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CEO: Workers hurting their own cause

Stalemate continues at Blind Welfare Association

By Alexander Bruzual

The stalemate between chief executive officer of the Blind Welfare Association, Kenneth Suratt, and an estimated 26 workers of the association continued yesterday, with no attempt being made to remove the Nissan X-Trail vehicle parked on the compound.
On Tuesday, the group of workers prevented the CEO and his driver from leaving the compound on Duke Street, Port of Spain, in the SUV as they felt that since they have not been paid since August 8, then the vehicle, which is an asset of the Association and not owned by Suratt, should not be used.
This led the CEO to make an official report at Central Police Station and the arrival of a party of officers shortly after 5 p.m. on Tuesday at the Association’s office. But while the police informed the workers they were committing an offence, the officers left the compound without arresting or moving any of the visually-impaired persons.
Outside the CPS building on Abercromby Street, Port of Spain on Tuesday, Suratt said he would not be using the police to move the men and women who were blocking access to the vehicle. However, he said, the actions of the workers were redundant and only hurt their cause.
“I am not going to use the police to make people move. If this is what they want, fine, let them have it. I will leave it as a stalemate. I will go home and when they are ready they will call me. I am not going to use the police to reclaim the vehicle at all, but they need to realise that they are only hampering their cause and their actions are affecting not only themselves, which comprises of about 26 persons, but the Association as a whole, which comprises of several thousands of persons.
“The vehicle is used to conduct the Association’s business and activities, so clients are affected and pensioners are being affected. If the Government made the release of funds tomorrow or Thursday, we would have runs to make as I would have to collect cheques and signatures and so forth. So I expected them to let good since prevail and allow the vehicle to go so we can do the work and we can get the job done. They have not, so how are we going to move around? It is an anomaly to me because you want to get paid, but you are hampering access to the vehicle which you need to help you get paid. It makes no sense,” Suratt said.
Speaking to the Express yesterday, Nirvan Maharaj, president general of the All Trinidad General Workers’ Trade Union, confirmed that the protest action was still ongoing by the group and that no attempts had been made by Suratt or any other group to reclaim the vehicle.
“The situation remains the same unfortunately. We are simply awaiting the response of the Government. We have been informed money would be in the accounts of the workers by Thursday, but because of past experiences, they are continuing their peaceful protest here. We are simply going with the words of the adviser to the PM and if that does not manifest by Friday (payment to workers), then you can rest assured that on budget day itself (September 8) we will be marching through town,” Maharaj said.
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