|Bar-B-Que by the Women's Auxiliary Group : September 28th 2012|
Friday, September 28, 2012
Monday, September 17, 2012
Ladies and gentlemen
Let me again thank each of you for being here today, and for allowing us to respond to statements made by the Minister of Food Production as reported in the Guardian of the 13th and the Express and Newsday of the 14th September, 2012.
Ladies and Gentlemen the All Trinidad is extremely saddened and it is with a heavy heart that we speak to you today. We cannot believe and is in fact shocked at the response of the Minister, instead of seeking a meeting with the All Trinidad, instead of even picking up the phone and asking “Gentlemen what is the problem, what are the facts”. The minister goes on the defensive and immediately denies that anyone was terminated.
I cannot say whether the Minister has been deliberately misinformed or whether the Minister was inadvertently misinformed, by his advisers and those surrounding him.
I will simply respond as the facts before me indicate.
The Minister stated as reported in the newspapers that no one was terminated or should we say fired. Ladies and Gentlemen I have in my possession 21 letters of termination that was received by these workers dated 28th August, 2012, to take effect on 31ST August, 2012. I am willing to provide these letters to the Minister if he so desires, in order to allow the goodly Minister clarification on this issue.
The Termination letter reads as follows. We refer to your employment with the Company in the Tenancy Regularisation Project and advise that the project will end on August 31st 2012.
Your employment with the Company will therefore be terminated on August 31st 2012.
We take this opportunity to thank you for your dedicated service with the Company and wish you all the best for the future. Signed Deosaran Jagroo (Chief Executive Officer)
The Union will assume at this point that the Minister was not made privy to this letter and as such he should be questioning those around him as to why not.
The Minister indicated in his statement as reported, that the first phase of the Tenancy Regularisation Project has come to an end. Although we are informed that this is not totally true.
It must also be noted that The Tenancy Regularisation Project has three phases; as such the termination letters issued to these workers are misleading and false since it states that the project has come to an end.
The Government needs to tell us whether the first phase is completed with the other phases to be soon implemented, or if the project itself has come to a premature end. If the project is not ended then the Minister must tell us why are these 21 workers who are employed in the first phase not allowed to continue working in the second and third phases?
The Minister also seems to have been also misinformed about the Special Land Delivery Programme of which he makes mention, since this is a separate and distinct project, which these workers simply assisted Caroni in, while substantively employed in the Tenancy Regularisation Project.
It seems as though the Minister is being misinformed by the advice he is receiving, advice which is designed to suppress the truth and so circumvent the relevant issue at hand, which is the brutal and callous retrenchment of these workers by the Government. In addition, the effect that this would have on the 4500 cane farmers of this nation
To date the Minister has not adequately responded regarding the second and third phases of this project.
He has indicated that a cabinet note for funding of the second phase of the project has been submitted for consideration. The Union is extremely concerned about the word consideration, which implies that the necessary funding may not be forthcoming, especially since funds have already been allocated by the European Union.
Several interesting facts must be noted:
On Feburary 9th 2012 the Express Newspaper reported that the European Union had already given to the Government 276.1 million TT Dollars.
It is also interesting to note that Trinidad and Tobago has continued to benefit from the European Union Grant, actually according to our information the Government has already drawn from the EU $247.7 million dollars with $157.23 million still available.
Several questions need to be asked:
Is there a deliberate move to end or frustrate the Tenancy Regularisation Project?
If the project is stopped will this be a breach of duty under the agreement with the EU?
If no time limit is given for implementing the second phase will this also be a breach of duty?
Is there an agenda to remove the Tenancy Regularisation Project from Caroni Limited and place it in the hands of another government agency?
Why were these workers treated with such disdain and contempt by the Government?
Will these workers be employed in the second and third phases of the project if or when implemented?
If it is the Governments intention to move this project to another government agency, will these fired workers be absorbed in the agency under the same terms and conditions they enjoyed before?
Why is the Government intent on pursuing the Special Land Delivery Project using former Caroni Limited lands, while blatantly neglecting and frustrating the cane farmers and Ex-Caroni workers, who should be given first preference?
Has the Government decided to embark on a policy of destroying small farmers in order to acquire their lands for reasons yet to be revealed?
Why is the Government following in the footsteps of the former regime and showing contempt for the Deyalsingh Judgment as per the Order on page 38 of said judgment?
Even before this issue a letter dated 18th July 2012, was sent to the Minister of food Production asking for a meeting to discuss several issues, to date a meeting has not been arranged.
If the Minister is too busy to meet on issues concerning the Ex-Caroni workers, or the retrenched workers or the cane farmers, then he needs to say so.
The All Trinidad Union is again saying to the Government, millions are being spent in all different types of activities, it is time to expeditiously settle all issues concerning the retrenched workers, the Cane farmers and ex-Caroni workers.
Any people no matter how docile or how passive will one day react, perhaps in a way not expected, when they become frustrated enough, when they can’t take it anymore and when they realise that those whom they trusted to seek their interest, are probably playing games of deceit and deception with them.
I said to the Government before and I will say it again, these terminated workers are waiting, the cane farmers are waiting, the ex-Caroni workers are waiting and most of all those who laboured in the plantation fields of this nation are waiting. Those who sacrificed and built and never depended on political patronage and handouts for survival, they too are waiting.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Tuesday 11th SEPTEMBER, 2012
Ladies and gentlemen
First of all, I want to thank each of you for being here today, and for giving us the opportunity to highlight a matter that we consider to be of great urgency, an issue developing that the All Trinidad General Workers Trade Union sees as having far reaching consequences, even nationally, if not expeditiously addressed and dealt with by the government.
Ladies and gentlemen about two days before this nation celebrated its 50th Independence Anniversary on August 28th, 2012; Twenty One (21) workers of Caroni 1975 Limited were callously and unceremoniously terminated from their employment with the company.
In the first instant, The Company without care and without following due process, obscenely violated the provisions of the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act 1985, Section 6 - the minimum period of formal notice required by section 4 shall be forty-five days before the proposed date of retrenchment, by which I mean there was no notice to the workers, no discussion, no consultation and no offers of alternative employment.
This harsh and oppressive action taken by Caroni Ltd a representative of the Government, is made even worst and adds to the further indictment of the government and those in authority, since these workers were engaged in the regularisation project of ensuring security of tenure for 4500 cane farmers of this nation, Cane farmers who are dependent on this project for the safety and security of knowing that the lands they would have laboured on for generations, cannot be taken away from them by the whim and fancies of anybody.
The funding for this project would have come from the approximately 400 million dollars given to the government of Trinidad and Tobago for the development and implementation of policies designed to give comfort and provide alternative sources of income to these cane farmers since the shut down of the Sugar Industry.
As such we therefore have two issues that are enmeshed together:
(1) the violation of the labour laws of Trinidad and Tobago by the harsh and oppressive termination of these workers
(2) the direct impact and negative consequences of this action on 4500 cane farmers who were dependant on these workers and the project they were engaged in, for security of tenure and comfort of knowing that they were regularised on the lands they have occupied for so long.
Our information is that no additional funding was allotted for the second phase of this regularisation project which has three phases. Even the full amount of funding that was needed for the first phase was not allocated. Yet this is monies that were given to the Government specifically to deal with issues facing the cane farmers.
What is telling and even more strange is that this was an ongoing project of such a vital nature and a cabinet note requesting funding for the second phase though supplied to the ministry and reviewed by ministry officials, never reached cabinet. Perhaps it was a deliberate or perhaps it was an oversight, I don’t know. I prefer not to draw conclusions based on mere speculation and assumption.
Our Union is extremely concerned, since while it attempts to assist the Ex-Caroni workers in acquiring their 2 acre and residential plots, many of which after so many years are still outstanding, with poor infrastructural works, lack of access roads, persons having paid for lots over five years now and still to receive them, persons still not even allocated plots as yet, others being allocated lands miles away from where they live, persons allocated has been dislocated and yet to be re-allocated and numerous other problems still to be addressed.
So in addition to the problems facing the Ex-Caroni workers as they attempt to access that which is legally due to them, not a gift or a privilege but a legal entitlement as per the VESEP package and the Deyalsingh Judgment, we have this situation with the cane farmers project arising.
Worst than this and even more frightening and confusing and blatantly revealing is the fact that while many Ex-Caroni workers are still suffering to get what is their legal right, while the Cane farmers security of tenure is now threatened, the government is continuing to pursue a project of land divestment to other persons who are not in the first two categories. So ex Caroni workers still to get land, cane farmers still to be regularised, but you are giving away land without a thought. A total insult to the ex-Caroni workers and contempt for the Deyalsingh Judgment, and a further insult to the Cane farmers
Someone in authority needs to tell us where is the EU money given to the Government for the singular purpose of dealing with the issues relating to Cane Farmers? Why these funds are not disbursed to the implementing agency for the regularisation of the cane farmers, but funding is instead made available for the land divestment programme.
The Union is calling upon the Government through the relevant line Ministers in Housing, Food Production and Finance to immediately address and resolve this issue, before a travesty and an injustice of colossal magnitude becomes a reality for these Cane farmers and also we must not forget the Ex-Caroni workers.
The purpose of this Press Conference is to bring to light the violations by this government of these 21 workers, to put the 4,500 cane farmer on notice that the project (Tenancy Regularisation Project) has stopped and to highlight that many Ex-Caroni (1975) workers are still suffering and waiting for the proper implementation of VESEP packages
Let us not forget that these are people who have laboured in the vineyards for many years making a productive contribution to our society
When I think of this issue ladies and gentlemen I am reminded of the words of Sir Walter Scott, in I think it was his poem Marion, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive”
We are therefore calling upon the government to do what is just and what is fair to the retrenched workers, the cane farmers and at the same time not to forget the dilemma facing the ex-Caroni workers.
The Government must understand that the people are waiting, these retrenched workers are waiting, the cane farmers are waiting, the ex-Caroni workers are waiting, and they must understand that the people from the plantation fields whose backs provided the foundation upon which they stand are waiting. Let those who have laboured in the vineyards enjoy the fruits of their labour.
We the Union would like to see workers treated fairly as stated under the Retrenchment & Severance Benefits Act, the Restart of Tenancy Regularisation Project, as money for all THREE Phase has been given to the T&T Government, Someone in authority to indicate where is the EU money given to the government for the singular purpose of dealing with the issues relating to cane farmers and to Indicate to the government that there are still Ex-Caroni Workers still suffering for the resolution of lands and V.E.S.E.P. packages
A few months ago we held a meeting with over 1000 ex Caroni workers, we shall be soon doing the same in order to report to these workers the progress made in addressing their issues with regard to the implementation of the VESEP package.
If necessary we shall meet with the Cane farming bodies to assist them in their struggle
We shall begin the industrial relations process of dealing with the issue of the retrenched workers.
I thank you ladies and gentlemen