Less than a week after a cordial meeting in which the trade union movement, led by JITUM head Ancel Roget, agreed to return to the National Tripartite Council of Trinidad and Tobago (NTAC), in exchange for an agreement from Rowley not to retrench any more government workers until the end of the year, Roget yesterday said it was “deceitful and deceptive” for the Office of the Prime Minister to issue a statement denying Roget’s claim that their meeting averted Government’s plans for massive retrenchment. During a news conference outside Rowley’s office, St. Clair Avenue, St. Clair, on September 13 after three hours of talks, Roget said the meeting had been able to get the Government to put a hold on plans for further retrenchment of public sector workers.
However, the Office of the Prime Minister issued a statement a few days later saying that Roget’s claim was “absolutely misleading” and that the Government had no plans for massive retrenchment of public sector workers. The statement said the labour movement had always claimed that the government was engaging in mass layoffs although this was not true “and the Government was at pains to point out that its actions were the opposite and meant to keep as many persons employed even as the country’s finances posed a serious challenge to this objective.” The statement added that “notwithstanding this factual situation, labour insisted on asking for a moratorium until December on something that was neither occurring nor was planned at this time.” The statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said it was “very disappointed that its efforts at engagement with labour intending to build trust and cooperation in the national interest can be so easily undermined by self-serving and misleading representation of the facts.”
Speaking to Newsday yesterday following the formal opening of the Law Term of the Industrial Court, Roget said that statement was “totally unwarranted and it was totally unprovoked and it was meant to serve as a distraction from the ongoing fiasco with the friends of the government with respect to the alleged over-fiscalisation of oil” at Petrotrin.
Roget said the persons involved are known friends of senior members of the Government and accused Rowley of acting just like the previous government.
“The last government used to govern by distraction. Every time an issue came up, they tried to create another issue to distract from that.”
Roget said despite Rowley’s denial, “We verily believe that there was going to be mass retrenchment and we still do verily believe that there would be mass retrenchment.”
He said the denial was issued to water down what had been achieved by the trade union movement and it was “deceitful and deceptive” for the Office of the Prime Minister to issue that statement which, he said, breaks down the trust and confidence between the two sides. He said “the trade union movement can no longer take the Prime minister at his word because the government is adopting the same approach as the last government, an approach which reeks of dishonesty and deception.”