FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert has found a novel way to tax people in their dreams, said Ancel Roget on Friday as he called on the Government to settle all outstanding negotiations.
The head of the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) and president general of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) accused Government of ignoring labour’s Economic Alternative Plan, recalling that Imbert raised the price of fuel three times all the while joking that, "the people have not rioted."
Roget said that minister also increased the tax burden on the population "without consideration" for its impact on the poor. "And now with the taxation of lotto and play whe he has also found a novel way to tax you even in your dreams while you are sleeping!"
"It is clear that it was only ordinary people who were saddled with this heavy yoke of economic adjustment." Roget was delivering the feature address at the Labour Day celebrations at the Charlie King Junction in Fyzabad.
WHICH PLANET, IMBERT?
Imbert, Roget said, in the mid-term budget review claimed TT had weathered the storm and is in a good financial position. "Which planet is this minister broadcasting from? Clearly, it is not TT on planet Earth, where pain and suffering of ordinary people have become a way of life.
"He is the only person in a good place. He is clearly in la-la land and wants to take us there with him. The painful reality on the ground is that many of our people have been crying out."
The union leader charged that if anything at all, the coronavirus pandemic only exposed the structural weakness of the economy. He cited the closure of Arcelor Mittal, Unilever Plant, Trinidad Aggregate Products and other entities to support his view.
"Even before covid19, the economy was grinding to a halt. Instead of diversification there was no growth in any sectors, and even worse with major contraction and reduction in the heart of our economy, the energy sector itself," Roget said.
Because of restrictions relating to the pandemic, the celebration was not a grand affair as has become the norm with union leaders and workers marching and chanting through Fyzabad with placards and banners. Instead, only a few people attended under the watchful eyes of scores of police.
Roget also threw jabs at people including armchair critics, commentators, editorial writers "especially the Guardian," and petty self-declared experts for having no appreciation for the struggle of the masses.
"Like the sycophants of both parties, they are used as convenient pawns for the politicians and the one per cent. As I have always maintained, I do not want anybody to like me I have my family to do that. I have a job to do and I will do it fearlessly."
The theme for this year’s celebration is "All workers are essential: Treat all worker essentially."
"Today, it is important to remember that the Europeans saw our First Peoples as savages. They saw the Africans as sub-humans and they saw the Indians as primitive and backwards," Roget said.
"All these lies were told just to justify genocide, enslavement and torture. These lies were told to justify the theft of our ancestors’ labour."
JTUM, he said, fully supports the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in the US, in that country's epic struggle against systemic racial injustice and inequality, the likes of which is still occurring in this country.
In terms of labour, Roget said thousands of workers were retrenched and accused the Labour Minister, Jennifer Baptiste-Primus, of being silent on the issue. He further accused Baptiste, a former PSA leader, of failing to seek the interest of disadvantaged workers.
"The only thing that this Minister of Labour would have brought before the country was the grand announcement of pandemic leave," Roget said.
"Whilst the Minister came riding on her big white horse one Sunday afternoon to make the grand pandemic leave announcement, workers are yet to receive this relief measure arising out of the stay-at-home order."
He anticipated that "thousands" of pandemic leave grievances will heading the same Minister, "where we can neither find the Minister nor her big white horse."
"As a consequence, all those matters will be heading to the already burdened and under-resourced Industrial Court."
He said the Government has consistently underfunded the Industrial Court thereby causing a systematic deconstruction of the court. The court has an abundance of grievances, trade disputes, negotiations, industrial relations offences and other IR matters, that are either at the court or very soon will be before the court.
"There exists 20 vacancies out of 22 positions of verbatim Reporters. There is also a shortage of secretaries, clerks and other general staff," Roget said.
"Shamefully, it is also a fact the Government has not even provided the basic necessary equipment like photocopiers, faxes, computers etc. It is also a fact that the Industrial Court is seriously cramped for space."
Roget charged that the Government has no regard or respect for the Industrial Court. JTUM, he said, is calling on the Attorney General to ensure that the court is fully and properly resourced to enable it to dispense justice on time.
On the issue of crime, Roget said despite their criticisms of the porous borders left by the previous government, absolutely nothing was done by the PNM government to prevent the continued influx of the sophisticated guns, ammunition and drugs.
Some of the illegal immigrants are hardened criminals and Venezuelan gang members who have now found it easy to continue their illegal activities of drugs, arms and prostitution in TT. He however, commended government for its response regarding the pandemic.
"Even as we commend them for the medical response, the economic and social response is inadequate," he said.