POLITICAL leader of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) David Abdulah says there is “little to celebrate” in Trinidad and Tobago on International Workers’ Day 2021, May 1.
He says the future of workers and the labour movement in this country is in “great danger” owing to the PNM’s “neo-liberal" policies.”
In a press release, he said the day should be one of celebration of past achievements, and one where workers “enthusiastically look forward to the future.
“This is not the case in TT in 2021,” he said.
He said the labour movement has won “many important gains” through hard-fought battles, “from the days of the general strike in 1919-1920 to the historic June 19, 1937, general strike and the subsequent birth of the modern trade union movement.
“Political independence in 1962 did not see any let-up in the need to fight against these powerful interests with the local political class," he said, "simply replacing the colonials in positions while keeping the system intact.”
Through personal sacrifices, he said, past generations of workers have led to modern-day, basic benefits like paid vacation leave, overtime pay, maternity leave and paid sick leave, among other things.
“Many lost their jobs; others paid with their blood and some even lost their lives.”
But he believes all those gains are now being undermined as successive governments implemented neo-liberal policies which have had a “devastating effect on the labour movement and have been driving workers into poverty.”
He highlighted the job losses at Petrotrin, BP, TSTT, Unilever, Yara, Powergen and several other companies.
“There is also the union-busting. When Petrotrin and the steel mills were closed down, TSTT workers were retrenched, if the Port of Port of Spain is privatised or WASA (Water and Sewerage Authority) is restructured, it is union-busting, plain and simple.
"Weaker unions means that the controllers of capital will have it easier to get their way. That is neo-liberalism.
“When this happens, the employer class can now get rid of collective agreements. Contract labour, employment on short-term contracts become the order of the day. This results in workers getting paid low wages, with no benefits."
He warned that the country was "back to the days before 1937. Back to when there were no trade unions. Back to the days when big capital ruled without challenge.”
He said the government is also trying to use the covid19 pandemic as an excuse and a means to “cover their sins of exploitation.”
He said the labour movement must unite to fight against the system of neo-liberalism.
“We have had too many experiences of saying one government bad so let’s change the face or jersey colour of the employer, only to find that the new employer is as bad, or worse than, the one before. Workers must become conscious of the need to fight to change the relations of economic, social and political power. In other words to fight to achieve a new system, a new society.
“How do we achieve this goal? By the labour movement building the political consciousness of your members.
"That is your principal task on this May Day 2021.”