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We will fight for all workers

News day / Unlike 2015, when heavily armed police physically removed him from the podium in Charlie King junction, Duke took to the stage near Avocat Junction. But he did not address the hundreds of workers.

Instead, PSA general secretary Gorgonia Auguste spoke briefly and noted she was honoured to be there.

Auguste added that together trade unions shall be a force to be reckoned. She vowed that unions shall fight for whatever is right. Trade unions celebrated 80 years of militant union representation and for the first time at Avocat Junction, union leaders addressed the crowd there followed by a second address at Charlie King Junction at Fyzabad.

A total of 17 leaders from united labour movement addressed the gathering all of whom charged that workers are being under attack and the movement will continue to fight for the rights of workers. The movement comprises of the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM), the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC) and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs (FITUN).

MODERN DAY SLAVERY President of the Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU) Vincent Cabrera accused both Government and the Opposition of failing to support the working class.

He added that many labour laws that are keeping back the working class. He also highlighted some the plights of workers in the banking industry and described working at Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) as, “The best example of modern day slavery.” He recalled that after waiting six years, the union received recognition and obtained a certificate, “yet RBC gone for judicial review.” “They are daily paying for Senior Counsel and using the High Court as a shield to protect itself against the workers. Tobago workers told them to go to hell.

The trade union leaders cannot do it alone,” Cabrera said. He charged that Republic Bank Ltd made over a billion dollars in profit but is offering, “A measly six percent to its workers.” “Exploitation did not end with Emancipation. Exploitation did not end with the end of Indentureship,” Cabrera said. Unlike previous years, when music truck accompanied workers in the march from Avocat to Fyzabad, that was not so yesterday as police claimed no permission was given.

To the police, Cabrera said they are the sons and daughters of working people and must learn to respect working people and learn join with them. However, he placed blame on senior police officers whom he said gave the instruction to ban the music trucks. The lack of music did not stop workers from dancing and singing during the march.

Petrotrin Cadet Force provided entertainment in addition to there being rhythm sections and moko jumbies all under the watchful gaze of police officers.

SANITATION WORKERS DISRESPECTED President of the Industrial General and Sanitation Workers Union Robert Benacia, in his address, told the gathering that SWMCOL and all other sanitation workers in the country have always been treated with total disrespect. This although they are classified as workers of essential service.

“We risk our health and lives performing extremely hazardous job which exposes us to the indiscriminate dumping of all manner of hazardous waste especially those that work at the dumps.” Government after government continues to pay lip service to the already exploded time bombs at the three major dumps in Trinidad and one in Tobago, Benacia said.

“For over 50 years, radioactive waste, poisons, dead and diseased animals and numerous other hazardous materials have been dumped, putting us all at risk. Government failed to make waste management a priority,” Benacia added He quoted from a 2014 report by the ILO which stated that an estimated 15,000 chemicals are in use and another 2,000 produced each year of which approximately, half causes cancer.

BUFF FOR UNION LEADERS Also speaking was Michael Prentice of the Amalgamated Workers Union who said he wasn’t there for cosmetic reasons and had some strong words for union leaders as well.

“We are not only fighting forces outside but inside also.

Once bitten, twice shy. I don’t want to be bitten twice, who vex loss. George Weekes, (Tubal Uriah ‘Buzz’) Butler and (Adrian Cola) Rienzi must be turning in their graves today to see what we are passing off for trade union leaders. We must not sit back as trade union leaders.

JTUM is in for a sale,” Prentice said. JTUM leader Ancel Roget was the master of ceremonies at Avocat Junction.

President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) Lynsley Doodhai called on Government to begin wage negotiations now for the 2014/2017 period as well as for the Education Ministry to, “sort out the mess of EFCL.” President of the Sheep and Goat Farmers Association Shiraz Khan encouraged the nation to support local farmers by consuming more local products.

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