Member of Parliament for Couva South Rudranath Indarsingh is calling the recent statement of Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development Jennifer Baptiste-Primus that “Labour sector strong despite retrenchment” an egregious insult to the intelligence of not only all workers but all citizens of the country.
Indarsingh said he was shocked at such an outrageous comment by the inept and incompetent Baptiste-Primus at a time when there is an issue of crisis and confidence in the economy by citizens and Baptiste-Primus should have continued to remain silent on the literal emasculation of the working class by her Government.
The cavalier manner in which the Minister emerged the very day it was announced that 285 workers at Unilever Caribbean Ltd and 33 at Agostini Limited were to be retrenched, adding to the 55,000 plus workers in both the public and private sectors who have lost their jobs since September 2015 was an obscene attempt to reduce the severity of the continued punitive measures that have resulted in the collapse of economy.
Indarsingh said Baptiste-Primus must stop politicising the issue of retrenchment and workers job-losses and apologise for her totally 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.
Indarsingh reminded the Trade Union Movement that Baptiste-Primus’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.
At that time, Prime Minister Rowley also promised that there would be a moratorium on retrenchments towards the end of 2017.
Indarsingh said he had asked the Prime Minister about what would have happened moving forward in 2018 and it remains clear that there was no plan, no effort and no attempt by the Government to assist workers since thousands have been sent on the breadline in the last 18 months.
Keith Rowley as Opposition Leader of the Opposition promised the country that if he was elected Prime Minister, his mandate will be to grow and diversify the economy and create thousands of new jobs. Indeed, he was able to get most of the Trade Union Leaders (not their members) to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to this effect which formed part of the PNM’s 2015 GE Manifesto.
As a former President of one of the country’s largest Trade Union prior to his entry into politics, MP Indarsingh is asking both Prime Minister Rowley and Labour Minister Baptiste-Primus if they understand that the chickens are now coming home to roost after 55,000 plus workers have lost their jobs; their purchasing power is no longer in the economy as well as a significant decline in payroll taxes and NIS contributions.
Businesses are closing down en masse; the shopping malls are deserted because the Government has never focused on its domestic challenges and policies for ensuring workers’ rights.
In the 57 years of Independence, the Keith Rowley-led PNM Administration has made workers an endangered specie; there is no longer any worker job security and this Administration, instead of strengthening workers’ rights and protections, continues to weaken them. A responsible and caring Government would not have been so immune and naïve to the reality of the over 55,000 workers losing their jobs in the last four years.
But Indarsingh posits that the Rowley-led PNM Administration is in over-drive as it continues to attempt to fool, misinform and mislead the population with its propaganda and fake news. Where is the Minister of Finance today who boasted of a turn around in the Economy? Colm Imbert got up and boasted in Parliament that “he can see clearly now, the rain has come and gone…” lies and deception.
Indarsingh reminded the Trade Union Movement and workers that the former Persad-Bissessar-led Administration (2010-2015) was adamant about the issue of workers’ rights and welfare. Under that Administration, over 56,000 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. The total opposite and a planned reversal of the gains and successes that workers secured in that period is taking place for the last four years.
Indarsingh said that he was repeating his previous statement that there continues to be a planned and orchestrated effort to dismantle and weaken the trade union movement and the working class of the country by a very hostile and unsympathetic Keith Rowley-led PNM Administration.
He maintains that a literal collapse of the economy equals a failed state and called on the Prime Minister to seek a fresh mandate from the electorate.