The MSJ holds no brief for Dr. Williams and we have many critiques of his policies and political actions, including the attacks that his government led against the trade union movement and the state repression of the 1970’s against progressive movements. However, Williams recognized that enduring social development required the involvement of a strong and active labour movement. He recognized that our country’s economic development required major state involvement since our local private sector is essentially a merchant class that makes profits by buying cheap and selling dear, rather than taking risks as entrepreneurs to invest in innovation and the production of goods and services. Dr. Williams also recognized that while the country needs a certain amount of foreign investment, this had to be regulated and placed within the context of our national goals and objectives.
Dr. Rowley and his PNM is hell bent on destroying the foundations that Eric Williams established. The end result will be an ever widening gap between rich and poor, with the majority of workers barely able to survive from payday to payday; businesses owned either by large local capital or foreign capital; land controlled and owned by a few; and a society that continues to degenerate into social barbarism.
The closure of the Petrotrin refinery and the retrenchment of all Petrotrin workers was the first major salvo by the Rowley PNM to restructure the society. The second salvo is the decision to retrench more than 500 workers at TSTT. These are not simply about making Petrotrin and TSTT “viable”. That is the false narrative. It is not about finance or the state of the country’s economy. The nature and manner of these actions have as their objective the political and social restructuring of Trinidad and Tobago. It is a classic case of a neo-liberal policy agenda, the very agenda that is being pursued by right wing governments from Trump in the US to Temer and Bolsanaro in Brazil.
The MSJ condemns the retrenchment of more than 500 TSTT workers. We stand in solidarity with them and their families as they face the nightmare of unemployment, having been abruptly put on the breadline. We also say Trinidad and Tobago must begin to recognise the very grave danger that the Rowley PNM is putting the country in. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance and because we have not been vigilant the Rowley government is trying to destroy the labour movement – and in particular, the progressive labour movement in the form of the OWTU and the CWU. If this is allowed to happen, all working people and the society as a whole will suffer tremendously since it has been this progressive labour movement more than anyone else that has stood as the people’s gatekeepers against the abuse of state power.
The MSJ calls on the Rowley PNM to think again. You are destroying the foundations of the society laid down by Dr. Eric Williams. It is not too late to pull back from this course of action.
Movement for Social Justice