Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A nation buzzing with discontent


Mark Fraser

The incessant unrest at the Immigration Division together with the president of the Public Services Association have been the target of a plethora of unsavoury comments from politicians, who fear the backlash of angered members of the public seeking services from this Government office.

Comments ranging from the perceived poor work ethic of the protesting public servants, to their actions being unconstitutional, to the Government doing everything legally possible to put an end to this impasse and finally a plea for these aggrieved public servants to think about those who want to enjoy their vacations oversees.

Apparently, nobody is thinking about the public servant. The public servant who will have to spend their meagre government pension, after having worked thirty-three-and-a-third years in deplorable working conditions, on countless medical bills.

Working conditions that will definitely result in malaise from years of being exposed to asbestos, mold in air conditioning vents, poor ventilation, rodents and pest infestation, poor air quality, just to name a few.

Then again, we are only the working class who make up a large number of the Trinbagonian citizenry. We do not have cabinet debating over amendments in our pension so we can deal with these forseeable medical conditions.

Well, that is the purpose of the Public Services Association. An institution, laid in law to pursue matters such as these and fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.

Presently, there are countless

public servants who suffer from der-

matological conditions, respiratory ailments and who succumb daily to the reality that in the event of an emergency, these government buildings do not comply with safety regulations to protect the lives they house.

Ironically, Labour Day was recently celebrated on June 19. However, in the minds of many, its only significance was the benefit of a long weekend. It forces us to ask the question, do we truly understand the meaning of Labour Day? A day celebrated annually to remember the labour riots of June 19 - July 6, 1937, led by a man characterised as the father of the labour movement, Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler. A man whose revolutionary methods of protest and wholehearted belief and persistence in his cause proved to disrupt the intentions of the “haves” in society, forcing them to take notice of the working class.

Butler was an admirable leader of the movement as his perceived extremist methods of protest created a paradigm shift, against the backdrop of colonialism and an otherwise conservative marginalised working class.

The labour riots of the 1930s were fraught with power relations inherent in a colonial society. Similarly our nation has reached a point where the disparity between the “haves” and “have nots”, the “powerful” and the “powerless” has become so large, that our disquieted nation is “buzzing” with discontent.

Butler was imprisoned from 1941-1945 since the government regarded his disruption of oil production as a threat to the British War effort. He was later honoured in 1970 with the Trinity Cross.

If we awarded such a man, who unsettled the government for the labour cause, with the highest honour of our great land, then we should empathise with the grounds on which public servants have been compelled to take action. The existing Government have found ways to make themselves comfortable in their newly furnished waterfront Parliament and their recent increase in salaries.

I firmly believe that if this Government really wanted to, they could relocate public servants in the empty Government buildings that only serve as decorations in our nation’s capital.

Continue the fight, Mr Duke. We, the Public Service, support the cause unswervingly. Let us be the “Buzz” that Trinbago’s labour movement is lacking.

Giselle John