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Friday, November 17 2017 @ 03:31 PM AST

Roget: 'Working class' people betrayed by Govt

Government has betrayed the "working class" people of Trinidad and Tobago, is bankrupt of ideas, worsened the recession, and is understating unemployment figures. So said Joint Trade Union Movement President Ancel Roget said yesterday at Busy Corner, Chaguanas during a curbside press conference.

Reacting to Government's announcement that it wanted to hold talks with the Opposition, Roget said: "He (Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley) wants to talk now with those who he said couldn't do the job. That signals that there is a deficit of ideas."

Roget led a walk through the streets of Chaguanas with "comrades" from the National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW), the Postal Workers Union, the Farmers Union, the Public Services Association (PSA), the Contractors Association, the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA), Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU), All Trinidad General Workers Trade Union (ATGWTU), Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union (SWWTU), Early Childhood Teachers Trade Union, and the Amalgamated Workers Union (AWU). It is the second of three public mobilization events in the buildup to a rally on August 4 on the Brian Lara Promenade in Port of Spain from 1 pm. With his comrades, he walked last week through Arima and on July 18, will walk through San Fernando.

"People are suffering in Trinidad and Tobago and no amount of talk and no amount of trying to convince me that I have to suffer more for you to balance your books will suffice. There must be discussion with the right people, and the right people in this regard, has to be the trade union movement because it is our members who are suffering night and day and so we are only hearing about announcements on the political platform about public sector cuts and all of those things. We will not accept that! That is not what we sat and drafted out and agreed to!" he said.

DETAILS OF BETRAYAL

Describing the betrayal, he said: "Indeed we were aware, back then, of the challenges that we would face, and so, as a result of that, we drafted a proper way forward - a blueprint to surmount and to overcome all of these challenges that we would encounter. We were aware. It is not that we were not aware. Now we see, unfortunately, instead of people talking with us, which the memorandum of understanding dictated - that before you cut anybody, that you would speak with the trade union movement, because it is our members who will feel the brunt of those cuts and worse yet, it is our members who turn the wheels of the economy - instead of talking with us, it seems that they are bankrupt of ideas, and I was appalled that instead of talking with us, he (Rowley) wants to talk with those who he said couldn't do the job but you want to have talks, discussion with them."

He added: "You condemned them for not being able to do the job, you ran out of ideas and you want to talk with them. Well we are at our wits end and we must take action."

Roget said: "We are waking up the sleeping tiger in every worker."

UNDERSTATING FIGURES

After a meeting earlier this month with Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development Jennifer Baptiste-Primus, Roget said he was appalled that "she was not au courant with the (unemployment) figures." The figures, she admitted, are understated, he said.

"She admitted that yes, it has to be more, but the point I wish to make is that no where in that conversation did she say that there are going to be more retrenchments and public service workers are going to be sent home to balance the books of an uncaring and incompetent government."

He said JTUM will aggregate the figures "we know to be the reality 'on the ground' and (will) produce that figure so that people can see the full picture."

He said he needed to put out the figure so people can appreciate the magnitude of this problem. "It is bad, and those who are responsible want us to accept that we should be the sacrificial lambs," he said.

Roget believes Government does not understand what the problem is and added: "If you do not understand the problems you will apply the wrong remedy, and so you will exacerbate the problem. Therefore we are not sure, based on what we are seeing, that the remedy that they chose to apply is one that will work. They want us to accept that things bad and all of us must go home, while people continue to declare huge profits, while the burden of adjustment is not equitably borne and shared. We have a problem with that."

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