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Cooper ready to act on Duke’s shutdown threat

By Michelle Loubon

Head of the Public Service and permanent secretary to the Prime Minister Reynold Cooper says he will know what to do if the Office of the Prime Minis­ter is affected by Watson Duke’s shutdown plan.

Duke, president of the Public Services Association (PSA), said two important buildings in San Fernando and Port of Spain will be closed down by Friday due to “poor working conditions”. He did not wish to name those buildings.

To date, Duke said, about 20 buildings—in which 5,000 employees were affected—have been shut down to pressure the relevant authorities into addressing health and safety concerns. Duke was in Tobago yesterday tending to employees’ health and safety concerns. “Some Government offices are in bad shape and had to be closed down,” he said. 

Cooper said yesterday: “I can’t comment on what they (the PSA) are doing. My role is a titular title. If he (Duke) said he was going to shut down the Office of the Elections and Boundaries, it has a commission and it is appointed by the President, Anthony Carmona. I can’t comment on how they are opera­ting. But if I do it, I will be breaching my responsibi­lity. I would not want to comment on what Watson Duke is doing.

“I can’t make a general comment on the state of the buildings. I have to make sure our (Office of the Prime Minister) buildings are safe for the staff. I don’t like to comment on other institutions’ performance. I don’t want to comment on what the other ministries are doing. If he is going to shut down the Office of the Prime Minister, then, I know what I will do.”

Secretary-general of the Communication Wor­kers’ Union (CWU) John Julien said while trade unions will support any action which will ameliorate working conditions for employees, there was the need to ensure there was proper conformity to the OSHA Act.

Julien said: “We are in support of any action where there are violations of health and safety with regard to employees. We (CWU) have our own issues (kitchen) at Hilton Trinidad and Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) (protective clothing). We are in solidarity with Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union and their issues like the health and safety in relation to Petrotrin. We are gearing up for the protest walk and public meeting on May 23 at Woodford Square, Port of Spain.” 

Julien added: “Once the protest is in support with the conformity with the OSHA Act. The act clearly states under Section 15 and 16, the individual must go and make a report to the OSH committee. The individual can indicate they want the respective union to be their representative. We have to be careful if it is being reported. At the end of the day, everybody is running scared.” 

Efforts to contact Labour Minister Errol McLeod on his mobile phone and at the office proved futile yesterday.

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