Thursday, January 18, 2018

La Brea residents protest for jobs


Jobless men being transported to the protest site in La Brea yesterday. PHOTO by DAVE PERSAD

Donstan Bonn

LA Brea residents blocked the main thoroughfare leading into the La Brea Industrial Development Company (Labidco) yesterday, demanding employment.

They have accused companies on the industrial estate, including Trinidad Offshore Fabricators Company (TOFCO), of failing to keep a promise to hire people living in surrounding communities.

TOFCO is a jointly owned by Weldfab Limited of Claxton Bay, and the US company Chet Morrison Contractors Inc. It is involved in the fabrication of offshore platforms and facilities servicing the oil and gas industry.

The residents blocked the roadway with debris from 4 a.m., preventing workers from entering the industrial estate. The protest ended around 11 a.m. when police cleared the blockade.

Resident Garnet Hector said they were being treated unfairly and demanded that La Brea MP Fitzgerald Jeffery intervene.

"We did this because we are not getting employment. We have skilled and unskilled people living in the community. We came out here this morning with our certifications to prove that we can do the job. We cannot have four maxi taxi loads of people coming into out community from outside to work on these projects. We have a lot of people without jobs here," he said.

Hector said residents were prepared to protest until they are employed.

La Brea MP Fitzgerald Jeffery said he understood the residents' concerns and pleaded with contractors employed at the industrial estate to hire residents. "I always believe that there are enough skilled people in La Brea. But the contractors continue to bring in people from outside and this is not fair," he said.

Jeffery said the companies need to review their recruitment process. "I have always championed for the people of La Brea. We all know that unemployment and poverty is very high in La Brea. I have spoken to Labidco but the management does not have control over who the contractors hire. I understand that a contractor might have a core of people that usually work with him. But they need to understand that they are coming into an area where employment is high," he said.

The Express learned that a group of residents were invited to a meeting with Labidco management to discuss employment last evening.