PM hits labour leader Annisette: Four per cent offer to all, not just ‘black people’

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. Photo by Sureash Cholai
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. Photo by Sureash Cholai

THE Prime Minister slammed National Trade Union Centre (Natuc) general secretary Michael Annisette for trying to introduce race into the four per cent wage increase offer by the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) to public servants.

Trade unions marched in Port of Spain on Friday to protest the proposed offer of zero, zero, two, zero, zero, two for each year successively from 2014-2019.

During Friday’s march, Annisette said, "Black (Afro-Trinidadians) people we strong. The People’s National Movement (PNM) will pay the price. We not taking four per cent. We going back to the ancestors...to Africa...for spiritual guidance.”

He also accused Dr Rowley of being disrespectful and not caring about women and children.

"This protest is not just about not taking four per cent.”

Rowley fired back at Annisette in a Facebook post on Sunday.

"There is no four per cent offered to black and African people. That offer applies to all the public officers for whom the CPO is their employer, of all races, classes and creeds.

He added, "Incidentally, the African ancestors to whom you appeal, are also my ancestors."

In May, prior to the CPO's four per cent offer, Rowley called for cooler heads to prevail among public servants and their trade unions in their talks with the CPO.

At that time, the CPO placed a two per cent wage increase on the table. This offer covered an eight-year period from 2014 to 2021

Rowley said while the Government would have liked to satisfy the requests of the trade unions, they were careful to balance any wage increase with public debt.

In his post on Sunday, Rowley told Annisette there was a clear distinction between their respective roles and responsibilities

"Michael Annisette you are a union leader and you have a job to do to provide the best representation for those that you lead. I am a public official who, unlike you, had to swear an oath of office, to do my job 'without fear or favour, malice or ill will.'

"This means that a commitment was extracted from me, under the Constitution, to always put the national interest first and not to be unduly influenced by sectoral interest, whatever that might be."

He doubted that Annisette had any similar commitment in his role as a trade union leader.

Annisette is also Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union (SWWTU) president

"I notice that in carrying out your advocacy you have chosen to accuse me of being disrespectful and not caring about women and children," the PM said.

"What have I ever done to cause you, of all people, to make such accusations against me?

He challenged Annisette to a public discussion on caring and respect for women.

"Would you be interested?"

He reminded the public that he is the only prime minister "who ever appeared before a parliamentary committee as a witness, in the public interest."

In September 2017, Rowley appeared before the Parliament's Land and Physical Infrastructure joint select committee during its the inquiry into the inter-island ferry service with specific focus on the procurement and maintenance of the ferries.

He said he did that because he respects his oath of office and his responsibility to all citizens of TT.

"Incidentally, during that same parliamentary enquiry, which involved the port (of Port of Spain), a woman, having written to me, came before the committee and gave her aggrieved testimony, in camera."

Rowley said that woman was a recently-dismissed port employee and member of the SWWTU.

"Since you care so much about women and their children, have you ever cared enough to respond to that woman’s painful testimony?”

Rowley told Annisette that if he did not remember this, he would refresh his memory.

He said this happened while Annisette was involved in protests against a top official at a company, demanding that official's dismissal because of a woman's accusation against that official.

Efforts to contact Annisette and other labour leaders for a response to Rowley's comments were unsuccessful.

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"PM hits labour leader Annisette: Four per cent offer to all, not just ‘black people’"

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