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...Duke: Drop ‘unjust’ injunction

Port of Spain Immigration office

By Michelle Loubon

Remove the injunction.
President of the Public Services Association (PSA) Watson Duke directed this demand yesterday to Labour Minister Errol McLeod as the impasse on health and safety issues at the Immigration Offices in Port of Spain and San Fernando continued.
Duke was speaking at a press conference at the PSA headquarters, Abercromby Street, Port of Spain. He was joined by PSA first vice-president Christopher Joefield and second vice-president Ian Murray.
Likening the injunction which was granted last Thursday by the Industrial Court, to a gun, Duke said: “It is provocative. It is unjust. Let us sit and talk with union representatives. It seems to be a problem. Drop the injunction. There will be no talks. Zilch...until that stupid injunction is dropped. It should be dropped in the interest of national growth.”
He added: “The workers will not be made to surrender their rights. It is a human rights issue. The employees are being compelled to work in an unsafe building by employer in contravention of Section 15 of the OSH Act.”
Meanwhile, yesterday people were being attended to up till 3 p.m. at the Immigration Office in Port of Spain and a few got their passports.
Duke said he was engaged in dialogue with National Security Minister Gary Griffith and Housing Minister Roodal Moonilal with a view to resolving the litany of woes at the offices, including no fire escape, toilets that don’t cater for obese people and hanging electrical wires.
Duke also said the People’s Partnership administration led by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has financial resources to give US$1.3 million to the Soca Warriors and $3 billion in pensions for Parliamentarians but it could not find monies to fix about 500 sick buildings and ameliorate the working conditions of about 80,000 people who provide 120 essential services.
Duke presented two documents which he said confirmed OSHA inspectors had deemed the workers’ health and safety was being compromised.
According to Duke, if the workers’ needs were not tended to urgently, the country should brace itself for “more action.” Pressed further, a desk-thumping Duke said he would not reveal the nature of the imminent action. “It could get worse before he got better,” he said.
Duke also claimed yesterday that Chief Immigration Officer Gerry Downes was threatening to dismiss the workers for not reporting to work .
He also claimed that a few union officers had to make an intervention at the Immigration Office, at Frederick Street, Port of Spain.
Launching a scathing attack on Downes, Duke said: “No employee shall be coerced into working under Section 15. Downes is in breach of the Act. Lawyers are preparing letters of complaint. Some of the unionists had to go down there and deal with the situation.”
When contacted on his mobile, Downes said: “ I have no comment. I have no authority to hire or fire anyone. Public servants are employed by the Public Service Commission. It is the body that has the authority to hire or fire not any head of department.”
Asked if he could give a comment on the state of operations yesterday, Downes said: “No comment.”
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