The UNC’s plan for job creation
The UNC has a plan to not only stop the massive job losses, but to also create employment.
Like it or not, job losses impact all of us one way or another.
It impacts the spending power of our citizens.
It impacts crime.
It impacts education.
It impacts you and your quality of life.
When one person loses their job, we all lose a little part of what makes life better in Trinidad and Tobago.
Your party, the UNC, has a vision for a thriving, prosperous Trinidad and Tobago, in which citizens have opportunities for sustainable jobs, better access to education at all levels, quality healthcare and all are able to feel safe in their homes.
This Rowley-led government is doing nothing to shrink the gap between those who have everything and those that have almost nothing.
My friends, THIS HAS TO STOP.
The middle-class in our country is being turned into the working poor.
When the PNM slashes jobs, increases the price of Super Gasoline and increases taxes, what they are doing is destroying the middle class of the country.
They attack the middle class and expect them to carry the burden. Those of us in the middle carry the heavy load of trying to take care of our families, our communities and our country.
The middle class are just trying to get by in a system that is stacked against them and by a government that blames them for everything that is wrong, while shouldering no responsibility for the decisions that they have made.
There was a time when a carpenter, working in one of the Regional Corporations could go to a bank or credit union and qualify for a mortgage to buy or build a home.
Those days are gone.
There was a time when a teacher made a salary, enough to pay all her bills, take care of her children and still save a little something at the end of the month.
Today, our teachers, clerks and labourers make-up the working poor in our land. They can’t do what their parents and grandparents did.
That is one of the reasons why the HDC is so oversubscribed… because once upon a time, those teachers, clerks and labourers would be able to stand as part of the middle class, building himself or herself and building a future for their children.
But they can’t… Because the system is rigged against them.
Some persons will say those that have, worked hard for it.
I agree that many have worked hard… but I want to also tell you that some had an unfair advantage.
And to be honest with you, I do not blame anyone for his or her achievements.
If you acquired your money because you worked hard for it, or your grandfather worked hard for it, I want to congratulate you.
That is not my concern… My concern is for those who are working hard every day and still can’t pay their bills or save at the end of the month.
My concern is for those who want to work and can’t find a decent paying job, even though they did what we all told them to do.
We told them to study in Primary School and pass SEA…
We told them to study hard and get your passes…
We told them to study harder and get a degree…
And now Rowley is telling them to work at a minimum wage job or join the OJT program.
Ladies and Gentlemen… That simply isn’t fair.
It is not fair, that we are living in a country where a bank can declare record end of year profits of $1.25 billion in 2018, but only want to give workers a small increase.
The employees of that institution should benefit and not only the shareholders.
Most bank tellers don’t even make enough to get a mortgage from the very bank they work for.
A union recently said, even if a bank gave all its workers a 50% increase in salary, the bank would still make more than a billion dollars a year.
That is the 1% that I speak of… It’s not an individual, its a system, a clique, a mindset only focused on the bottom line.
A mindset… Petrotrin shutdown is only about Rowley’s bottom-line.
Yes, we all understand that Petrotrin is not making a profit.
But Dr. Rowley wants to blame the management and employees alone for this. When the truth is, the main reason for the drop in profit is due to the collapse of oil prices.
What amazes me is that the Prime Minister is trying to double sell the country by lying to us day after day.
He says the government is doing the best that it can and can’t deliver because of a lack of money, and you can’t blame his government for that because oil prices have fallen.
But at the same time, he wants to blame Petrotrin workers for being the main cause for the fall of the company.
Oil prices are on the rise once again.
The foundation of being a Prime Minister is about improving the lives of citizens… All citizens.
The job of a Prime Minister is to protect jobs, protect citizens and improve their lives.
That is what the job is about at its core and if Dr Rowley cannot deliver on that core value of leadership, then I suggest that he is not only failing at his job but also failing all of us as a country.
The time has come to level the playing field.
They accused my government of creating a welfare state because I expanded the GATE, so that more persons could access higher education.
Keith Rowley closed the GATE, cutting off opportunities for young people.
Today at our higher education facilities, classes are almost empty because parents cannot afford to send their children.
I want to tell you that those who supported the cut in GATE funding, are the ones who can send their children to universities in Miami, New York and London.
That has to stop.
We expanded the social safety net, increasing assistance provided to those with disabilities.
We increased old age pension and the minimum wage and we also gave single mothers the baby grant for the first 12 months of their baby’s life. That was not a hand out, but rather a helping hand, so that these women would be better equipped to care for their infants in that critical first year.
And those who do not understand the hardship of old age, disabilities and being a single mother… the PNM were the ones who condemned it and said we were doing something that was wrong.
I tell you tonight… If helping the citizens of this country is wrong… I have no problem being wrong. I make no apologies for trying to uplift the people who need it.
The division of wealth in this country is something we must all stop and pay attention to.
It is something that we as a nation cannot and must not accept as unfixable in our society.
Even media workers in this room today are underpaid and overworked, for companies who have sent home many of their co-workers after years of service because they no longer serve the bottom line.
While we all understand that any serious management team has an obligation to all their shareholders, I put it forward that shareholders also have a responsibility to ensure the management and board pay their employees a living wage and opportunity for growth.
A culture of retraining, reworking and retooling the workers of Trinidad and Tobago within the company’s framework is what is needed today.
I reject the culture of making decisions based strictly on the bottom-line, which has zero focus on how it impacts the lives of citizens.
I reject the idea that the only solution for Petrotrin, is to shut down the refinery.
I reject the concept put forward by the Prime Minister, that it is the board and not the cabinet, who have decided to shut down Petrotrin.
I reject the voices of the super elite, who have come out in support of this move.
I reject the idea of sending home thousands of workers, as this will have a devastating effect on our economy.
As the leader of the Opposition, I am declaring that Petrotrin is too important – with thousands of workers hanging in the balance – for the Keith Rowley government to allow it to fail.
While the company may be in desperate need of help, the ripple effect of shutting the company down will be tremendous.
Equal to the devastating effect this action will have on the economy, the harsh reality of the management skills of the government cannot and should not be trusted.
I do not trust that the importation of gas and diesel will be managed to the point where citizens will not experience shortages at the pump.
You just have to look to the management of the inter-island ferry to see the incompetence and absence of basic management skills by the government.
In April of last year, the government bungled the inter-island service with one bad decision after another.
By August, the Prime Minister admitted it led to a crooked deal.
In November, he promised the service would be fixed by Christmas 2017… That date has come and gone.
In January, they said the Galleons Passage would be here by April. We are now in October…
Can you imagine what would have happened if we were waiting for gas to be delivered under this kind of mismanagement?
These are serious times and serious decisions must be made, with the understanding that these actions will impact all the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
We challenge the government to put forward policies which will save and create jobs in Trinidad and Tobago.
We challenge the Government to reopen the GATE, to ensure that citizens have access to higher education.
We challenge the government to create labour policies that work with the trade union movement to ensure that an honest days work goes hand in hand with an honest days pay, so that our middle class can move out of the internationally recognised demographic of the working poor.
When the government works out how to get the medicine we need at our nation’s hospitals right now, then maybe we can trust them to work out how they will import gas and diesel to the pump in a timely manner.
I say without fear of contradiction that nothing I have seen or heard from the Prime Minister and his government gives me comfort or a sense of trust in what they are doing.
I do not trust anything they say…
Every year, the Minister of Finance comes to the population projecting high revenues that have never even reached half of what he puts forward.
He cannot be trusted.
Listen to all of them… say one thing and then do something completely different…
All the government cares about is how we can get people to work longer hours, how to make you work faster and how they can make you work harder, while ensuring that they find ways to pay you less and tax you more.
I support productivity… but I also support equal opportunity, paying people a living wage which they deserve and ensuring that the lives of all and not only the rich are improved.
Keith Rowley and his government have created an environment in this country where persons who cannot make ends meet are vilified.
They boast about taking away the food cards from persons. Colm Imbert called these people crooks.
How disgusting can he be?
They take out an ad in the newspaper, and if you don’t come in to renew that status, the card is automatically cancelled.
Even the most secure of citizens can understand that the people, who usually need the social safety net, are the persons who not only cannot afford a newspaper, but they also simply do not have access to one.
What would it have taken to send out the persons who run these programs, into the community, to look and find them?
If you apply for an ID card, workers from the EBC go and verify who you are and where you live, they talk to the people next door to make sure you are who you say you are… would it be so hard to do this for the people who need our help the most?
Out of the 18,000 food cards that were revoked, if one child tonight is going hungry because of that cancellation, then none should have been cancelled.
Time and compassion are things that Rowley and Imbert do not have.
For this reason and this reason most of all… I do not trust this government because they do not care about poor people, they do not care about the middle-class and they do not care about you.