Trade unions to 'bring the fire' in Fyzabad for Labour Day

President of the Public Services Association (PSA) Leroy Baptiste. - File photo by Lincoln Holder
President of the Public Services Association (PSA) Leroy Baptiste. - File photo by Lincoln Holder

ALL roads lead to Fyzabad on June 19, for the 87th annual Labour Day march and rally from Avocat Junction to Charlie King Junction.

Trade union leaders are promising to bring the fire, as they train their guns on government, with anticipated biting critique of its policies, which they claim are severely eroding the gains made over the years.

On the eve of this significant day in the life of workers, president of the Public Services Association (PSA) Leroy Baptiste, one of two main speakers at June 19’s rally, warned that he is going to be controversial and "to hell with who don’t like" what he has to say.

The other speaker will be president of the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) and president of the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) Ancel Roget.

Roget is also expected to make his calypso debut on the labour platform with his musical offering, The Truth – a takeoff of the late Black Stalin’s Bun Dem.

“There is no letting up by this government, which is hell-bent on emasculating the trade union movement. The government wants to create a voiceless workforce by way of attempting to destroy the movement,” Baptiste told Newsday in a brief phone interview.

He said one of the ways this is being played out is through the costly exercises unions have to embark on to seek justice in the courts, all the way up to the Privy Council.

He pointed to the PSA’s battle of the rejected four per cent wage offer to public servants, as well as the Estate Police Association's (EPA) fight for the Industrial Court’s Special Tribunal to hear a dispute involving the EPA and its authority to represent 42 estate constables dismissed by the Royal Bank of Canada in 2014.

At a news conference in Marabella on June 1, EPA president Deryck Richardson called for the resignation of the Special Tribunal chairman Lawrence Achong, based on Privy Council criticism of the adversarial position the tribunal took on advancing its appeal to the court. This has not happened.

Baptiste observed that even where there is trade union representation in the public sector, “Government is not engaging the unions, so unions are unable to be instrumental in the workers’ lives.”

He said the government had failed even to have a conversation with the PSA on the proposed Revenue Authority (TTRA).

“Imagine, public officers approaching the union to get its opinion on the TTRA and I have to say, 'Your guess is as good as mine, because I have only read about it, just like you.'

“This is pure hate. Government just want to condemn workers to servitude with their “not a dog bark,' take-it-or-leave-it approach.”

General secretary of the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) Ozzi Warwick said the Labour Day theme – United to fight, one voice, one movement, justice for all – is aimed at combatting government’s agenda to destroy trade unions.

“This is an important and powerful theme which speaks to continued unity of the trade-union movement in the fight for justice for everyone.

“It also speaks to the issue of building a different type of society in Trinidad and Tobago where justice is central,” Warwick told Newsday.

To this end, key highlights will be long-outstanding negotiations, the absence of labour legislation over the past nine years, the high cost of living and the failure of the energy sector, as well as a statement on the behaviour of the Industrial Court’s Special Tribunal.

Activities will kick off at a wreath-laying ceremony at Apex Cemetery on the grave of the father of the trade-union movement, Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler, at 8 am.

In keeping with tradition, leaders and union members will then assemble at Avocat Junction, for the arm-in-arm-trek to Charlie King Junction. There will be no speeches at Avocat Junction as has become customary. Warwick said they wanted to keep the rally focused on pressing issues of the day.

Artistes including the "Water Lord," Iwer George, will entertain the expected crowds.


"Trade unions to ‘bring the fire’ in Fyzabad for Labour Day"

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