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Tuesday 20 August 2019
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‘One per cent’ boycott will hurt workers

LABOUR Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus said that the threat by the unions of a boycott of businesses owned by the one per cent could end up hurting workers and put hundreds on the breadline.

She was speaking with the media on Saturday following the graduation ceremony for participants in the Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies "Empowering Communities through Education - The Laventille Project" at the Laventille Community Centre.

At a joint union protest two weeks ago Joint Trade Union Movement President Ancel Roget called for a boycott of businesses owned by the so-called "one per cent" elite.

On Saturday Baptiste-Prime said she understands the role and function of a trade union and their basic responsibility is to look after the interest of the members whom they serve.

"I do not think that the result of such an action would be in the best interest of the workers. Because we have to remember that no matter how aggrieved someone may feel, or the trade union movement may feel, one has to pay attention to the implications of such a call. And one of the implications is the very workers who are at the lower end of the wage spectrum, they are likely to be affected. So I don't think that such a position will give Labour its decided result. To the contrary it would be the opposite."

She said the contribution of the trade union movement to the growth and development of the country is well known "but in life we do make mistakes and I think upon reflection the end result of such a call, the impact on the very workers upon which the trade union movement raison d'etre (most important purpose for existing) hinges, I don't think that is something that any of the trade union leaders would want to see happen as a result of such a call - hundreds of workers being placed on the breadline. I don't think any of the trade union leaders would want that."

She was also asked about the breakdown in the tripartite process and the exit of union representatives from the National Tripartite Advisory Council which included members of the private Sector, labour movement, Government and the Tobago House of Assembly and was formed in March 2016.

Baptiste-Primus said that in March 2017 (a year later) the unions walked away from the tripartite process pending Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe meeting with the Communication Workers Union over the decision to dissolve the Tourism Development Company.

"I think a lot of water has passed under that bridge."

She said from the mass union protest two Fridays ago there was a call for a meeting with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.

"And as I indicated am I sure that the honourable Prime Minister is giving consideration for such a request and we are awaiting that word from the Prime Minister. And we have to wait. It's his call. It's not my call. It's not anybody else's call. Labour wants to meet with the Prime Minister and I have no doubt the Prime Minister will signal when he is available to meet with labour."

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