Workers suffering, Indarsingh, Union say
Flashback: OWTU members protest at the "Mother of all Marches".
Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus has come under fire for her recent assessment of the labour sector.
Shadow minister for labour in the Opposition Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh said Baptiste-Primus’ comment that the labour sector was strong despite retrenchment is an insult to the intelligence of workers and all citizens.
Expressing shock at the “outrageous comment” Indarsingh said it would have been better if the Minister had remained silent on the matter.
Recalling the Minister’s “cavalier” response in the face of the announcement of the retrenchment of 285 workers at Unilever Caribbean Ltd and 33 at Agostini Limited, and the loss of jobs of 55,000 plus workers in both the public and private sectors, Indarsingh said it was an obscene attempt to reduce the severity of the continued punitive measures that have resulted in the collapse of economy.
He further called on the Minister to refrain from politicising the issue of retrenchment and workers job-losses and urged her to apologise for her “insensitive remarks”.
“Does the Labour Minister understand the ramifications on the state of affairs at Unilever? Unilever manufactures products as; soap, butter, oil, detergents etc. - items used daily by every man, woman and child in the country; it means that very soon the country will move from manufacturing these products to importing them... coupled with hundreds more on the breadline, it will be yet another drain on scarce Forex and most definitely higher costs for citizens.”
The Couva South MP reminded the Trade Union Movement that the Minister’s only intervention on the mass retrenchment of workers was two years ago when she made a weak “plead” to employers, including State Enterprises, to use retrenchment as a last resort.
Meanwhile, taking note of recent developments at Trinidad Petroleum Holdings Limited (TPHL), the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) said the country will feel the disastrous consequences of the decision to close Petrotrin.
The OWTU expressed concerns of nepotism as it noted the appointments of Michael Quamina, attorney to the Prime Minister and Newman George, a personal friend.
Questioning the qualifications held by these men other than close personal connection to the Prime Minister, the OWTU said it is clear that the government remains clueless, continues to contradict itself and misleads the population on this Petrotrin issue.
It said that workers are the ones who continue to suffer the consequences of these hasty decisions.
“Unfortunately, this does not bring any relief to the pain and suffering of the 4,500 fired permanent workers, 3,000 casual workers, and over 45,000 people affected by the decision to close Petrotrin.
In addition, it certainly does not mitigate in any way its impact on the country’s economy and the wider national community.”
“The OWTU maintains that the Perotrin story is far from over!” the union added.