NATUC head condemns ‘disregard for suffering of workers’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Employees from the Division of Finance, Trade and the Economy hold up placards at Gulf City Mall, Lowlands, on Sunday before the Labour Day march to Scarborough. – David Reid

The labour movement has moved a resolution of no confidence in the PNM government, which will be taken to President’s House, St Ann’s, on June 24.

National Trade Union Centre (NATUC) general secretary Michael Annisette announced the resolution on Sunday as he wound up his address at a Labour Day rally in Tobago.

The rally, which attracted hundreds of workers from various trade unions, culminated a two-hour march from the Gulf City Mall, Lowlands, to the Scarborough Esplanade.

During the march, Anisette, NATUC president James Lambert and other labour leaders rejected Chief Personnel Officer Dr Daryl Dindial’s latest four per cent proposal to public sector workers over a six-year period, 2014-2019, demanding that workers be given a living wage to cope with the high cost of food and other goods and services.

The CPO’s latest offer was made during meetings with representatives of the Public Services Association, Police Social and Welfare Association and Fire Services Association, last week.

He had previously proposed a two per cent wage increase for the period 2014-2021, which the labour movement had described as “insulting.”

The Prime Minister, who is in Los Angeles, California, undergoing a medical check-up, referred to the four per cent officer in his Labour Day address, saying it would cost the government $2.5 billion in back pay alone up to June 2022 and a further $500 million annually just for the civil service, teaching service, defence force, protective services and daily-rated workers.

On Sunday, Annisette said the government had failed in its responsibility to address the needs of the country’s working class and as such, was not fit to continue to represent their interests.

The resolution, as read by him, stated that the government has shown “a complete disregard for the pain and suffering of ordinary working people.”

It added the government has “overseen and consented to the retrenchment of many thousands of workers; whilst deceitfully claiming to restructure is moving swiftly to privatise state enterprises having already sent home many thousands of workers from Petrotrin, TDC (Tourism Development Corporation), Caroni Greens, TSTT (Telecommunications Services of Trinidad & Tobago) , UTT (University of Trinidad & Tobago) and many others.”

The resolution stated the government also has plans to send home workers from WASA, T&TEC, NP, BIR, MTS, PTSC, SWMCOL, Lake Asphalt, Port of Port of Spain and others.

The resolution claimed the government “did absolutely nothing when Arcellor Mittal and many more private companies sent home thousands of workers.”It said the trade union movement is “withdrawing our consent to the type of governance which has resulted in a national crisis creating great inequality and hardship for workers across the country.”

The resolution added the trade union movement, as “champions of the working class and democracy will ensure that this struggle is not concluded until all workers have a better standard of living.”

After presenting the resolution, Annisette asked the workers if they agreed, to which they responded resoundingly, “Yes!”

Earlier in his address, Annisette said there continues to be a great disparity between the have and the have-nots in this country.

He said that an investment in improving the salaries of workers would allow for “productive spending” in the economy.

“Because with your wages, you buy all the goods and services; with your wages, you pay T&TEC, you pay WASA, you pay your rent, you pay your taxi fare. And that has an effect on growing your economy….but if there is no money spending in your communities and when the money is only directed to one group of people, you will have the pauperisation of the workers of Trinidad and Tobago.”

He said NATUC will not support that type of philosophy.

Annisette, who is also Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union president general, said workers need income, job and wage-led growth.

“That is an economic philosophy that speaks to developing your economy and it is being used successfully in several countries.”

He said workers must be given a wage increase that enables them to pay for goods and services, access loans and save money.

“That is what the salaries ought to and should do.”

Lambert, THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine, Deputy Chief Secretary Watson Duke, Transport and Industrial Workers Union president Judy Charles also spoke.