Saturday, February 17, 2018

Immigration office reopens: but only until noon

Duke: Security minister promises to move employees by June

THE Immigration Office on Frederick Street, Port of Spain, yesterday re-opened its doors after shutting down on Wednesday, following a promise by National Security Minister Gary Griffith to relocate 100 employees by the end of next month to newer facilities.

Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke, who led the shut-down, said yesterday the office will again close its doors if the promise is not kept to move the employees to the Port of Spain Waterfront and One Alexandra Place, which he said were obligations agreed to by Griffith at a meet­ing on Wednesday evening.

Until such time, the Immigration Office will close its doors at noon every day, Duke said in a telephone interview. It opens at 7 a.m.

“When they are relocated to more acceptable facilities, the working hours will return to normal,” Duke said.

He said the “long-suffering” employees have been promised several floors at the Waterfront and One Alexandra, as well as, starting at the end of June, a $1,000 non-taxable allowance for immi­gration officers, similar to that being offered to police officers.

Duke said immigration officers were part of the national security community but were not being treated equitably.

He said Griffith has assured the union a note will be taken to Cabinet next Thursday on the allowance.

He has labelled the Frederick Street office “a sick building” and said about 100 people were being affected with a variety of serious health and safety violations, including poor air quality and a lack of a fire escape.

He has asked for an occupational health and safety evaluation of the place and also testing for employees who have been exposed to polluted conditions.

Asked how the temporary working hours will affect members of the public, Duke said:

“It is the immigration officers we have to have pity for. The public comes there for their passports and leave while these people have to continue working under these conditions.”

Duke has also warned that similar action will be taken in south Trini­dad but said he will not divulge which building will be shut down and when.

The closures have led to an outcry from some business quarters that Government must ensure Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) compliance as shut-downs of State offices at that level have a negative effect on the economy.

With regard to the Frederick Street office, Duke said: “We will operate in good faith. But we will shut down again if we realise the minister is dealing in bad faith.”