Tuesday, November 21, 2017

'Don't blame me for Piarco chaos', says Duke

The scene at the Piarco International Airport on Sunday.


Public Service Association (PSA) president Watson Duke said on Monday that he was not responsible for the action taken by immigration officers stationed at the Piarco International Airport on Sunday, which many consider a national disgrace that shamed the country internationally.

He said the decision by immigration officers to stay away from the job had nothing to do with industrial action. And workers have a right to refuse overtime, he said.

Duke was responding to the chaos which occurred at the airport on Sunday, as only two immigration officers were on duty.

Speaking on the Morning Edition on Monday, Duke said immigration officers were facing several issues including non-payment of overtime.

He said, “In no way the president of the PSA was responsible. The Immigration officers are under an injunction and we want to make it absolutely clear that yesterday had nothing to do with industrial action. Workers have a right to work overtime or refuse overtime. And  when persons are called out to work overtime in immigration they are not paid their overtime. People in this country must understand that employees have rights and their rights cannot be trifled with.”

Duke did not say whether employees rostered to work the shift stayed away from the job. But he insisted that he would never encourage persons to work for free in this country.

“Why should they work free, who works for free in this country? The prime minister was suspended from Parliament and he came out begging publicly for his money,” he said.

Duke said the workers needed rest and as PSA president he supported their action. However, he noted, that the action was not prompted by the trade union.

Duke said he was not happy with the long lines and pain endured by passengers arriving to Trinidad on Sunday evening.

But he noted that the action was necessary to improve the country.

He said letters were written to the Government asking that they take these issues seriously.

“They keep playing politics and blaming everybody for things that they are responsible for. We would have written a letter regarding issues in immigration, that affect the employees, the operation, to make the service more successful for the customer,” he said.

 Meeting with Finance Minister

Duke would attend a meeting this afternoon with Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert, to discuss the establishment of the proposed Trinidad and Tobago Revenue Authority.

According to the Minister, the purpose of this meeting is to clarify the Government's aims and objectives with respect to the Trinidad and Tobago Revenue Authority and to clear up any misconceptions that may exist, including the implications for public officers of the proposed new arrangements for revenue collection.

But Duke noted that he would not be disrespected at the meeting.

“I will not being to the meeting to be disrespected by the minister, expect war and thunder in the room. I represent thousands of workers in this country and the Civil Service Act mandates him to meet with me, consult and negotiate. Not just to clarify…it is not to clarify, leave that to the secretary or PNM party group. When he comes to meet me it is no friends. We come to meet on business, to consult and negotiate,” he said.

Duke said the action taken by immigration officers on Sunday had nothing to do with today's meeting.