Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus says T&T’s labour sector is strong despite the continued retrenchment of public and private sector employees.
And while she does not have the authority to order employers not to retrench workers – Baptiste-Primus says she can only appeal to their sense of fairness and humanity when such requests cross her desk.
Speaking with reporters during the 2019 Friendly Societies and Fraternal Orders Parade and Family Day at the UWI Sport and Physical Education Centre, St. Augustine on Saturday – the minister shrugged off widespread criticisms from the trade union movement that she had turned against them and had sold out working class citizens.
Elaborating about the event which sought to highlight the humanitarian work being by friendly societies and lodges which falls under her ministry’s purview, Baptiste-Primus assured, “Such events are geared towards building family life and encouraging relationships.”
“In the final analysis, life is about building and sustaining relationships.”
The Division last held such an event on August 17, 2013.
Claiming her back was broad and she could handle the accusations being leveled against her, the minister said, “I would describe the labour sector as strong because labour is critical in any society’s development.”
Attributing her beginning as having begun in the belly of labour, Baptiste-Primus went on, “Because all employers are not fair, the survivability of the labour movement is assured.”
Acknowledging the strong personalities of the current crop of labour leaders, she added, “I view most of them as my comrades and no matter how many shots they may send across my bow, I will not respond because I understand the place they are operating from.”
Indicating she was always open to meet with labour leaders, the minister cautioned that some of the issues impacting the labour movement was beyond her capability and therefore, she was forced to operate within her pay-grade.
Understanding the tendency to lash out when one was not near to achieving a resolution, Baptiste-Primus said, “I am not an over-sensitive person. I can take punches as well as I can give punches so I do not let those remarks worry me.”
And although economic indicators point to an improvement in the country’s economic status, the minister warned, “It is generally understood that we are not at the financial place we were a few years ago and we have to adjust our expectations.”
She advised all parties to come to the table with an open mind and be prepared to compromise – a word she claimed, was not obscene.
Pressed to say if any complaints had reached her highlighting the unfair treatment of Venezuelan migrants who had been granted a permit to work in T&T for one year – Baptiste-Primus said, “Our responsibility is to ensure that all employers respect the minimum wage rate and pay it to the workers so our Labour Inspectorate is out there doing a fantastic job.”
“Wherever there are complaints, they are investigated.”
Minister was unable to confirm how many retrenchment notices she had received for the year thus far.