Member of Parliament for Couva South Rudranath Indarsingh is today condemning the pronouncements of Public Administration Minister Marlene McDonald that workers can be fined $500 and jailed for three months if they stay away from work on Friday.
McDonald’s threat have been echoed within recent weeks by several Ministers of the Keith Rowley Cabinet including Education Minister Anthony Garcia, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and Energy Minister Franklyn Khan as they all continue to attempt to intimidate workers as it relates the upcoming Day of Rest and Reflection and the loss of 3,500 jobs with the closure of Petrotrin.
Indarsingh contends that their pronouncements are designed to intimidate workers into submission at a time when the Government policies have resulted in the loss of 40,000 jobs in the last 3 years and a further 3,500 with the closure of Petrotrin and many more in the fenceline communities.
MP Indarsingh contends that McDonald has no moral authority to point workers to theIndustrial Relations Act (I.R.A.) when the Government to which she belongs has undermined the principles of good industrial relations practices and labour laws since it came into office in September 2015.
The Constitution he contends, guarantees freedom of association and assembly and freedom of speech in relation to Government policies which has resulted in a literal collapse of the economy, rampant unemployment, increasing poverty, a spiralling out- of-control crime epidemic and the collapse of the education and health care systems.
Indarsingh reminded the Administration that workers still have the freedom and the right of choice to engage in a day of rest and reflection if they so desire to send a message to a Government which has been very anti-worker since coming into office.
Indarsingh accused the Government of fanning the flames of instability through its pronouncements at a time when it should be committed to social dialogue. He is further challenging McDonald to tell the country if the Government is laying the foundation where it will instruct law enforcement officers to raid the offices of trade unions, the homes of labour leaders and union members.
Indarsingh, former Minister of State in the Ministries of Labour and Finance, said that theRowley-led Administration seems to be heading in the direction of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro style of Leadership. Prime Minister Rowley has been a frequent flyer to Venezuela where trade unionists, opposition politicians and citizens who engage in peaceful demonstration are subject to the heavy hand of the military and police.
Is it the objective of the Government to arrest and jail trade unionists, their members and citizens who opt to exercise their fundamental right to strike
The Couva South MP is further asking whether the Government will use the canister grenades, projectiles, water cannon, and mobile tracking units acquired from the $2.32B allocated to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service in the 2017-2018 Budget to quell any type of industrial unrest in the country. This acquisition, according to former National Security Minister Edmund Dillon, was needed “to maintain public order.”
Indarsingh, a former President of one of the country’s largest Unions said that theRowley’s PNM appears to be so terrified of the power of the people that they are taking precautions to put down any kind of civil disorder that might be imminent because of the anti-people, oppressive measures that have characterised their three years in office.
The Opposition’s Labour and Enterprise Development Critic accused the Government of undermining the MoU it signed with the Labour Movement prior to the 2015 General Elections as well as the MoU signed in April 2018 between the Wilfred Espinet-led Petrotrin Board and the OWTU in relation to the appointment of union representatives to the Committee to restructure Petrotrin.
Indarsingh chided Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development Jennifer Baptiste-Primus, herself a former Trade Union President, for her deafening silence and lack of any leadership whilst the labour movement in the country is in utter disarray and chaos, saying that it would appear this Minister is oblivious to her role and functions.
Indarsingh also reminded the trade union movement and the workers of the country that the former People’s Partnership Government vehemently opposed any type of oppression on the working class of the country during its tenure in office. He lamented that the much negotiated and advancements of gainful employment, productivity and personal development which workers achieved during former Administration’s tenure have all but disappeared as organized labour has lost ground as a result of unsympathetic and hostile Rowley’s Administration policies, contempt and lack of respect for the workers of the country.