Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) leader Ancel Roget has called on trade unions to band together to seek the interest of workers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and going forward.
Roget, who also serves as President General of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) made the call while addressing JTUM members as the organisation celebrated International Workers Day or May Day via a video conference, yesterday morning.
The organisation opted to use technology for the celebration instead of its traditional march around the streets of San Fernando due to ongoing public health restrictions on public gatherings.
In his address, Roget noted that solidarity amongst workers and trade unions is vital at this time as issues affecting workers including retrenchments and breaches of rights could be expected to increase going forward.
He noted that there were some workers, had been swayed into forgetting their rights and those of their colleagues, in favour of the ideologies of the political parties, which have demonised the trade union movement in the past.
“Workers can not be divided based on race, location, and worst of all by political affiliation,” Roget said.
Roget repeatedly noted that the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of the working class of society.
“The new normal has to be respect,” Roget said, as he called on employers to refrain from improperly using the effect of the pandemic as an excuse for infringing on workers’ rights.
While Roget noted that the organisation was not opposed to the measures and precautions implemented by the Government to reduce the spread of the virus, he stated that the Government had to cognisant of the effect on workers, whose lives have been deeply affected.
Roget also questioned the ease at which the Government repeated passed public health regulations as he referenced delays in addressing deficiencies in the Industrial Relations Act including restrictions on joining trade unions.
“Employers would exhaust every loophole to ensure workers cannot join the trade union of their choice,” Roget said.
In his brief address in the event, JTUM general secretary Trevor Johnson, who also serves in the same position in the Banking, Insurance and General Workers’ Union (BIGWU), called on employers and the government to offer essential workers, who risked their lives to ensure that the country continued to run during the pandemic, a tangible reward such as a hazard or special allowance.
“We demand more than an applause,” Johnson said.
He also likened recent retrenchments in the private and public sectors, which left between 15,000 and 20,000 citizens jobless, as a pandemic.
During the event, JTUM broadcast a video depicting workers aligned to JTUM member organisations, who were deemed essential workers, performing their duties while calling for respect for them and their colleagues.