UNC MP on Lake Asphalt woes: Plot to sabotage the company?

Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh. -
Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh. -

An opposition MP has accused the Prime Minister and his Government of living off the fat of the land while workers are starving with no pay, no ability to feed their families and honour their commitments.

Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh made the comments on Wednesday in light of the Government’s response to the protest by Lake Asphalt (LATT) workers the day before.

Indarsingh said he considered images of LATT workers on their knees, begging for their just dues after weeks without being paid, a defining image of the PNM administration.

In a statement, he said he believes the administration undoubtedly has a plot to undermine the company and its workers.

"There is a sinister agenda being executed in plain daylight by this administration. It is high time that the union, other stakeholders, and this country begin to demand answers."

Indarsingh, a former labour minster and union leader, said he shuddered to see how the labour movement and the working class have been reduced to their knees by the Keith Rowley administration.

On Tuesday, workers knelt at the company’s gates at Brighton in La Brea, appealing to Rowley to intervene. They said they have not been paid for the past two months and more.

Hours later, Energy Minister Stuart Young was said to have urgently sought and obtained Cabinet approval to provide LATT with subventions to help pay its expenses, including paying workers.

Indarsingh referred to the PM, Young and Finance Minister Colm Imbert and other Cabinet members as cronies. He said it is not fathomable how a Government presided over circumstances in which LATT has been allowed to "denigrate into a corporate question mark."

He charged that the bread and butter of the company's workers do not constitute even crumbs.

He questioned why the Cabinet has not made public the inter-ministerial committee report on LATT. Public Administration Minister Allyson West chairs the committee, which includes Stephen Mc Clashie, the Labour Minister and La Brea MP.

"Why it is that months later, the report is still being hidden by Cabinet? What are the Prime Minister, the Minister of Energy and the Cabinet hiding?" Indarsingh asked.

"It is unbelievable that since being appointed Minister of Energy earlier this year, that Minister Stuart Young would preside over a situation in which workers are not paid in weeks. What is the real reason for this?"

He also criticised Mc Clashie, as a Cabinet minister and former LATT board member, for allowing the company to deteriorate "into this level of functional and industrial decay."

He accused the Government of spending over $700 million on failed projects at the National Gas Company (NGC). Indarsingh said not a fraction of that money was spent on the operational costs of LATT, including salaries.

The LATT issue reminded him of statements by president general of the Seamen and Waterfront Workers' Union, Michael Annisette, on the port of Port of Spain. He said there was no need to pursue the privatisation of the port, and accused the Government of neglecting its needs in an attempt to sabotage the port and justify privatisation.

"Is the Government plotting to sabotage Lake Asphalt, destabilise its unions and hand over the company's assets to friends, family and financiers?

"Does the Government have some private agency interested in the company, its assets and its operations?"

On Wednesday, LATT corporate communications co-ordinator Marsha Marchan said the company welcomed Tuesday’s media release from the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries. She spoke on behalf of CEO Roger Wiggins.

"We eagerly await the details of the subvention. We are indeed thankful to our line ministry for demonstrating their commitment towards working with us, as we navigate this current situation," Marchan said.

"Be assured that we will continue to work with all our stakeholders to have the situation resolved in the shortest possible time while maintaining focus on our strategic initiatives, all geared towards the organisation’s viability and self-sustainability."

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"UNC MP on Lake Asphalt woes: Plot to sabotage the company?"

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