THE Oilfields Workers' Trade Union (OWTU) has accused the management at the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC) of being reckless and allowing the safety of plant, machinery, workforce and customers to be compromised.
Union vice president Peter Burke said yesterday management was dishonest in telling workers that the facility and workforce were fully insured on the first working day in July.
Burke said, "The main concern of the OWTU is that the insurance of T&TEC was compromised for the first few days of July, when in an admission in (last Sunday's Express exclusive report), the general manager said there was only 30 per cent cover for T&TEC for the first few days in July.
Burke also referred to Monday's Express where "there was documentary proof that this was indeed so".
He said, "What makes this situation even worse is that on the first working day in July, the workers, getting wind of the fact that there may be something with insurance coverage, asked the managers point blank and direct. Are the workers and plant fully insured? In every single case where this question was asked the answer was in the affirmative, that indeed T&TEC was fully insured."
The Express articles raised questions about the failure of T&TEC to award an insurance brokerage contract, after an aborted first tender left the Commission scrambling for emergency cover nine days before its insurance portfolio was due to expire last June 30.
Burke said the article confirmed further breaches of the procurement policy at T&TEC and insisted that the trade union be allowed to examine the policies safeguarding plant and workforce.
"Clearly, some of the responses, the excuses, seem to confirm further breaches of T&TEC procurement policy. There seems to be a lack of understanding of the procurement and seems to be some unseen hand in this process that would have driven T&TEC to operate in the way it has, putting its plant and workforce at risk.
"We want to examine the policies, we feel there is a lot of things the Commission is trying to hide from us," he said.
Speaking at a press conference held yesterday at the union's Paramount Building headquarters in San Fernando, Burke said management would have only realised how reckless their actions were (with only 30 per cent coverage) if there was an unforeseen disaster.
"It would have affected everybody because the State would have had to find billions of dollars to replace plant and equipment when there should have been an insurance in place to take care of any eventuality," he said.
Burke advised shareholders in T&TEC to take action, and that management provide answers to workers. He asked that the company provide information on the state of the insurance today, whether the commission was now completely covered, who is the broker, and why management did not tell workers the truth on the first working day in July.
Burke said any management that takes risk with a utility's insurance for any period of time should not be allowed to continue.
He said, "The norm in the industry is if you want an extension to change supplier you will allow the incumbent to continue and maintain coverage for the period of time you determine fit ... but that was not done."
Burke questioned the expertise of the second committee established to go through the procurement process. He accused the committee of securing the cheapest bid, without considering the quality of service.
"It is not only looking at the cheapest bid because there has to be a quality of cover which meets the requirements of a power electricity. And if it is that you can get less than adequate cover it will be cheaper, so when you doing brokerage contracts you have not only to look at cost but expertise of broker and quality of the cover. And that was ignored in this case," he said.
Burke said within a year, five T&TEC workers died on duty, four members of the public were electrocuted and there were countless accidents in the workplace.