Hypocritical…That is the reaction from Member of Parliament for Couva South Rudranath Indarsingh to the responses of both Joseph Remy, President of the Communications Workers Union and David Abdullah, Political Leader of the MSJ to the UNC Political Leader’s call for unity from the Trade Union Movement.
Indarsingh questioned their rationale when they said that they cannot be associated with the UNC because the labour movement was betrayed by the Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led Administration.
Indarsingh said that he remains steadfast in his belief that some Trade Union Leaders continue to use their position to advance the political agenda of the PNM and use their membership as unsuspecting political pawns in the process.
He challenged both Remy and Abdullah to tell the workers of the country what has the Keith Rowley-led PNM Administration delivered to the Labour Movement since it came into office in September 2015?
What has become of the Memorandum of Understanding which the Labour Movement signed with the PNM prior the 2015 GE?
What tenets of the PNM 2015 GE Manifesto can the Labour Movement attest to that have been put in place?
What has become of the National Tripartite Advisory Council (NTAC) which was launched by Prime Minister Keith Rowley to address the industrial relations issues of affected workers from Petrotrin, Arcelor Mittal, Centrin and TSTT?
In April 2016, Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development Jennifer Baptiste- Primus told the country that her Ministry had developed and received Cabinet’s approval on its Ten-
Point Action Plan titled “Empowering Unemployed Persons – Re-integration into Decent Work: Turning Adversity into Opportunity,” a plan which she said would be a multi-pronged approached to counteracting the negative fallouts of the recent job losses. Three years later, just like her promise in October 2015 of over 35000 truck driving jobs in Canada, there has been absolutely nothing that has even been started on these two announcements.
Indarsingh said that post-September 2015, the Government has arrogantly and deliberately ignored workers of the country; there has been no social dialogue with workers and their Unions; tripartism and collective bargaining have all collapsed under this Government.
Perhaps it is “convenient” of some Leaders such as Remy and Abdullah to be reminded of some of the achievements of the Trade Union Movement during the People’s Partnership Government (PPG).
Under that Administration, over 56000 new jobs were created; 135 labour negotiations (many bought forward from the Manning-led PNM Administration) were settled resulting in a pay-out of over $3 Billion in back pay.
Between 2010-2015, the minimum wage was increased from $9 to $15 per hour; maternity leave was increased to 14 weeks in keeping with international standards as recognised by the International Labour Organisation; old age pension was increased to $3000 per month and all benefits under the NIS were increased.
Indarsingh, former Minister of State in the Ministries of Labour and Finance in the Persad Bissessar-led PPG asked Remy and Abdullah to state just how many negotiations have been settled under the current Rowley-led PNM Administration?
Infact, there has been no new job creation but rather a record loss of over 55,000 jobs which was further augmented earlier this week by another 199 at UTT, 89 at CDA and 68 at Heritage Petroleum.
Has PM Rowley and his Labour Minister Baptiste-Primus ever had any serious dialogue with the Trade Union Movement since coming into office in September 2015?
Indarsingh highlighted former Prime Minister Persad- Bissessar’s conversations with various stakeholder groups on the impact of falling energy prices on the Trinidad and Tobago economy and her meeting with 40 representatives from 17 trade union bodies which was followed by her statement “We will stand side by side and work together to ensure that employment levels and job security are maintained during this time of economic transition.”
Does Remy and Abdullah recall that the Labour Leaders present welcomed the (then) Prime Minister’s invitation to voice their concerns and plot a way forward to minimize the impact on workers and their families, describing the move as “unprecedented”.
It has been quite the opposite with the Rowley-led PNM Administration.
Indarsingh recalled that while Persad-Bissessar was an invited guest at most of the Trade Union’s events, with just one year into their mandate, both Rowley and Baptiste-Primus were deliberately not invited to attend the 79th Anniversary and Annual Labour Day March and Rally in Fyzabad.
Indarsingh, who was a President of one of the country’s largest Trade Unions before entering politics, chided labour leaders such as Remy and Abdullah who he says seem to be still in the back pockets of the PNM. They have, by their support of this Government, abandoned their care for their union members and workers.
The greatest betrayer of the people and workers in general, has been the Keith Rowley-led PNM Administration.