you are also acting with a level of contempt for the fraternity.” Remy added that the retrenchment of workers at GISL, Caroni Greens and other entities were never discussed with labour leaders “As such, we believe that they have engaged in a level of disrespect by not talking about these challenging economic situations that they have found themselves in,” he said.

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“You are affecting employees, which is the heartbeat of the trade union movement and you have not engaged them whatsoever.

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And while we are talking tripartism, you are doing something else.” Julien stated the labour movement will not resume its position on the advisory committee until proper discussions are held about the TDC.

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“At the end of the day, these are persons who have families and must support them and the Government continues to make some callous statements,” he said.

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“We have withdrawn until that situation is dealt with in its entirety and it not what the Minister of Labour is saying, that we said that once we meet on TDC that we will come back.

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Labour will not be going back until and unless that situation with TDC is resolved.

As a recognised majority union, you have to show us the respect to meet and treat.” Remy added: “We believe that there is no need for this mass layoff that we are seeing taking place, and we believe that if they had followed some of the advice from the trade union movement in terms of rejuvenating and stimulating the economy, we would have not found ourselves in this situation.” Accusing Government of “operating on the basis of panic,” Remy said it had no new ideas on how to stimulate the economy.

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Moving ahead, Julien said Government needed to be honest with the population.

“The Government is not caring when it comes to the well-being and lives of many workers,” he said.

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“Many of those workers that are being retrenched are persons that would have been employed not in the last regime.

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“The last PNM regime created all of these special purpose companies in the public sector and, therefore, they need to come clean and have a caring attitude and sit down with the labour movement and find a way to save the jobs.” Julien argued that if jobs were not saved, the economy could not grow because no money was being circulated.

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“The people that circulated the money in the economy are the normal working class people because the other classes shop online and outside of the country.” Remy, too, called for honesty on the part of the Government.

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“Transparency and honesty should be the plan moving ahead, recognising the significance and value of the trade union movement to any economic resuscitation effort.

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That is critically important.

They cannot do it alone,” he said.

“The Government has been attempting to do it alone, without the input of those stakeholders who have a critical role to play in the economy.”

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