going in circles: Employees of Hilton Trinidad hotel protest over the slow pace of wage negotiations at the St Ann's Roundabout yesterday. —Photo: CURTIS CHASE

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Hilton staff protest long wage talks

By Renuka Singh

Stalled wage negotiations and the lack of a pension plan yesterday triggered protest action by Hilton Trinidad's junior-level staff.

The group, represented by the Communication Workers Union (CWU), took their protest action near the roundabout at the base of the Lady Young Road, below the hotel, to highlight their dissatisfaction.

"We have been engaging in ongoing negotiations with the hotel for quite awhile, and the attitude of the hotel's management towards the resolution of this issue really stinks," said CWU president Joseph Remy.

He said the union met with the Hilton executive to further discuss the wage issues, but after more than three months of talks, the company went from 6.5 per cent to seven per cent.

"Every time we come, it takes them three months and they move .5 per cent, and to us, that is prolonging these negotiations. Hilton workers are not where other workers are; seven per cent on a Hilton wage is nothing, absolutely nothing."

Remy said there were other peripheral issues that also needed to be addressed, namely, the workers' pension plan.

"We have workers working there over 30-something years, part-time; there is no effort by the company to make them permanent. We have numerous vacancies at the hotel and the company is refusing to fill them."

Remy said the workers were demanding some resolution to their complaints or they would step up the protest action.

With the Carnival and tourist season at its peak, Remy said the protest was deliberately planned.

"We chose this time deliberately; this is when we believe everybody would pay attention to Hilton, and we need to send a message to the management."

Remy said the workers were the same ones who were interfacing with the tourists, and they were not comfortable waiting for the resolution of the wage issue.

During the protest action, several hotel security guards could be seen on the hill looking down at the protesting workers.

Remy said he was concerned that workers who were already being exploited would be further victimised for taking action.

Several attempts to reach Hilton manager Leroy Browne were unsuccessful.

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