By Capil Bissoon
It was supposed to rival the “million man” march of yesteryear but it could not reach the numbers of even a small sized carnival band. This was the best that Ancel Roget, the People’s National Movement (PNM) and their friends could muster in their failed campaign to hoodwink us into believing that he and the PNM are the new messiahs.
This from a rabble-rouser whose outsized ego often gets the better of him.
It is clear from his utterings to date that you just cannot take a foreman one day and suddenly transform him into a strategic thinker and visionary leader capable of running a parlour, far less a Petrotrin-sized company.
Mr Roget’s narcissism makes him believe that he has what it takes not only to run the country’s energy sector but the entire government. And his cohorts in the union’s executive seem unwilling or incapable of giving him advice in the form of a reality check. Mr Roget needs to be told frontally that he lacks the intellectual wherewithal to do that which he thinks he is very capable of doing. As they say plain talk equals bad manners.
This from a man who in 2012 shouted: “No progress, no development, no industrial peace…strikes, more strikes and more strikes…when the time is right the country will come to a screeching halt.”
That sums up his recipe and vision for progress and development ignoring all the macroeconomic challenges which must be overcome in running a country as complex as ours.
Mr Roget’s rantings ignore the fact that current Labour Minister Errol McLeod, led by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, has presided over what arguably has been the most worker friendly government in our country’s history.
Under Errol McLeod, this government settled almost 80 collective agreements left outstanding by the last PNM government. That is a singularly commendable achievement.
It is this Kamla Persad-Bissessar government that increased the minimum wage to $15 per hour, an increase of 60 per cent from four years ago. Facts are indeed stubborn things.
We are now in the final stages of full settlement of HCU and CLICO in which many workers invested their hard earned monies.
It is this Government which increased citizens’ pensions to $3,500 and that of retired public servants to a minimum of the same amount.
It is this Government which increased disability grants to $1,800 and increased public assistance grants by $300 across the board.
It is the children of workers (including energy workers) who were provided with laptops to prepare them for the knowledge driven world of the 21st century.
It is this Government which built the Valencia and Point Fortin highways so that workers’ children from places as remote as Cedros and Sangre Grande can spend more hours in the classroom rather than in traffic jams.
Mr Roget must be told that we are not prepared to gamble all this for some megalomaniacal desire on his part to “mash up” the country.
If Mr Roget is so concerned with corruption why did he not march in the streets of Port of Spain when the past PNM Petrotrin board entered into a joint venture with little known World GTL which cost Petrotrin over US$3 billion? Why did he not breathe fire and brimstone against cost reimbursable contracts with Bechtel and an unknown local firm ABT for a gas optimisation programme whose costs escalated from US$350 million to US$1.5 billion?
Or why did he not raise heaven and earth when the old Petrotrin management ignored maintenance at the company so that between 2002 and 2010 only seven major turnarounds were executed at the refinery. That management also ran down Trinmar by stopping drilling and maintenance.
Mr Roget is clearly out of his depth intellectually and otherwise.
His actions demonstrate quite clearly that he is hell bent on destroying the energy sector, the very same industry that the workers he is supposed to represent earn their livelihood from. Where is his commitment to his union members and their families? Can he justify using the union to further his (and his associates) political agenda?
And while we are at it someone should tell us what the benefits are provided to the OWTU’s own workers at Paramount Building in San Fernando. I would wish to compare that with Mr Roget’s own emoluments and perks. Mr Roget’s monthly salary from the OWTU is $45,000 a month and the union has provided him with a chauffeur driven Audi A4 valued at a half a million dollars at least. What about the other benefits he receives?
My guess is that this may be a case of someone full of sin casting the first stone.