Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Duke: We won’t obey injunction

..unless health, welfare of employees ensured, says PSA head

THE Public Services Associa­tion (PSA) will not comply with any injunction once the health and safety of public officers is being adversely affected.

This was the position of PSA president Watson Duke yesterday as he gave notice the Port of Spain City Police and the public health inspectors, who are both housed at City Hall, will not be continuing to work in their “unsafe environment”.

Duke is expected to return to the Industrial Court today for the second day of contempt proceedings against him.

Contempt proceedings against the PSA, Duke and Purdy Babwah, a member of the Public Service and a public officer at the Immigration Division, began at the Industrial Court last Friday.

Duke yesterday said what the PSA is doing is not “indus­trial action” but rather “affirmative action”.

“The State has failed to com­ply with the OSH (Occupational Safety and Health) Act, in so far as protecting the health, safety and welfare of its employees. Now, the PSA is saying we have zero tolerance; we are not going to wait, we are not going to play,” Duke said.

“Call for injunction as much as you want, we are not going to be obeying any injunction so far as health and safety is concerned; they have a mandate to ensure, in so far as reasonably practicable, the safety, the health and the welfare of all the employees,” he said.

Asked whether he felt his comments could have an adverse effect on his ongoing con­tempt case, Duke said:

“One thing I am clear of is I am not a specialist in law, but the PSA has resources that from time to time, it will draw upon and we will therefore acquire those who specialise in law.”

“The senior counsel repre­senting the PSA and the officer in this matter are quite competent and we are leaving that to them. Tomorrow is a day when the court will have to decide whether the buildings are unsafe or not, they will have to prove that. Our concern is going forward; no injunction can stop any public officer from protecting his health so I am speaking about going forward,” Duke said.

Duke said the PSA was determined to level the playing field, following years of neglect by the State.

“This is not industrial action, it is what we call affirmative action to bring redress to all of these OSHA non-compliance issues that have been ongoing for years; we are going to level the playing field now. Let the State come clean and deal with employees with a certain level of respectabi­lity, in accordance with the law,” Duke said.