Labour Minister Errol McLeod seems to be confused about the relationship between the trade union movement and politics.
So said secretary general of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU)
David Abdulah, as he responded to accusations hurled at the organisation by McLeod at the People’s Partnership rally at Mid Centre Mall, Chaguanas, on Saturday.
“We know very well the role of the progressive trade unions, in attempting to have progressive, radical politics in the country, represen-
ting the interests of wor-
king people and the poor, and in the fight to
transform the society and bring about social justice.
“The OWTU is consistent with that where (McLeod) is no longer a part of the movement or part of that tradition because standing up, wearing a yellow shirt in Mid Centre Mall, defending the corruption and nonsense of this Government, places him somewhere else,” he said.
Abdulah said the “errant nonsense” spoken by McLeod at the rally indicated he had nothing to say about his achievements and what was done by the Government through the years.
The OWTU held a news conference at its head-
quarters in San Fernan-
do to address the issues raised by McLeod at the rally, including accusations against its president general, Ancel Roget.
Roget was not present at the news conference, attended by executive members of the OWTU.
Abdulah said: “He (McLeod) was alluding to an accident that took place in Trinmar in 1999 and said he will have more to say at the next occasion. We’re not like a video clip where a minister said it was not him and everybody could see it was him. So we’re not about smoke and mirrors here; we’re about putting out the facts of the minister.”
He said the incident McLeod was referring to occurred on a Trinmar platform. He said a temporary worker suffered minor injuries when a compressor was being started up after repair work. Roget was foreman and branch president at Trinmar when the incident happened.
Abdulah said the company attempted to take action against Roget and it was the OWTU, led by McLeod, that stood at his side.
Roget was suspended for two months and the union fought to ensure he was not victimised.
Despite this, Abdulah said it was McLeod who selected Roget as first vice-president of the trade union in 2006.
“So we don’t know how Errol McLeod could raise issues when he obviously did not have an issue with Roget’s leadership of Trinmar,” he said.
Abdulah said the minister appears to have for-
gotten his statements back in 2010 when he spoke about the role of the trade union in politics.
“We expected that the Minister of Labour would have been able to speak to some achievements of his ministry, with respect to labour. As it turns out, he could not say anything really about labour and what he has done.”
Abdulah said the major elements of the workers’ agenda—which McLeod was supposed to lead and champion to bring about major reforms in the labour sector to the benefit of working people, workers and trade unions—was not mentioned in his contribution at the rally.
The OWTU condemned statements by McLeod that the union was being “reckless” by having workers on the breadline.
Abdulah said the OWTU would not be intimidated by any minister and will continue to defend members and workers fearlessly, honestly and in the tradition “of the blue shirt army”.