Saturday 23 March, 2019

MP: 'Nothing to celebrate' on Labour Day

Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh is calling on Government to come clean on the true number of workers who will be forced on the breadline in the wake of restructuring of Petrotrin, ADB, NAMDEVCO, the establishment of the Revenue Authority and TSTT’s acquisition of Massy Communications.

The Opposition MP was critical of Government in his Labour Day message, as he said workers and the labour movement have nothing to celebrate on Labour Day, after 21 months of the Dr Keith Rowley-led Government.   

He lamented that in spite Government’s assertion that it is committed to working closely with the trade union movement to ensure the rights of workers and their representatives are always respected - exactly the opposite is happening in the country.

Indarsingh said there is now a dark cloud and no hope after 25,000-plus job losses, and called on the Prime Minister and the Ministers of Finance, Energy, Public Utilities and the Agriculture to tell the labour movement how many more thousands of workers will be forced on the breadline.

He accused Government, namely Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus, a former trade union leader, of “totally” betraying the labour movement and workers.

“Baptiste-Primus has presided over the collapse of joint Memorandum of Understanding signed between the PNM and the labour movement prior to the September 2015 General Elections.

Today, the labour movement has withdrawn from the National Tripartite Advisory Council (NTAC) and social dialogue is no longer on the Rowley-led Administration’s radar.”

The MP said workers are grappling with sustained taxation, three increases in the price of gas and diesel, online taxation, restoration of VAT on 7,000 basic food items, looming property tax and a sliding TT dollar, which have resulted in a “total erosion of workers' purchasing power resulting in thousands of families having great difficulty in putting bread and butter on the table for their dependents”.

Indarsingh questioned what has become of the Minister’s 10-Point Plan and the announcement of 35,000 Canadian jobs to citizens to drive long haulage trucks in Alberta which will lead to them acquiring Canadian citizenship.

He said the principles of good industrial practices and the labour laws of our country are being undermined by Government which is “prepared to bulldoze its way in shutting down state companies rather than pursuing their restructuring and saving the jobs of workers, the most glaring examples being the closure of the Tourism Development Company, Caroni Green, GISL and the Seafood Industry Limited”.

“While workers are being told by an uncaring and arrogant Government to band their bellies and make sacrifices, waste, corruption and mismanagement continues unabated; $3M in paintings to satisfy the Prime Minister’s ego, $255M for TSTT to acquire Massy Communications with no Cabinet approval, $90M (and counting) for the Brian Lara Stadium which has not being certified by the International Cricket Council, $59,000 cell-phone bill by the Tourism Minister, $92,000 bill for the Sports Minister and “his entourage” to hand out one trophy at the THA's Sports Awards,” he continued.

The MP also listed issues with the public healthcare sector, the Tobago seabridge, economic growth and diversification, and called on Government to bring amendments to the Parliament to the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act as well as the establishment of an Unemployment Insurance Fund, to restore dignity to the labour movement and workers.

Indarsingh also called on Government to cease undermining the free and fair collective bargaining process.

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