The Trinidad Guardian / After giving the Government a failing grade during his performance appraisal at the annual Labour Day rally in Fyzabad, Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) leader Ancel Roget called on citizens to use the PNM’s third anniversary in office, September 7, to rest and reflect.
His call came immediately after JTUM presented a large report card on stage at Charlie King Junction and asked the unionists gathered to grade the Government on its handling of crime, the economy, labour, health and education.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was also graded and along with all the categories, he received an F.
Saying that the trade union movement should not stop at giving the Government a failing grade, Roget said there was a need to send a powerful message to ensure that they do the job they were hired to do.
“So today in the spirit of the ‘Butlerite’ tradition and in the interest of our country, we are declaring Friday, September 7, 2018, a day of rest and reflection.
“It will be a day to rest and reflect to say to the Prime Minister and his government that we are not accepting crime and gruesome murders, we are not accepting the sending home of workers, we are not accepting your disrespect for labour,” Roget said.
He called on all workers, businesses, civil society groups, religious groups and non-governmental organisations, students and the unemployed to support JTUM’s stance, saying that as a progressive labour movement, they saw their responsibility going beyond the boundaries of industrial relations and collective bargaining for its members.
“We maintain that ours is a sacred duty to provide a voice for the voiceless and we stand in defence of those who are the most vulnerable in our society,” Roget said.
Although heavy rains were forecast and despite World Cup matches occupying the time of many, thousands assembled in Avocat ahead of the march to Charlie King Junction where the statue of T&T’s trade union founder Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler stands. From humid conditions on the road to heavy rains at stage front, unionists kept focused on the messages offered.
In his performance appraisal, Roget criticised the Government’s handling of crime and employment, which was the focus of this year’s rally. He read from the PNM’s 2015 general elections manifesto and compared their promises to their performance.
At the beginning of his speech, Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte and Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries Nicole Olivierre were stage front. By the time Roget got into the meat of his appraisal, they had moved away.
Roget said citizens could no longer relax, socialise, drink a beer or ride in a maxi taxi without the fear of being attacked by criminals. He said in the PNM’s manifesto, they criticised the People’s Partnership’s handling of crime, high murder rate and the proliferation of firearms on the streets.
However, he said in the three years of the PNM, crime had become worse and people felt more unsafe than before. He said that in 2016 there were 463 murders, 494 in 2017 and 263 in 2018 to date. This has led to Canada, United Kingdom and the USA issuing negative travel advisories for T&T.
He said that while the union agreed that dealing with crime was everyone’s responsibility, it was the Government who was responsible for protecting the porous border, upgrading the national security apparatus and prison reform.
And while people are scared of being murdered, he said they are also afraid of losing their jobs. Under the PNM, he said thousands of workers were retrenched.
As the unions continue at the Industrial Court to settle matters of wrongful dismissal, discrimination in the workplace and unsettled collective agreements, Roget said there was a conspiracy by a group of elites to weaken the court.
Roget said the group spoke of creating a fund to hire a high-powered legal team from the UK to appeal every decision of the Industrial Court. In the health sector, he said, after three years under PNM governance, healthcare was in crisis with patients having to wait more than 24 hours for a bed and years for surgery or bear the high cost of medicine because the hospitals were out of stock. He said life-saving equipment was not being maintained so the only alternative was to go to high-priced nursing homes, which regular people could not afford. He said the Government refused to open the Couva hospital because of spitefulness and political wickedness while people continued to suffer.
Contacted for a response, Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus said she did not want to make any comments on the Labour Day celebrations in Fyzabad until she had seen the entire clip of what the labour leaders said in their speeches.