Critical of Government’s handling of the economy, retrenchments, a high murder toll and a failing health system, Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) leader Ancel Roget says that attempts were being made to return the working class to plantation life.
Roget made a call for citizens to unite and rebuild society on the basis of equity and social justice during the 82nd Labour Day celebrations in Fyzabad on Wednesday.
He said that under the current system of governance, only the elites were prospering while the CEPEP workers, gas station and grocery workers, security guards, hardware and store workers struggle to get by.
He called on the working class to shift the balance of powers on the street and in the Parliament as the JTUM launches Labour’s Truth Platform.
Roget pondered whether the Government was engaging in social re-engineering, to facilitate the return of the plantation system. He said it seemed likely as they have abandoned the Economic Development Advisory Board and the National Tripartite Advisory Council. He said instructions were now being taken from party financiers.
“The facts are that under this government’s economic policy, businesses have closed down, wages have decreased, the standard of living has fallen and many thousands of workers have been sent home. It is unbelievable that while thousands of workers go home, the government rushed through the Parliament in quick haste increased pensions for MPs.
“Can you imagine it is reported in one of the daily newspapers, that the Attorney General actually said that the wider society was not the priority and that he will not apologise for pension increases. Clearly, this is a reckless disregard and contempt for so many thousands of workers who were already sent home with no money and also our retirees with low and fixed pensions with no increase for them.” Roget told trade unionists at Charlie King Junction.
He said while government members were focused on themselves, they were ignoring retired police officers, teachers, principals, Chaguaramas Development Authority workers, NIB workers and others public sector retirees who have to wait two-three years just to access their pension. He warned that the government’s intention was to increase the retirement age for NIS to 65 while reducing minimum pension by six per cent each year before age 65.
He called on the government to put off fixing themselves and give priority to all the retirees who would have already made their contribution to national development.
But for the workers at CEPEP, supermarkets, gas stations and various shops, he questioned how they were able to afford rent, groceries, clothing, utilities and transportation for themselves and their children. Even worse, he said, parents now have to pay for toilet paper, chalk and other basic school supplies in the public schools.
“How do they get by with under $5,000 per month. These workers are at the lowest end of the economic ladder.”
He said that if citizens were honest, they would admit that the country was not functioning in the interest of the masses and that people are truly suffering on a daily basis.
“Let us be real. It is the truth that today, we are experiencing a high and rising cost of living with prices increasing on a daily basis. But while this is happening, importers are making hundreds of millions in profit at the expense of our local farmers and our agriculture sector.”