Panday: Labour must adapt to survive

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Mickela Panday – Photo by Roger Jacob

PATRIOTIC Front political leader Mickela Panday has said the labour movement can ensure its survival by adapting to the changes that are happening around it.

She made this comment in a Facebook post on June 19, reflecting on the significance of Labour Day.

Panday’s father, former prime minister the late Basdeo Panday, was president general of the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers Trade Union (ASTGWU) in 1973.

He also founded the United Labour Front and the UNC.

Panday said her father served tirelessly as ASTGWU leader until he was elected prime minister in 1995.

That happened when the UNC and the NAR agreed to form a coalition government after that year’s general election ended in a 17-17-2 stalemate between the PNM, UNC and NAR respectively.

“For 22 years, he worked to better the lives of the people in TT. I have so many wonderful memories of my childhood spent at Rienzi Complex, the home of the ATSGWTU and the base of so many struggles.”

Panday recalled some of her father’s achievements as a trade union leader. They included increasing sugar workers’ wages from $5 to $110 a day, guaranteeing year-round work for full-time employees and increasing housing loans from $3,000 to $70,000 to ensure sugar workers could build decent homes for their families.

She said, “Today, the biggest challenge facing the labour movement is our outdated system of industrial relations. If the labour movement is to survive, trade unions must change their role and methods.

“They must be part of the solution and not be alienated by the state.”

At a Labour Day rally at Charlie King Junction, Fyzabad on June19, Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) president Ancel Roget said the UNC will be one of the political parties the majority of JTUM’s membership will be speaking to in the coming weeks about forming a national front alliance against the PNM in next year’s general election.

UNC deputy leader Dr Roodal Moonilal and other high-profile UNC members (Wade Mark, David Lee, Rudranath Indarsingh and Dr Lackram Bodoe) participated in Labour Day activities in Fyzabad.

Moonilal wore a blue OWTU shirt on the trade unions’ march from Avocat Junction to Charlie King Junction. A statement from the UNC on June 19 said the party underscored its commitment to workers through Moonilal’s participation.

During the rally, Public Services Association (PSA) president Leroy Baptiste warned that if the PNM were re-elected, it would mean the end of the labour movement.

He suggested the labour movement open negotiations with the UNC with the objective of removing the PNM from government next year.