Failure to provide personal protective clothing for Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) employees and a call to reinstate 60 Hilton Trinidad employees were two of the major grouses raised by Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) secretary general John Julien.
Julien, CWU president Joseph Remy, officers from the southern and eastern branches and about 100 TSTT and Hilton Trinidad workers staged a protest on Friday outside the Ministry of Labour, on Duke Street, Port of Spain.
The CWU executive also delivered a letter to acting Prime Minister/Minister of Labour Errol McLeod which voiced their concerns.
In a telephone interview, Julien said, “We protested the failure of the Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) agency to deal decisively with the health and safety issues at TSTT, in particular personal protective clothing. It was promised to us by April 1. There was a recommendation from the OSH committee for a particular type of protective clothing to be worn by the outside technicians, personnel and power systems personnel.
“The company has blatantly refused to accede to the request of the OSH committee and ignored our collective agreement. Workers in south have refused to work based on the fact they don’t have protective clothing since May 2013. Similar action has been taken by workers in Port of Spain, Macoya and Arima.”
“Fire retardant” equipment and special clothing that will offer protection in the event of electrical burns from high tension wires were requested.
On the issue of Hilton Trinidad employees, Julien added: “We reported the termination of close to 60 workers as a trade dispute to McLeod and that was delivered today. We are giving McLeod seven days to acknowledge receipt of our correspondence and 14 days in which the minister, personally, or through his representative, to convene a meeting between the parties to have the matter resolved. Failure on the part of the ministry to do so will result in the matter being sent to the Industrial Court.”
The workers were terminated on Carnival Tuesday (March 4).
Julien said Hilton Trinidad general manager Leroy Browne should be held ultimately responsible for the termination of citizens of Trinidad and Tobago by a foreign organisation and foreign management. When contacted, Browne said he was in a meeting and had sent out a release on the matter on March 14.
A TSTT release said: “The safety and well-being of staff is of paramount importance to TSTT and the company takes all reasonable and practical steps to provide a safe work environment for employees. In accordance with the existing collective agreements between TSTT and the CWU, the company has begun distributing personal protective clothing to the relevant staff. The CWU protest action today for the supply of personal protective clothing also relates to a recommendation for providing new types of protective clothing for certain staff based on a review of the work they do.
“The OSH Agency has taken the reasonable steps to engage TSTT management and the CWU executive and to review several reports from the company, including the TSTT OSH committee recommendations for new types of personal protective clothing for certain staff.
“TSTT continues to fully cooperate with the OSH Agency to bring this matter to a conclusion. The CWU is aware of this process so their protest action today was premature and misleading to the public,” the release added.