Carrying two ladders and a coil of electrical wire, three young men hopped out of a big truck around 11 a.m yesterday outside the Immigration Office, Frederick Street, Port of Spain.
Right on cue, the trio entered the much maligned building to begin restoration and beautification works. Having braved the inclement weather from San Juan, driver Fitzroy Lewis said: “We will be doing the electrical work. It should take about two weeks. If the building is sick, then fix it. If people are getting sick, something should really be done about it.”
The truck belongs to United contractors of El Socorro, San Juan.
The Immigration Office, also called the “Passport Office,” has been at the centre of controversy over health and safety concerns for its employees. An Immigration Officer yesterday confirmed that the building would have been closed at noon and not the regular 3 p.m to facilitate the necessary work.
He also said they had distributed about 20 passports by 11 a.m. but because of the rain and general uncertainty, the number of clients had trickled down. A sign posted outside stated: “Please be advised the office is closed at noon today for repairs. Any inconvenience is regretted.”
During the ongoing impasse, president of Public Services’ Association (PSA) Watson Duke had advised the workers to “sign and go home under Section 15 of the OSHA act.” Labour Minister Errol McLeod has been granted an injunction restraining the workers from refusing to work but they had defied it. Production and processing of new passports has virtually ground to a halt. On Thursday, Duke said he was advising the government to set up a ten-member committee with five representatives from the PSA and five from their team to have dialogue on the way forward. McLeod went back to the Industrial Court yesterday to have Duke “committed to prison” for contempt of court .
Duke yesterday turned up at the Industrial Court and the matter has been adjourned to next week Friday.
Asked to give an update on the morning’s activities, the immigration officer said: “We gave out 20 passports and application forms. Things are very slow. People are not coming because of the weather. They are not sure what is happening with the impasse. The staff has to be out of here by 11 a.m. because they are going to start work at noon. We are not doing any more passports. We gave out those we had prepared.” Inside, as far as the eye could see, there was no one in the waiting room and the opposite cubicles.