Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) vice-president Peter Burke has demanded improved working conditions for employees attached to Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC) Street Lighting Division or face industrial action.
Burke said the workers are responsible for lighting and maintenance of streetlights in public areas.
Speaking at a press conference at OWTU headquarters in San Fernando on Friday, Burke said: “We think that the politicians ought to take note that in their effort to gather votes and support for the local government election, they should share a thought for those workers who are subjected to poor working conditions in order that these lights are switched on.”
He warned T&TEC management to improve the workers’ conditions before the local government election.
“We are entering an election season and we have in T&TEC a department which is responsible for streetlights and during this election season there is a lot of emphasis on the lighting of public places, particularly playgrounds.
“We have for some time been observing at T&TEC a tendency to treat these workers almost at the same level as our ancestors and slaves.
They have been threatened and cajoled. When we flick the lights on our playgrounds I would like the wider community to consider what are the conditions under which these workers operate to provide these utilities for you,” he said.
Burke said employees have been working in temporary positions for up to seven years.
“And you have on numerous occasions senior management going to the workers and threatening them. When they make legitimate demands for their rights to be observed, people are fired if they complain of driving unsafe vehicles and if they ask about their security of tenure and so on,” he said.
Burke also addressed threats to privatise the T&TEC Cove Power Plant in Tobago.
“The expansion of the Cove Power Plant would be privately financed and a management contract put in place. We have to start to examine whether these arrangements for power generation are useful for the country and also what is the effect on the workforce and management of these facilities. Are these benefits real?”
Burke appealed to the authorities to seriously examine its approach to power generation.
“The arrangements have not been working optimally because they have put T&TEC under tremendous financial pressure,” he said.