Opposition Leader: Working class under threat by government policies

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar. FILE PHOTO –

Workers are facing increasing challenges and worsening economic and social conditions as a result of the PNM government’s inability to manage the country’s affairs, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said in her Labour Day message on Saturday.

She accused the government of removing programmes put in place by her coalition administration between 2010-2015.

“Instead of the progression and upliftment of workers in this country, we are seeing a regression of the policies and programmes put in place by the People’s Partnership administration, and the decimation of the working class,” the former prime minister said.

She claimed there has been significant job loss, much owing to the lockdown measures adopted to curb the spread of the covid19 virus.

“This PNM administration has presided over massive job losses, with over 120,000 people being put out of work and zero jobs created. The draconian measures undertaken by this government during the pandemic led to thousands of business closures, and many small businesses were unable to recover.”

Government’s view that the economy is stable, coming out of its mid-year review last month, was not the reality of the country, Persad-Bissessar said.

“This government has no care or concern for workers and continues to attempt to hoodwink the population into believing that all is well in our economy. They have failed to produce a single idea or initiative to attract foreign direct investment, encourage new business development, diversify the economy or create jobs.”

In reference to the recent announcement of a ten per cent cut in the allocation to the UWI, Persad-Bissessar said the government had no interest in investing the country’s human capital.

“They have cut funding to education and skills programmes, because investing in our human capital is not a priority of the PNM.”

Making a pitch for a return to government, Persad-Bissessar said the UNC has plan to grow the economy and create thousands of jobs.

“Our track record is clear, during the administration I led, over 56,000 new jobs were created, and 135 wage negotiations were settled. We expanded technical-vocational skills programmes and provided laptops to secondary school students to prepare them for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“Our plan for economic transformation includes reducing the tax burden, jump starting food security, investing in renewable energy and creating three new funds to mobilise financial resources.”

Highlighting the UNC’s past of being led by labour leaders – one of its founders, former prime minister Basdeo Panday led the All Trinidad General and Sugar Workers Union – Persad-Bissessar said the party “continues to stand unequivocally with the workers of this country.”

“We remain relentless in our pursuit of prosperity, safety, fairness, peace, bread and justice.

“The UNC, working with organised labour and the trade union movement, will work towards restoring trade union democracy to its fullest through radical and appropriate amendments to the Industrial Relations Act and other pieces of labour legislation.”

Government is currently in the midst of wage negotiations with trade unions which have rejected its latest four per cent offer, after an initial two per cent. However, early in the PP administration, trade unions rejected its five per cent wage increase offer.