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Duke: Leaders more unified now

Published: 
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The country should brace for a national shutdown on Friday, as union leaders yesterday called on the working class in T&T to stay home in observance of a Day of Rest and Reflection.

The call was made by several union leaders who showed up at the National Union of Federated Workers Union’s Port-of-Spain headquarters to lend solidarity to the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU), which was dealt a hard blow with last Tuesday’s announcement that the Petrotrin refinery will be shut down.

OWTU president Ancel Roget warned the move by the Government could result in 3,500 workers being sent home.

Among the unions rallying behind the OWTU’s fight were the Public Services Association, National Union of Government Federated Workers, T&T Farmers’ Union, Amalgamated Workers’ Union, Communications Workers’ Union, Seamen and Waterfront Workers’ Trade Union, T&T Registered Nurses Association, Postal Workers Union, Fire Services Association, Inter-Island Truckers’ Association of T&T and the Banking Insurance General Workers’ Union.

These unions leaders urged the working class not to go to work on September 7. Last Wednesday, T&T Unified Teachers’ Association also called on teachers to stay away from classes.

Having signed a letter calling for a meeting on Petrotrin’s future which they delivered to the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday, PSA president Watson Duke told the gathering, “We cannot work for someone who is working to destroy you. We have seen it far too long and we have seen the effects.

“Therefore, gird up your loins, square your chest and be prepared in a war….every soldier step forward. We must prepare to win. If you can’t win you must prepare for death.”

Every time there is retrenchment, Duke said suicides increases while marriages and families shatter.

Saying the decision to shut down Petrotrin’s refinery had brought the unions closer, Duke said, “Today, the Prime Minister has done a good thing…he has brought family members who have been estranged for a little while back together again.

“I does always say while we (union leaders) does cuss and carry on and fight but don’t get between us. At the end of the day, we are one family.”

SWWTU president Michael Annisette said the country was witnessing a creeping dictatorship in T&T. He said every worker in Petrotrin will be sent home, which has implications for the trade union movement as this would undermine and extricate the OWTU “so there would be no workers’ voice representative in the new dispensation.”

“Why must we pay the price for the Government’s bad decisions?” Annisette asked.

“If the issue is about losing money, visionary leadership and good governance, as was mentioned last night in the address, I am saying if those are all the issues, well then we should privatise the Government too.” 

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