Driven by their chants and loud cries, leaders of the labor movement were fired up yesterday as they demanded a return to the bargaining table to fight for higher wages.
Calling Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Finance Minister Colm Imbert and Chief People Officer Dr Daryl Dindial as ‘disrespectful’, union leaders said workers were being exploited as the cost of living rose dramatically, but not their wages.
Addressing the crowd from a truck yesterday outside the Port of Spain twin towers where the march against the government’s eight-year 2% wage offer culminated, the General President of the Oilfield Workers’ Union (OWTU) , Ancel Roget, said: “This is a war! Where the haves are against the have-nots. This is a war where those who have, want more; where they want those who have not, to have even less.
“It’s a war for respect. It’s a war to restore respect to the labor movement and workers… From 2013 to today, your standard of living has deteriorated. From 2015 to today , your standard of living has deteriorated further.
“In fact, under this Rowley PNM government, never before have you seen a rapid deterioration in your standard of living. And all we ask is that you, Rowley, bring us back to the standard of living of the last times we’ve traded in. And, therefore, zero percent won’t do that.
“One percent won’t do that. Two percent won’t. Three percent won’t. Four percent won’t. Five percent won’t. Six percent won’t. Seven percent won’t. Eight percent won’t. Nine percent won’t. Ten percent won’t. Eleven percent won’t. Twelve percent won’t. Thirteen percent will not. Fourteen percent won’t. Fifteen percent won’t. Sixteen, but we’re reasonable.
“We are responsible for ourselves, and we are reasonable for everyone and, therefore, we know where the conversation should start. The conversation can’t start with you telling us, ‘No COLA (Cost of Living Allowance) consolidation. Nothing about compensation. Or zero, zero, zero. It can’t start there.
‘We will teach
that they respect
“This guy feels like the worst bad customer in Trinidad and Tobago. He feels bigger than everyone. He’s just more disrespectful than everyone. But we’re going to teach them respect because the qualities of a Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Christopher Rowley has none.
“No Prime Minister before would have looked at the workers, no matter how dire, and offered you for eight years, zero-zero-zero-zero-one-zero-zero-one. And, therefore, we did not take this level of disrespect from the father of our nation, Dr. Eustace Eric Williams.
“We didn’t take the disrespect from George Chambers. We didn’t take ANR Robinson’s disrespect. We didn’t take Basdeo Panday’s disrespect. We didn’t take the disrespect of Patrick Manning, We didn’t take the disrespect of Kamla Persad-Bissessar. So who the hell is Keith Christopher Rowley?
“We are not going to disrespect you,” he added.
Roget also said yesterday’s protest was not a one-time event and called on crowds to return to the streets on June 19 to march again, this time in Fyzabad.
He added that next month the government will have another surprise as the labor movement takes action on a larger scale.