Even though an injunction is in effect, employees of the Immigration Office on Frederick Street, Port of Spain refused to work yesterday.
President of the Public Services Association (PSA) Watson Duke said the workers took the action on their own volition due to health and safety issues and 15 OSHA violations.
Duke was speaking yesterday at a news conference at PSA Headquarters, on Abercromby Street, Port of Spain. Among those present were first vice-president Christopher Joefield, second vice-president Ian Murray and the entire PSA executive.
Duke also held up a copy of a report which he said was released by two Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) inspectors (Section 15 of the OSH) on Friday which deemed the Immigration Office unfit.
According to Duke, Labour Minister Errol McLeod misled the court into filing an injunction (Section 67 of the Industrial Relations Act) on Thursday which was intended to restrain workers and the PSA from continuing its industrial action by claiming the protest action was undertaken because negotiations had gone sour.
Duke said: “He (McLeod misled the court into thinking the building was safe. The real issue was one of negotiations and not health and safety. The inspector listed over 15 violations ranging from the possible collapse of the carpark which covers the ground floor where the public enters for business transactions.”
“Not one worker will lose their job. We will not be bullied. If they want war, they will get war. They (People’s Partnership) are contract workers,” he said.
Duke has vowed to continue to step up protest action on behalf of the 80,000 employees who provide 120 essential services within the 76-year-old PSA institution. He also said while the State was seeking $3 billion in pensions, it should tend to the litany of woes experienced by Immigration officers, ranging from sick buildings, no fire extinguishers, to blocking of entrances and exits.
Zeroing in on health and safety issues, Duke said, “Over the last 20 years, public officers have been working under squalid conditions that no one with an iota of decency would want to work under. It is affecting their health and their productivity. For years, immigration officers have been treated as though they are not part of the national society. The centre is terrible. Immigration officers at the port are wondering if they should walk off or not. A guy was burned and there was no fire extinguisher to put out the fire. Workers were encouraged to ‘sign OSHA 15 and leave’.”
Immigration officers’ woes:
• The entire stairway is too narrow
• On the ground floor the security station is badly positioned since it obstructs the access and egress from the stairwell and the elevator
• Cracks in the floor of the carpark and in the ramp to the carpark which results in water seepage into the ground floor of the building
• Hanging wires throughout the building
• Boxes containing documents are stored below the desks and there is no legroom
• Narrow passageways in the female toilets which poses a challenge for the differently-abled and oversized people
• One toilet is shared by 30 employees
• Insufficient water storage
• One maid to service three buildings at different locations
• On the ground floor, there is one way in and one way out
• Ceiling tiles are discoloured and there are signs of carpets in the lighting fixtures
• The gate at the back is locked on the T&TEC side
• On each floor, there is an area which is without adequate ventilation.
Asked to comment on the continuing
immigration protest yesterday, Planning
and Sustainable Development Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie said: “We have done what we were supposed to do and we expect the workers to comply.”