OWTU president general Ancel Roget. –
WITHOUT fear of contradiction or condemnation, president general of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) Ancel Roget said he agrees with Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s position that the 2021/2022 budget is a war on the people of TT.
War on the population was a recurring theme in Persad-Bissessar’s response to the budget as she cited, among other examples, the divide between vaccinated and unvaccinated which she said deprives children of an education, bad laws, alleged interference in independent bodies such as the Police Service Commission (PSC), as well as the “imposition of a useless curfew.”
At a virtual news conference on Monday, Roget agreed the the curfew was designed to supress and repress the citizens who could not even raise their voices or a placard.
He warned that in spite of the removal of VAT from some items, grocery prices will escalate as Christmas approaches, as would the cost of electricity, fuel and water that would have a knock-on effect along with the imposition of property tax.
He said the union in its budget wishlist had pleaded for no new increases or tax imposition. However, he said in addition to implementing the property tax, the penalty of a $5000 fine for failure to submit the valuation form was appalling.
“How much more wicked can these people get?” he asked.
He said those parliamentarians pounding the desk in affirmation to, what he described as, the burdensome measures Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced during his budget presentation, “were in effect pounding you (citizens) to the ground.”
Roget said apart from the hardship, pain and suffering the budget would bring, Imbert was short of ideas to grow the economy to bring about some equity and balance.
“We said they were going to increase electricity rates – tick, they increased it. We said they are going to increase water rate – tick, that is going to happen. That has been announced in the budget.
“We said they are going to increase fuel prices – tick, that has happened.
“We said they are coming with property tax – tick, that has happened.”
Roget said all those measures have been wrapped up in a “con job” to make citizens believe they are reducing the burden when they are in fact increasing it.
Citing the removal of value added tax (VAT) from corned beef and pigtail, Roget said in addition to adverse health conditions, there are religions which do not consume corned beef or pigtail.
“So, the PNM sycophant could wine low down to the ground because you remove the VAT on pigtail, but that is only good for the person wining down to the ground because she likes pigtail.”
He said the offer of a fuel card is another con job because the masses who have to commute daily along the East-West Corridor or from north to south using public transport, do not own vehicles.
He expressed disappointment with the way the budget ended, saying he wanted to hear from the Minister of Public Utilities about the proposed increase in prices.
He was also disappointed that Energy Minister Stuart Young did not elaborate on the drop in crude oil production at Heritage or the impact of the arbitration settlement with A&V Oil.
Roget said the debate was also bereft of details regarding the instruction of Imbert to the chief personnel officer to restart negotiations that are ten and 12 years old with public sector unions.
“Is that legal? Is that lawful for the minister to interfere with the free collective bargaining process? All of those details we did not hear in the budget debate.”