President of the Public Services Association (PSA) Watson Duke will be visiting the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) campus at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in Port of Spain next week to determine the extent of its health and safety issues.
Duke also said “once NAPA is affected, UTT will also be affected”. But he was also cognisant that the UTT workers were not unionised and therefore afraid to vent their concerns publicly.
Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism Dr Lincoln Douglas has confirmed that parts of NAPA have been shut down because they were deemed unsafe by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Duke said workers refused to work under Section 15 of the OSH Act and the OSH inspector would have implemented Section 74 to close parts of the building.
Via a telephone interview yesterday, Duke said, “It is one complex. They built the area in such a manner that what affects one area will appear in the other. I will do a tour of the area next week. I move impromptu. I won’t say when I am going there. UTT is only a tenant there. If NAPA is shutdown, then, in the minds of the PSA team, the UTT building is also deemed unsafe. I am sure you are familiar with the old adage, ‘When your neighbour’s house is on fire, wet yours’. It is too close for comfort. We should do a thorough check and ensure NAPA is returned to its pristine glory.”
Coupled with their health and safety concerns, Duke said UTT employees were afraid to speak because they were not unionised.
“The UTT workers are quite fearful of speaking out. The workers take their health and safety seriously. Workers have a right to their safety,” he said.
Duke cited examples such as a clean water supply, exposed fibre glass, an unreliable electricity supply and non-functioning cameras which don’t affect NAPA alone.
When contacted for comment yesterday, Minister of Tertiary Education and Skills Training Fazal Karim said the people to contact were UTT president Prof Dyer Narinesingh or provost Dr Fazal Ali. However when the Express telephoned, a woman who identified herself as the secretary said both gentlemen were in a meeting.
Via a telephone interview, Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) president Devanand Sinanan said, “I am sure the authorities will be taking the necessary action. NAPA has been plagued with issues since it opened but if UTT can’t function out of NAPA, they will have to make alternative arrangements to deliver the curriculum. If they don’t maintain their standards, then the Accreditation Council will have to have to get into the picture.”