The reports carried in the media on July 12 on the Industrial Court contempt hearing against the Public Services Association and its president Watson Duke, should give all workers in the Public Service and indeed all right-thinking citizens of the country cause for grave concern about our system of governance.
I say this because of the testimony of the acting Chief Immigration Officer Gerry Downes, the main witness of Labour and Small and Micro Enterprise Development Minister Errol Mc Leod, who obtained the injunction against Mr Duke. In response to questions from Mr Duke’s lawyer, Douglas Mendes, SC, Mr Downes, without any equivocation whatsoever, admitted to the court that the offices of the Immigration Division on Frederick Street in Port of Spain might not be safe in the event of a fire.
Further, Mr Downes had earlier admitted that there had been issues with toilets, ceiling tiles and hanging wires at the offices and in acknowledging a failing inspection certificate prepared by Occupational Safety and Health Agency last Friday, said he did not expect his staff to be satisfied with the failed safety and health inspection.
So there we have it. The head of a major division of the Government has staff working for him in conditions known to him to be unsafe. The staff in his offices are, unquestionably, at risk!
Why is this situation even possible in Trinidad and Tobago which not only has the money but also the legal framework specifically designed to protect employees in the workplace? Who is at fault? Or perhaps the question should be:
What in our system of governance permits this situation to exist without apparent concern and/or action by those in charge—until there is a crisis?
I submit that this situation at the Immigration Division is not unique and that it can, does and will arise in government offices elsewhere in Trinidad and Tobago because the governance system holds no one accountable for these egregious failures of management.
Ashton S Brereton