MSJ condemns TSTT retrenchment as ‘union-busting’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

David Abdulah.

THE Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) has condemned the proposed retrenchment of over 400 TSTT workers.

MSJ leader David Abdulah described it as another act of union-busting.

In a statement on Wednesday, Abdulah expressed solidarity with the TSTT employees and their representative Communication Workers’ Union (CWU).

He said the notices of retrenchment via e-mail on May 31, telling workers not to report for duty on June 1, were grossly disrespectful. Abdulah noted the injunction granted by the Industrial Court staying the company’s action because of violations of basic industrial relations practices and the law.

He said these workers, the majority of whom had given yeoman service to the company for many decades, were being made scapegoats for bad management decisions over the years.

Recalling the board and management optimism after the last retrenchment four years ago, about the company’s readiness to return to great profitability, Abdulah questioned why these entities failed to deliver.

“Once again this Rowley PNM Government has demonstrated its utter disrespect and disregard for working-class citizens and facilitated the placement of over 400 workers on the breadline.”

He envisaged more fallout in these challenging economic times.

“It is obvious Rowley has set union-busting as a strategic objective.”

He cited the closure of TIDCO, shutting down of Petrotrin, this second massive retrenchment at TSTT, along with intentions to restructure the Port and WASA, to back his claim of Government’s anti-worker, anti-union strategy.

He argued, “This is being done to satisfy the two per cent of big foreign and local businesses and the wealthy who control economic power in the country. Weaker unions, or better still no unions at all, equal more profits for the owners and managers of capital.

“What we are witnessing now is another travesty of justice handed down to ordinary working-class citizens. This is another signal for working-class citizens to unite and do everything necessary to create a society where those who labour would hold the reins of power and there would be social justice for all.”

He said the CWU has been engaged in bitter struggle since the previous retrenchment in 2018 as many issues relating to retrenched workers remain outstanding.

He said the latest move is retrenchment under the guise of restructuring, and TSTT has been hiding behind the veil of its ownership structure, despite requests for the Government to intervene and be the guardian of the State’s 51 per cent ownership.

“In fact, Camille Robinson-Regis, Minister of Housing and chairman of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on TSTT, is quoted as saying that ‘the matter of restructuring, including its shape, timing, and form, is a matter solely for the company and not for the Government. This was due to the legal ownership structure of TSTT.”

He compared her statement to what he termed the duplicity of line minister Marvin Gonzales, who told the union TSTT could not carry out any retrenchment until the sub-committee had finished its review of the company’s restructuring plans.

“Without stating whether or not the Cabinet had signed off on the plan, Gonzales is now quoted as saying that, ‘This is business of management and the executive board and…the government as shareholder should not get involved’. Quite obviously Minister Gonzales lied to the union and by extension the country.

“The MSJ is of the view that the TSTT management was at all material times carrying out the directives of the board who were appointed by the Government.”

He said it was “rather disingenuous” for Robinson-Regis and Gonzales to play Pontius Pilate and wash the government’s hands of the retrenchment.