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Ancel Roget

With the current State of Emergency (SoE) expected to expire in August, trade unions are gearing up to hit the streets of Port-of-Spain on September 1 in what Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) leader Ancel Roget touts as Freedom Day.

“This State of Emergency that they are using to their advantage must come to an end. And when that time comes, we will be able to access our tools of the trade that we traditionally had, which tools of the trade is still available to us, which we will use swiftly and which we will use effectively,” JTUM leader Ancel Roget said.

He made the declaration during a virtual media conference held by JTUM, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FITUN) and the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC) yesterday.

Roget said it would be a day of freedom for the trade union movement and citizens to be in the streets to voice their dissatisfaction with the governance of Trinidad and Tobago.

While COVID-19 will still exist in September, Roget said the unions would demonstrate their concerns within the law and the public health measures in place for COVID-19.

While COVID-19 and the SoE restrict unions from mass gatherings, he said they continue representing workers through industrial relations processes via the various government ministries and courts. And while some people may argue for or against gathering on the streets during COVID-19, Roget said the people of first world countries like the United States of America and the United Kingdom are protesting their dissatisfactions outdoors.

Roget said the government was using COVID-19 to restrict the population’s movements and reactions. Therefore, people cannot protest the effects of lockdown on jobs and the inequitable distribution of relief. But he said that even before the pandemic, the economy was in deep crisis.

He said the government took an anti-work position and launched a vicious attack to decimate the trade union movement so it could have free rein to implement austerity measures and privatise State entities to benefit their financiers.

He said politicians were savouring tax exemptions to purchase luxury vehicles, but that money saved, collectively, could provide food for many. He added while government ministers benefit, they are raising the price of fuel, utility rates and retrenching workers.

“Corruption did not go out when the UNC left office. It is still here.”

While the unions mobilise, Roget called on the Opposition to reject any efforts by the government to extend or implement another SoE.

FITUN President Joseph Remy registered support for Freedom Day, asserting that such an activity was overdue. Remy said while FITUN understands the government’s right to impose restrictions to save lives, the result is debilitating.

He said the cry in society was from people suffering the fallout of COVID-19 and the inequitable distribution of social relief. Reminding that trade unions withdrew from the National Tripartite Advisory Council, Remy said it was because of the government’s inability to discuss processes that could bring stability to social and industrial relations.

Michael Annissette, General Secretary of NATUC, added it would be a time for people to question whether T&T was an independent and democratic state in the truest sense.e.