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September 7 will be litmus test for Government—analysts

Friday, June 22, 2018

Two political analysts agreed that the call by Joint Trade Union (JTUM) leader Ancel Roget for a day of rest and reflection on September 7 will be used as a gauge by the working class to determine Government’s performance since assuming office in 2015.

This was the view of Maukesh Basdeo and Prof John La Guerre, after Roget gave the Government a failing grade on its handling of crime, the economy, health and education and said they will send a message on September 7 to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley that they will not be accepting workers being sent home and any disrespect to the labour movement.

But both men opted not to comment on Roget’s appraisal of the Government’s performance saying this was his assessment. Roget gave the appraisal during Labour Day activities at Fyzabad.

Basdeo said declaring such a day would be a marker to test the workforce on the trade union’s position.

“That would determine the impact of Roget’s statements…whether or not they would be able to sway workers to take a day off from work,” Basdeo said.

If the workers heed Roget’s call, Basdeo said this would represent a large chunk of T&T’s workforce from the public and private sectors.

“This would clearly say that the workers are in agreement with the assessment by Roget on Labour Day and are disenchanted. September 7 would be used as a gauge or benchmark of the Government’s performance in the last 36 months.”

Basdeo said it was left to be seen if other unions will rally behind JTUM in this move since Public Services Association president Watson Duke held his Labour Day celebrations in Tobago. La Guerre expressed similar sentiments, saying if the working class heeds Roget’s call it would send a message that citizens are generally dissatisfied with the Government’s overall performance.

“We will just have to wait and see how much influence Roget has.”

However, La Guerre said he did not agree with Roget’s drastic move, saying there are other mechanisms he could have used to resolve matters affecting workers and the trade union movement.

“By wanting to take this course of action it suggests that there is some failure to communicate on issues.”

He said while there was a declining economy, the unions’ demands were increasing for better salaries for workers.

“Industrial action is not the only way to solve problems. Roget could have called for a meeting with the Prime Minister or Labour Minister to find out what could be done in the circumstances. But to threaten action without discussion is premature. I don’t think it was a wise move.”

La Guerre said the Government, unions and employers should work together to come up with a solution to finding additional sources of revenue, restructuring the economy and retaining jobs.

“If the Government doesn’t have the revenue they cannot pay and meet these demands by the unions.”

He said while unions have been demanding more for workers, T&T’s international productivity index was not high and this needs to be examined.

“It’s something we cannot ignore. Our productivity has to improve,” La Guerre said.

The Employers’ Consultative Association of T&T did not respond to questions sent via email about Roget’s call. But in a press release on Monday, it said over the last three years the country had witnessed a rapid growth in the introduction of automation, robotics and digitisation which have been changing how work gets done and impacted on society.

“Quite naturally, this period of disruption is proving to be a source of tremendous anxiety about potential job losses among employees as businesses explore alternative ways to optimise the use of human capital,” the ECA said.

The ECA said now was not the time for business, the Government or labour to continue passing the blame, saying tripartite partners should focus on collaboration and outcomes for the benefit of the nation.


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