As trade unions marched through the streets of San Fernando in observance of May Day/International Workers Day celebrations, they sent a strong message to the government and employers that they will be fighting back against injustices to workers, and by extension, the country.
Trade Union members from various bodies came out in their numbers to be part of the celebration, which was held for the first time since the pandemic struck two years ago.
Addressing the gathering briefly before embarking on the procession at OWTU's headquarters in San Fernando, leader of the Joint Trade Union Movement Ancel Roget promised to rescue the country which he said is in "deep trouble".
"Trinidad and Tobago is not what it used to be,” Roget said. “Trinidad and Tobago is in deep trouble and there are some of us who believe not only that it is not right… We are not prepared to accept the fact that Trinidad is in deep trouble."
He said those gathered were there to do something about it.
"We are here to rescue Trinidad and Tobago."
Noting that the unions were unable to march through the streets for some time, Roget said they [Government and employers] have taken advantage of the fact that there was COVID-19 and they were "happy to lock us down and ensure we cannot be on the streets."
He added: “Even if I have to walk barefoot through the streets to tell them they are doing wrong, I am prepared to do that.”
In a brief address, General Secretary of the Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union, Trevor Johnson, said T&T has a serious pandemic, which is not COVID-19, but that every institution in the country that supposed to represent labour has been compromised. He said this is evident by the recent Industrial Court judgment of ‘zero, zero, zero percent’, a silent Labour Minister, retrenchment of workers, fuel prices and other issues.
"The vaccine for our pandemic is for us to put feet on the street all over Trinidad and Tobago," Johnson declared.
He called on employers to "fix your business before Labour Day because the Joint Trade Union Movement is prepared to act.”
"We have head. Enough is Enough and we will act if you don't fix your business now," he stated.
Movement for Social Justice leader, David Abdulah, said the battle lines have been drawn with those who want workers to continue to be exploited on one side, and those who want a different T&T with social justice on the other side. Abdulah called on workers to unite and continue to fight against injustices.
Meanwhile, the Fire Service Association’s deputy treasurer, Deneen Mohammed, revealed at least one-third of the fire stations in this country are unable to respond to emergencies.
"We have a minister who went into Parliament and stated that there is no lack of resources in the Fire Service, there is no lack of appliances in the Fire Service,” Mohammed said.
“I am telling you, one day, you are going to call and there is going to be no appliance or vehicle to respond, and your house will be on fire," he warned.
Mohammed said while the Fire Service cannot take industrial action, they will stand in solidarity with the trade union movement and fight for workers and the country.
Lamenting all the issues facing the country including the Paria tragedy and fuel increases, Communication Workers Union general secretary, Clyde Elder, asked: "What will it take?"
And Letitia Cox, Second Vice President of the Trinidad and Tobago Registered Nurses Association, said nurses, like other workers, struggle with job security, an increase in contract employment, an unsafe work environment, 2013 salaries and other work-related issues.
She promised, however, that they will continue to push back.
The May Day procession ended at Harris Promenade with an address by JTUM leader, Ancel Roget.