THIS Labour Day, the National Trade Union Centre of Trinidad and Tobago (NATUC) will be celebrating in Tobago.
NATUC members include Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union (BGIWU) and the National Union of Domestic Employees among others.
Watson Duke, NATUC president, told the media yesterday, at a press conference at the Public Services Association’s Abercromby Street office that NATUC’s central executive took a decision to commemorate Labour Day in Tobago in observance of “142 years of labour struggle” in Tobago.
Duke said it will observe a labour struggle “that is quite famous and world-renowned but not spoken about” and that is the May 1876 riot in Roxborough, Tobago.
This, he added, would be used as the backdrop to “speak of the improvements of labour as we move to the 1900s and even to our current century. NATUC, he added, is prepared for Tuesday’s celebrations in Tobago.
It got police permission, Duke said, and will have music trucks on the day. “And we want to encourage those persons [sic] wishing to come to Tobago to please stop and take in the Labour Day celebrations commencing at 10 am on June 19,” he said. When asked if taking the celebrations to Tobago would hinder the peace process he spoke about - Duke called for peace between the PSA and Vincent Cabrera, BIGWU president - Duke said, “Regardless of the geographical location of the celebrations, one thing that must be said is that labour is united in its approach to defend workers of this country and that is what makes us united.” For Duke not enough attention is paid to the labour struggle in Tobago. Workers through TT, he said, “are being abused by the Government” and were “being taken for a joy ride and being taken for granted.”
“Those hot potato topics in Tobago, the issue of non-negotiations, the issue of pension for our retirees who are retiring and they are dying without getting their pension.
“We are hoping that the same Industrial Court that moved with swiftness and seriousness and upheld the law will now protect the workers of our country who are dying without receiving their pension, who are being told some file is lost. Workers who are going on some eight and nine years, Government workers, not private sector, who are not being paid. They must step in and injunct the Government and say stop what you are doing,” he said.
He again repeated his call for himself and Cabrera to smoke the pipe of peace.
When asked if his peace offering is rejected, Duke said there was no choice in the matter.
“They have no choice in the matter. It is not something they can accept or reject. It is on the table and they have to accept it. That is how labour moves.
“Not to accept it is to be childish, to be foolish and then to frustrate the workers. Here I am saying what are you fighting for, now let us settle it. Three months time, at first instance, pension, the salaries, we are going to bring you up-to-date, to know what we are doing. Let us get this over with, your members are our workers and we want to be fair to them, we want to be nice to them. I don’t know what there is to fight about that. Anybody who fights against that is really shooting themselves in his own head,” he said.
Duke believes that the Labour Day’s top message should be: “Labour should unite.”
“Although we are separated, we must be united in our struggle because one thing NATUC will not do under my leadership is bow to no [sic] union. We are not bowing to a union. All of us in NATUC, all of the units, we are kings and when we meet, we meet as kings representing our people.”
Labour’s future, he added, should also be more directly involved in TT’s politics.
“We want to encourage labour on a whole that we must find a place around the table of governance. We need to have a say. We need to sit around the table and make intelligent contributions. One where we have the resources, one where we are able, by a vote, to stop a bill from going forward. We intend to go there and we have been going there quite successfully,” Duke said.
Duke added that Tuesday’s events will be shown on Facebook and television.