COUVA South MP Rudy Indarsingh has complained of intimidation by the Government in its warning to public servants yesterday not to take part in the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM’s) day of rest and reflection on Friday.
He spoke to Newsday after Minister of Public Administration Marlene Mc Donald issued a statement warning that essential public servants such as teachers could face a fine and jail if they were unduly absent from work.
Indarsingh said any talk by Mc Donald and Education Minister Anthony Garcia about pursuing legal options, could be seen as “threats and intimidation” of workers. He claimed this was part of an emerging trend, saying similar talk had been voiced by other ministers over fallout from the closure of Petrotrin’s refinery.
“This is indeed a continuation of the arrogance and disrespect for workers’ rights and dignity,” Indarsingh said. “Such an approach must be strongly condemned.”
He said while thousands of people have allegedly lost their jobs under this government, under the Constitution, workers enjoy freedom of association and movement, and if workers disagree with government policies that cause rising crime, job losses and the resulting social fallout such as suicide and loss of one’s home, they have the right to send the government a message and stay home to rest and reflect.
“So why are you threatening to fine and jail workers?” He said the Government is fanning the flames of instability, and could cause workers to push back.
“Will the next step be to lock up the trade union leaders and their law-abiding members if they stay home and reflect? Is this the Government’s plan to break the back of the trade union movement?”
Noting the jailing of trade unionists in strife-hit Venezuela, Indarsingh said, “We are seeing signals that our ministers will run roughshod over your rights. Is the ‘Maduro Effect’ creeping into the Cabinet of Dr Keith Rowley?” The government he belonged to, he said, “never attempted to suppress or intimidate the voice of labour.”
He said even when people held protests against that government, including dragging effigies and mannequins, the former administration never intimidated workers who were protesting.