Battle for a decent standard of living

File photo:  NP gas station at the corner of Boys Lane and the Eastern Main Road, D'abadie.  Photo by Angelo Marcelle
File photo: NP gas station at the corner of Boys Lane and the Eastern Main Road, D'abadie. Photo by Angelo Marcelle

THE EDITOR: Labour Day 2022 has come and gone with two separate celebrations, separate resolutions but sadly without any concrete plan of action or consultations with the secondary leadership or the rank and file membership of the trade unions.

National Petroleum (NP) workers struggled and won a battle to prevent a previous government from selling to private business all the gas stations bought from the multinationals – Esso, Shell, BP and Texaco. NP workers must again be called on to stop the privatisation of our gas stations, especially in a road transport economy as is Trinidad and Tobago.

With a persistent economic crisis facing both unionised and non-unionised workers, all NP workers at the OWTU and National Workers Union (NWU) bargaining units are not exempted from this grave pauperisation, job losses and wicked industrial relations attacks on the entire working class, designed by the ruling elites to reverse the hard-won gains of workers over the last 85 years of blood, death, sweat and tears.

NP workers must not believe they will be treated differently from workers at Petrotrin, TSTT, the public service, Lake Asphalt, MTS, WASA and other areas earmarked for privatisation and therefore massive retrenchment as structural adjustment policies are implemented. Hence the ridiculous negotiation offers, stalled negotiations and in the case of the NWU bargaining unit, a virtual refusal to negotiate by NP, while reduced pensions and increased retirement age are being proposed for workers by the Government.

NP workers must remember that the Government has decided to sell off the company’s major assets – its retail gas station outlets. What next? Will it be the Petrotrin method of closure of NP, contract fuel deliveries to totally privately-owned gas stations? Privatisation of Petrotrin via a foreign company has been recently bandied about. What is to be done with NP? Will the same policy apply?

NP’s facilities, port and properties are multi-million dollar facilities. Will these be sold? Are the jobs, conditions of work and standard of living going to be lost for the majority of NP workers? Will the gains we made and for which our elders sacrificed be lost and replaced with low-paid super-exploited workers?

Inflation is eating up and reducing the value of our incomes, massive retrenchments are underway in all sectors of the economy. It is clear that there is no other option but to display our power and unity as workers to protect our hard-won gains and our children’s future. Failure cannot be an option. Our country’s resources belong to the many and not only to the few elites who are filthy rich. The policies favouring the ruling elites are being clearly exposed.

NP workers must discuss the crisis facing workers that are designed to take us back to the days of subsistence living. NP workers must join and unite with other workers for discussions on the crisis that we face. Workers in a united way must call on leaders to form a united front to stop retrenchment, prevent reduction in pensions and the increase in the retirement age and also end the wage reduction policy and ensure our national industries are not sold to foreign entities.

Tell our leaders we want to fight back and we are not going back to the dark years of poverty. We should be striving to raise the standard of living of the non-unionised minimum wage workers, not pauperise those with a decent standard of living which they won through blood, sweat and tears.

A society of poor wages and conditions with high rates of unemployment breeds massive poverty and massive poverty breeds massive crime and sometimes massive revolutions.

Why are our leaders not remembering our history? We do not stand for long periods of exploitation and class discrimination. We revolt: we take appropriate action and we restore with all our might our right to a decent standard of living.

CECIL PAUL

executive officer, NWU

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"Battle for a decent standard of living"

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