Political analyst Prof John La Guerre has viewed the T&T Unified Teachers’ Association’s (TTUTA) call for teachers to stay away from classes on September 7 as holding the nation’s children to ransom.
La Guerre weighed in on the issue a day after TTUTA president Lynsley Doodhai called on teachers to boycott classes as a show of solidarity for the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU), which was dealt a hard blow with the shutdown of the Petrotrin refinery.
Yesterday, La Guerre praised the Government for taking a courageous and frontal decision to shutdown Petrotrin’s refinery, saying the country was in a national crisis.
“One expects in a national crisis people would put forward more constructive suggestions as to how this crisis should be dealt with. I think the first recourse should not be a shutdown by unions with TTUTA taking the lead.”
He said the better option was dialogue between the unions, Government and affected workers.
“To me, TTUTA is holding the nation’s children and by extension the country to ransom. I think trade unions, in general, believe they have a moral right to strike or to threaten strike once their material interests are affected. The time has come where people have to think not only of their immediate but their longer-term interests.”
La Guerre said citizens should also take a positive approach when faced with a crisis.
“It is imperative on us to behave responsibly. I hope that sobriety will prevail and people will come to their senses and recognise the economic implications for all of us. If the economy collapses we all will suffer.This is what is really meant by patriotism.
When unions talk about patriotism this is also what is involved.”
He said the trade union movement should be coming up with ideas and suggestions to get Petrotrin out of its mess. La Guerre said to call for a TTUTA boycott will obviously create fear in the minds of parents.
“I think TTUTA should be fighting battles for Trinidad and Tobago and not stand in solidarity with OWTU after an announcement was made to send Petrotrin workers home. This company has been draining the national purse and burdening citizens with its staggering debt.”
Political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath meanwhile said it was difficult to say if teachers would heed TTUTA’s call. “Teachers would have to take Friday as a sick leave day and that could be counted against them. I am not sure how many of them have that day to spare and would want to take it this early in the term.”
But Ragoonath did not see TTUTA’s call as holding the country to ransom.
“From that perspective, I see it as part of a wider call. Be that as it may, there always remain the concern as to whether or not it is their right to join in that movement or the workers’ right to engage in such action.”
- by Shaliza Hassanali