JTUM head calls on politicians to respect to labour movement

Head of the Joint Trade Union Movement Ancel Roget. -
Head of the Joint Trade Union Movement Ancel Roget. -

Head of the Joint Trade Union Movement Ancel Roget has suggested the Prime Minister adopt a similar stance as US President Joe Biden and set up a task force to strengthen and empower workers.

Roget was speaking at a virtual rally to commemorate May Day on Saturday.

On April 26, Biden signed an executive order that focused on promoting labour unions, a move which US labour leaders welcomed.

"I also called on the public utilities minister to step back in his crease and have some respect for the movement. You (Cabinet members) are the employees of the citizens of TT."

Representatives from this country’s three federations, JTUM, the National Trade Union Centre (Natuc), Federation of Independent Trade Unions and Non-Governmental Organisations (Fitun), attended the event under the theme – Unite to Fight.

May Day is also known as International Workers’ Day and Labour Day in other countries which is usually accompanied by protest and marches for rights of workers and to save them from exploitation. Because of the restriction in place to prevent the spread of covid19, this year's activities was confined to a virtual rally with labour leaders.

Roget accused the Government trying to decimate the labour movement and using the "wrong formula of governance" like using Finance Minister to attack and erode the working class.

He accused the Government of trying to persuade people to think the movement – which he referred to as the last bastion of democracy and the last saviours of the people – is irrelevant.

"We (labour movement) are putting them on notice that we are going to step up our campaign despite their (politicians) efforts to remove the trade union movement from the landscape of TT," Roget said.

Roget is also the president general of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union.

On behalf of the three trade union federations, Roget called on the Government to bring the Parliament the amendment of the Industrial Relations Act and the Recognition and Certification Act.

Roget said the latter would make it easy for trade unions to represent workers as the existing process is onerous.

"The Government, through its state boards and agencies, are instructing their high-priced attorneys to challenge trade unions when unions apply for recognition to represent workers," Roget said.

"We call for the security of tenure for judges in the industrial court. We call for more resources to be afforded to the court. In this pandemic situation, more matters are going to the court."

Roget also threw jabs at Labour Minister Stephen McClashie.

"Do your job and bring labour legislation, instead of provoking the trade union movement," Roget said.

The pandemic has exposed what Roget described as the weak underbelly of the lack of governance.

Roget said because of that, the country is reeling under more pressure than it deserves.

"We could have been in a better place but because of the lack of direction, we are without a captain and anything goes."

He urged workers to show respect to themselves and acknowledge their contribution to Trinidad and Tobago’s economy, especially during the pandemic.

Owing to the latest covid19 restrictions, a massive motorcade scheduled for Saturday as part of May Day celebrations was postponed until further notice.

"It is not cancelled. The motorcade is to renew the call and to alert everyone, employed or unemployed, that things are not right in this country," Roget said.

"All is not lost. We will find ways to make our voices heard and do the work for our people."


"JTUM head calls on politicians to respect to labour movement"

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