Unions begin planning major strike

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Friday July 29, 2011 – Labour leaders representing public workers will today begin a series of meetings in preparation for a nationwide strike that President-General of the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) Ancel Roget said will come “like a thief in the night”.

Roget, speaking on behalf of the various unions, told a press conference yesterday that in addition to talking to workers all across the country, they would stage public meetings in communities to sensitise the public about the employees’ battle for more than the five percent wage increase being offered by government.

He insisted, despite warnings from the private sector and the government that a strike of the magnitude trade unions are threatening would have serious consequences for the country, that workers had to fight for their rights.

“Absolutely no progress will come without the prerequisite sacrifice and so, having exercised all of our approaches to have this matter resolved and attempting to meet with the Prime Minister herself…we are faced with no other choice but to exercise the only weapon that the worker has which is to withdraw his or her labour,” Roget said.

Finance Minister Winston Dookeran, meantime, said the government is concerned about the threats to shut down the country, but maintained that the issue had to be addressed at the bargaining table.

Speaking at yesterday’s post Cabinet press conference, he said it was “rather strange” that the five percent which is one component of the package was being used “as a rallying call to shut down the country”.

Dookeran said while the Moody’s Report has said Trinidad and Tobago’s economy was stable and expressed confidence with the financial and economic management of the country, it didn’t mean “we put it at risk and take steps to undo the gains made over the last year”. He said the risks might emerge as a result of fiscal excesses and increasing the debt ratios.

Dookeran further pointed to the current issue in the United States of America with the prospect of a debt default. He said the world was looking anxiously at the situation to see if the decisions taken would have a ripple effect.

The Finance Minister said if the US economy goes into default mode, then that is likely to have ripple effects globally on two counts: “It would facilitate a return of recessionary times as the world tries to adjust and second, it could lead eventually to a rising interest rate environment.”

He said the effects may not be immediate but Trinidad and Tobago will be affected as the cost of borrowing both for the private and public sector will rise. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)