Trade unions unmoved by Trinidad central bank warning

“We can’t afford a general strike with the fragility of the economy. There’s a nervousness that pervades the international capital markets now. We can’t afford it,” said Williams.

He told reporters for example, the US$3.7-billion Heritage and Stabilisation Fund (HSF) had “taken a hit” following the downgrading of the US credit rating by Standards and Poor’s.

Williams, presenting the Central Bank’s Economic Bulletin for July 2011 earlier this week, said that 35 per cent of the HSF assets were held in equities which have experienced losses after eight consecutive days of decline in the world’s stock markets.

But President General of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union, Ancel Roget, the main spokesman for the 19 trade unions that are fighting the Persad-Bissessar administration’s five per cent wage cap, would strike if the position does not change.

Roget said it is Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar who should heed Williams’ warning and remove the wage cap, while demanding that she show regard for the interest of workers.

Roget said the date of the strike would not be announced and it would “strike like a thief in the night”, killing any possibility of economic expansion for the first time in two years. Economic growth “will be ‘dead in the water’ if workers are forced to accept a salary and wage increase they cannot survive on,” he said.

President of the National Union of Government and Federated Workers Union, James Lambert, said the central bank governor should have issued a similar warning to the government when it decided to spend on infrastructure projects.

The Persad-Bissessar administration has in recent weeks taken out full page advertisements urging against the national strike, and appealing to citizens to “put aside our own individual interests and put the economic welfare of our nation first, not out in the streets, but at the table of reconciliation and compromise”.

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