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Roget urges firms: Cut profits, not workers

Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development Jennifer Baptiste-Primus, left, makes a point to president general of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union Ancel Roget, while CEO of the Employers Consultative Association Joycelyn Francois Opadeyi and CWU president Joseph Remy look on during Monday’s Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development Tripartite Stakeholders Consultation on the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2015. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH

As thousands of citizens face the breadline because of T&T’s current economic slump, Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) leader Ancel Roget says employers should cut their profits instead of laying off workers.

At a media briefing at the George Camps Complex, California, yesterday, Roget said while unions understood the effects of low oil prices on the country’s revenue, workers alone should not bear the brunt of financial adjustments.

Already 480 workers from ArcelorMittal are facing unemployment as the company has requested the Steel Workers’ Union sign an agreement to have workers dismissed. More than 400 employees were sent home last year. Downstream companies, Central Trinidad Steel Limited and Tube City IMS Ltd, have dismissed 200 workers and 197, respectively, from 2015 to date. 

Roget also recalled that 68 NP workers are in court appealing wrongful dismissals, while Construtora OAS has intentions of sending home close to 1,000 workers.

Roget said some employers are using the low oil and gas prices to reduce their workforce though their businesses were not affected. He warned that if the trade unions had to respond to threats to workers’ survival, there would be chaos.

“Businesses generally have to be able to be satisfied with less profits. You cannot get the same amount of profit in a situation where workers are being sent home for you to maintain your profit margin. Absolutely not. Therefore, we are saying, employers, businesses, everybody must be able to sit down, discuss and agree to share the burden of adjustment.

“It must not be borne on the backs and shoulders of the workers alone. Already workers are being sent home...and that is just the tip of the iceberg. If we allow that to continue we will end up with an industrial relations fiasco in this country. We don’t need that at this point. What the country needs is stability and calm for us to chart a proper way forward, but if workers and trade unions are provoked to respond to issues of survival we will end up in chaos,” Roget said.

He said JTUM would be hosting its national Conference of Shop Stewards and Branch Officers at Paramount Building, San Fernando, on March 2, ahead of the mid-year review of the national budget. 

He said the conference was to discuss the economy and the way forward and there must be a meeting with the Government before any adjustments to the budget were made. 

Among the topics to be discussed are the need to increase workforce productivity and efficiency, the food import bill, and political appointments of unqualified people to state boards.


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