Unions pass ‘no-confidence motion’ against Government: Rowley must go!

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

[PAGE 4] A cross section of union members taking part in Labour Day celebrations in Fyzabad on Sunday. – Lincoln Holder

THE historic Charlie King Junction, Fyzabad was turned into a “workers’ parliament” on Labour Day as a “motion of no-confidence” in the Prime Minister and his administration was moved by Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) leader Ancel Roget.

The motion was unanimously passed by thousands of workers whose cries of “Rowley must go! Rowley must go!” reverberated in in the birthplace of the labour movement, as trade unions returned in their numbers for the first time in two years since the start of the covid19 pandemic to “deal” with Government and its four per cent wage offer.

In moving the motion, Roget said the role of the government is to protect its citizens and create conditions for economic growth and material prosperity. However, he said under the current PNM-led administration, only a selected few had benefited and Dr Rowley had failed to deliver to the majority.

He said Government had shown a complete disregard for the pain and suffering of ordinary working people and had overseen and consented to the retrenchment of thousands of workers under the guise of restructuring.

[PAGE 3] Drummers and Trade union members stand at attenion before the start of the Labour March from Avocat junction to Charlie King Junction, Fyzabad, on Sunday. – Lincoln HolderRoget said a no-confidence motion would have been rejected in the Parliament but, in the workers parliament, Speaker Brigid Annisette-George had no such authority.

He said copies of the motion would be delivered to President Paula-Mae Weekes, the presiding officers of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, to the Opposition Leader and the sitting Chair of Caricom.

Delivery will begin on Friday following a gathering at the Queen’s Park Savannah. The letter will be delivered to the President first..

Against the backdrop of a calypso with the lyrics pleading, “go, get out now, please leave,” white balloons, each stuck with head shots of the members of the Rowley administration, were released into the air. One by one by trade union leaders, chased them away with dismissive hand movements.

One heckler dared to suggest several times during one of two addresses by Roget and Baptiste, “Flip the coin and criticise Kamla (Persad-Bissessar) too. If Rowley must go, Kamla must go also.”

[PAGE 4] A member of the Industrial and Sanitation Workers Union displays a placard that says “Stop putting families on the breadline” at a Labour Day march in Fyzabad on Sunday. – Lincoln HolderHe got to a point where Roget paused his scripted address to assert that “today is about Rowley. When we had to deal with Kamla we dealt with Kamla. Today is about Rowley, don’t confuse the issue.”

Under the blistering sun, thousands of workers arrived at Avocat Junction in all colours of maxi taxis, under the watchful eyes of dozens of uniformed police officers, for the pilgrimage to Fyzabad.

Arm in arm, like they did before covid19, trade union leaders identified by the colours of their T-Shirts, including some “good red and good yellow” as one announcer identified, led the march with music trucks, tassa, cadet corp, rhythm sections and the Kaisoca Moko Jumbies, to make the journey easier.

Recorded speeches of some leaders were played during the journey, as they highlighted the ills under this administration.

Retrenchment at WASA, TSTT, Port Authority, T&TEC, BIR, Customs, Lake Asphalt, SWMCOL, union busting and the contentious public sector wage negotiations were amplified.

[PAGE 3 MAIN] Trade union leaders head a Labour Day march from Avocat Junction to Charlie King Junction, Fyzabad, on Sunday. – Lincoln HolderMembership from some 34 trade unions carried placards registering what their leaders spoke of and kept a merry chant along the way.

Registered Nurses Association led by their leader Idi Stuart, called for a nurse to be the Health Minister. They also called for the ratification of the ILO convention.

“Nurses put their lives at risk and today they are being offered four per cent,” as they sang, “Imbert in the building hiding, hiding from workers.”

Postal workers who made the trek also had their own chant, “We want we money right now, we money don’t sleep out.”

Rejecting the four per cent offer, president of the Public Services Association (PSA) Leroy Baptiste, one of two leaders to address the gathering at Charlie King Junction, said this was not a time for peace.

“This is a time of war. We say no to the four per cent. We need the money and we need the money now and we not going to the Industrial Court.

“We are going to the people’s court. We are going to the streets.”

Baptiste promised, “We will continue to fight until all vacancies are filled, until there are permanent jobs and we stop retrenchment.”

Asserting that workers are people too and need better wages to restore their dignity, Roget, said Government has to beg, borrow but not steal to find the money to pay workers.

“It is not a matter of “if” Government settles, but “when.” He referred to Energy Minister Stuart Young’s interview with CNN’s Richard Quest on the windfall this country has received from the Ukraine/Russian war, and its use to pay bills.

“In case he did not know, the most important bill they have to pay is outstanding negotiations. Four per cent, we can’t do that,” to which the crowd responded with a resounding “no” as he counted up to 23 per cent.

Tongue-in-cheek, however, Roget declared, “but we are prepared to be reasonable.”

He said he agreed with Guyana’s vice-president Bharat Jagdeo that TT was falling apart, but went further to say, “it has already fallen apart.”