FORMER Minister in the Ministry of Labour Rudranath Indarsingh said with 35,000 people being fired since September 2015 and more jobs threatened at Petrotrin, the Board of Inland Revenue (BIR), Customs and Excise, WASA and T&TEC, there is nothing to celebrate this Labour Day.
Indarsingh said Labour Day is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers and allows them to reflect on their current status, celebrate their progress and to regroup and recommit to protecting their collective condition and improving their quality of life and standard of living.
However, he said there is nothing for the working class to celebrate in 2018, as under Dr Keith Rowley’s PNM administration they have been burdened with the highest level of joblessness in several years, increased cost of living and declining purchasing power of their earnings. He charged the government with punishing the poor and vulnerable through sustained taxation.
“What is there for workers to celebrate in our country when every sector – national security (crime), the economy, education, industrial relations and collective bargaining and health care – has literally collapsed under the Rowley-led PNM administration?”
He said in addition to these hardships, government has signalled its intention to increase water and electricity rates. “Since September 2015, over 35,000 persons have lost their jobs and they have no prospects of gaining re-employment despite continued promises that the Government will be introducing amendments to the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act and the Industrial Relations Act in Parliament.”
He also took aim at Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus, questioning the reason for her delay in delivering on her promised ten-point plan to help retrenched workers, matching their skills with vacancies.
In response, Baptiste-Primus said, “I will not be side-tracked by the likes of Mr Rudy Indarsingh. On the issue of the ten-point plan, he has brought me before the Parliament time and time again to give and update on it. And each time an update was given that the plan is in place.
“All unemployed persons have to do is to contact the ministry and the various mechanisms will kick in. I do not know what else Rudy Indarsingh wants from me. What I would like him to do, is to point to one achievement he can talk about when he was minister in the Ministry of Labour.”
Baptiste-Primus, former head of the Public Services Association, said she will not be attending any of the Labour Day celebrations planned by the two main umbrella bodies, the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) in Fyzabad, or the one organised by the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC) in Tobago.