JOINT Trade Union Movement (JTUM) leader Ancel Roget has announced that the “time of silence” is over and government should brace for increased protests as the umbrella trade union organisation and its members march against a proposal to raise the retirement age from 60 to 65.
Addressing a large contingent during yesterday’s May Day observance at Harris Promenade, San Fernando, Roget also told workers to prepare for a day of total shutdown – the date of which would be announced on Labour Day (June 19).
“Not a maxi must move, not a bus must move, we must all stay at home,” he said.
On government’s proposal to increase the retirement age from 60 to 65, he said this was being floated by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Finance Minister Colm Imbert as a means of denying workers their legitimate right to National Insurance benefits.
“No longer will you be having a retirement party, what in fact you will be having is a wake, because you moving from your work straight to your grave, because their intention is to work you till you dead.
“We stand in silence too long, and those days are over. We must take to the streets of TT in our numbers again and again and again. We must not be silent.”
Warning the government, Roget said, “Take your hands off of our NIS benefits or, as they say comrades, all hell will break loose.”
He said silence was interpreted by government as consent by the population, and it was in agreement with the sending home of workers at Petrotrin, UTT and other state enterprises.
“The formula for them is to sell out Petrotrin, sell out or privatise TTEC, WASA and the hospital, the health care services. Complete privatisation of the prison system – part of that penal arrangement is in private hands already.”
In typical fiery mood, he said the trade-union movement had to write the last chapter of Rowley’s book From Mason Hall to White Hall, saying the title had to include “And back to Mason Hall” as Rowley’s government had failed to deal with the spiralling crime rate.
“What we are seeing is since he came into office is more guns, is more drugs, more murders – excluding domestic violence. I am talking about murders that are as a result of the arms and ammunition that come through our unprotected borders. “What have you done? These borders are unprotected at the highest level because guns and ammunition and drugs continue to come in under this PNM government.”
Roget said the employer class, which was being pandered to by the ruling party, was seeking to reverse gains made by the trade-union movement, such as the eight-hour workday, paid overtime and sick-leave benefits.
We want to see laws in Parliament that will deal with the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act, recognition of trade unions and to ensure that all of those unfriendly labour laws are amended for the benefit of workers.”
The unions which participated in the march included the Amalgamated Workers Union; Banking, Insurance, and General Workers Union; Communication Workers Union; Contractors and General Workers Trade Union; Fire Services Association; Oilfields Workers Trade Union; Steel Workers Union (SWUTT); Transport and Industrial Workers Union; Postal Workers Union; and TT Unified Teachers Association.