Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) president general Ancel Roget said Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus failed to assist the hundreds of workers who lost their jobs over the last four years.
He said the minister, who came from the bowels of the labour movement as the former president of the Public Services Association, did not seek the best interest of those left on the breadline. Roget said her exit from the political arena would not be felt by TT’s workforce.
Baptiste-Primus announced her intention not to serve another term, twice during her address at a Co-operative Credit Union Movement even at Achievors Banquet Hall, San Fernando on Thursday last.
In her address, she said she was preparing to “demit office” and later described herself as the “outgoing Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development.”Speaking with reporters after the opening of the Tobago OWTU office at uptown Scarborough, Roget said Baptiste-Primus should have done more, given her background, to change the law to accommodate workers.
“She probably has her own reasons and personal frustration with attempting to get workers issues to resolve, recognising that there is a lot of people in the government, and out of the government, who are against the progress of workers in TT.”
He said whether of not Baptiste-Primus had good intentions, those intentions weren’t felt in the pockets or on the tables of workers as they sought to get justice for themselves.Lamenting on the dismissal of hundreds of workers over the last four years, he said, “We didn’t hear from the minister for whatever reason. We felt that despite the fact that there were a lot of consultations, to date we have had no legalisation to protect workers in this country. “Workers are sent home empty-handed and the law, as it exists now – the Severance Benefits Act, doesn’t provide good coverage for workers.”
He said because workers aren’t secured by legalisation, employers continue to have first preference over employees and have maliciously kept them from enjoying their benefits and rights. Roget called on the government to amend the Companies Act and the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act immediately.
“We don’t see those and other pieces of important legalisation, coming to the Parliament, that deal especially with the treatment and rights of workers. We still have employers spending large sums of money for lawyers to fight against employees, just to deny them their benefits.”