LABOUR MINISTER Jennifer Baptiste-Primus has broken her silence on the ongoing industrial tensions in the country arising out of the pending closure of the Petrotrin refinery and separation of thousands of workers.
President general of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) Ancel Roget has described his former “comrade” as the “minister of silence”, criticising her for not advancing her position on the issue.
Baptiste-Primus, one of the many Cabinet ministers who attended the signing of a cooperation agreement for the development of a drydocking facility at La Brea, explained the reason for being mum on the topic.
“As Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development, my role is very, very clear under the Industrial Relations Act of 1972.
“This matter may very well end up before me, and therefore I will not make a public statement, nor would I indicate in any way on this matter.”
Accused of betrayal and turning her back on the trade union movement where she once served as president of the Public Services Association, Baptiste-Primus said it was untrue for her former colleagues to make this assessment.
“I have not turned my back on the unions. My comrades in the unions, when I first met with them when I became a Cabinet minister, I did remind them that I do not represent workers in the Cabinet. I represent the citizens of TT and, in that context, I would always have to make decisions in the best interest of TT.
“They are very familiar with that position, very familiar,” she told reporters. Questioned whether yesterday’s call by the union for a nationwide shutdown, first issued on June 19 and intensified with the planned restructuring of Petrotrin, was justified, Baptiste-Primus again offered no comment.
“Under the IRA, all disputes are referred to the minister of labour, and in that context I cannot make any statement on that matter. The Prime Minister has said all there is to say on that matter. I have to hold myself available in the event I am required in the dispute.”