More than 30,000 members, representing eight trade unions took to the streets of Port of Spain, Trinidad last Friday demanding to meet with Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley to discuss several issues, including putting a halt to mass retrenchment currently taking place throughout the public service.
The unions, which came under the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTM) led by the powerful Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) president, Ancel Roget, has signaled its intention to intensify action following the united labor march.
Roget made the call as he addressed workers, who took part in the four-hour long rally in the city, where he called for the removal of four Cabinet ministers — Finance Minister Colm Imbert, Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon, Minister of Tourism Shamfa Cudjoe, and Minister of Labor Jennifer Baptiste, who he accused of “being a minister against the people instead of for the people.”
He said the labor movement was prepared to once again bruise their knees to achieve a resolution in favor of the working class.
Roget was referring to 2011, when trade union leaders embarked on a three-day fast to bring an end to the state of emergency which was implemented by the then former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration.
The JTUM leader also called for the settlement of all outstanding wage negotiations and challenged the prime minister to come clean about Trinidad and Tobago’s economic and financial situation.
A fired-up Roget said both Persad-Bissessar and Dr. Rowley were both “ungrateful, wicked and deceitful”
Roget expressed disappointment in the PNM for promising citizens a different future than that from the previous People’s Partnership (PP) government, yet acting in the same careless manner.
In dismissing the government’s claim that T&T had no money, Roget said it was the workers who were producing the money Government has been enjoying so far and that a certain level of respect must be afforced to this sector.
Describing worker retracement and stalled wage negotiations as austerity measures being adopted, Roget said the united labor movement could no longer stand by and tolerate the exploitation of workers.
Another trade union leader James Lambert told the crowd that while many of them were “red and ready” in 2015 when the PNM was voted in office, over 40,000 of them had now been left crying following the actions of the government.
He accused the government of not prioritizing the country’s needs even as they insisted on finding millions to complete the Brian Lara Stadium, and pay phone bills racked up by a certain minister.
The National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUFGW) leader said although the oil price continued to fluctuate daily, workers in T&T were being made to pay the price while a selected few enjoyed the financial benefits.