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Duke: Prove courts safe to return

By Nikita Braxton-Benjamin nikita.braxton@trinidadexpress.com

San Fernando

AFTER San Fernando Magistrates’ Court staff walked off the job for a second day yesterday, Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke called for the judiciary to submit documents to prove it was safe to return to the building.
Should this not be done by tomorrow, Duke said the San Fernando court and other courthouses will be brought into scrutiny.
In a letter addressed to court executive administrator Michelle Austin, Duke called for the Electrical Inspectorate report, a structu­ral engineer’s report, fire certificate and the document showing Town and Country Planning approval.
“We have widened it and we have asked her to supply those same document for every single building where the judiciary has administrative staff. Now, if that is not supplied by Friday, the PSA is free to act in defence of its members’ interests, and every single courthouse in this country would now be targeted as an unsafe place,” Duke said.
At his visit on Tuesday, the PSA president said he had observed the courthouse had Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, humid courtrooms, drooping ceilings, stained carpets, dust-covered windows, outdated fire extingui­shers and no fire-escape plans.
Yesterday, he said workers had reported to work at the court but did not stay.
“The building has not changed, therefore, their concerns remain the same. As important as it was yesterday (Tuesday), so it is today (Wednesday).”
About 30 workers had left the building on Tuesday after Duke visited.
The letter to Austin said members of staff “have reason to believe that they have been subjected to unsafe and unhealthy working conditions that diminish their welfare and compromised their vascular system, digestive system, respiratory system, nervous system, cutaneous system, urinary system, reproductive system and immune system.”
Duke said the staff walkout had “severely crippled” operations at the court.
He said it had been brought to his attention the workers who left the building on Tuesday had been threatened with being served letters.
“If they bring those letters, we will deal with it legally. We’re not taking bullying from no employer.... The fight goes on. If they want to up the level, trust me, we going to up the level on them because one thing we’re not doing is backing down where our rights are concerned.”
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