Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday called on members of various trade unions to let their voices be heard and to speak for themselves as they continued their protest in front Parliament at the International Waterfront, Port-of-Spain.
During a break in a sitting of the lower house, Persad-Bissessar spoke to protesters outside and expressed her support. She also assured those gathered she would raise their issues before Parliament and would appoint one of the protesters to go before the Senate to voice their concerns.
“When it goes to Senate they should represent themselves. The whole Budget will go before the Senate, so we will appoint one of you all (protesters) to speak for us and for yourselves,” she said.
National Trade Union Centre (NATUC) president general Michael Annissette, who said Government continues to neglect the plight of its citizens, also expressed full support to the demonstrators. He criticised the 2018 Budget for not factoring in the needs of those in lower to middle income brackets and accused Government of being disconnected from communities. He also urged Government to engage in discussion with trade unions.
“There was no empirical analysis and no consultation with stakeholders. We cannot build a society where economics is viewed in terms of dollars and cents. Economics is about people, society and communities, when you have a disconnection between these groups of people it is a brand of economics that has no place in this modern society,” Annissette said.
Members Club and Lottery Workers Union (MCLWU) representative Maxine Gonzales said while they were willing to share the burden, the tax hike would cripple the gaming industry.
“It feels as if the Government does not like the gaming industry. We pay our taxes and we are regulated by the Financial Investigations Unit of the TTPS. We understand this, but you cannot tax a country into prosperity.”
Earlier during Parliament’s 2018 Budget debate, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh spoke to the casino workers’ issue. He warned the country it was better to “take our bitter medicine orally rather than leave it to the IMF to administer it another route, when it would be ten times more bitter.”
“The first thing the IMF would do is tell us fire 20 per cent of public servants. I’m sure every single casino worker has a relative who works in the public sector. Also, what would be the fate of maxi drivers if 14,000 to 16,000 people left the public service? We’ll take the ‘boos’ and boots for now, but I ‘m sure we’ll be exonerated in the long term and it’ll redound to T&T’s benefit.”
(With reporting by Gail Alexander)