Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Workers block Blind Welfare CEO: cops called in

Police were called to the Port of Spain office of the Blind Welfare Association yesterday afternoon, after a group of about 26 visually impaired men and women physically blocked the chief executive officer (CEO) Kenneth Suratt from exiting the compound with the company’s vehicle.

Yesterday, Suratt who is also visually impaired, and his driver were prevented from leaving the association’s compound located along Duke Street, Port of Spain, in the company’s registered silver Nissan X-trail motor vehicle. Because of this, the CEO made his way to the Central Police Station where he made an official report on the incident, resulting in the police visiting the compound shortly after 5 p.m. yesterday. 

The officers spoke to the men and women, informing them that they were committing an offence by obstructing the vehicle. However, no attempts were made to arrest or detain anyone in the group. In fact, president general of the All Trinidad General Workers’ Trade Union, Nirvan Maharaj, who was on the compound yesterday standing in solidarity with the visually impaired men and women, even praised the officers for their conduct. 

Maharaj explained the men and women were protesting due to the fact that they had not been paid since August 8, and they believed that if they could not get their wages to pay their bills, then the vehicle, which is an asset of the association and not owned by Suratt, should not be used. 

“The workers are engaged in a peaceful sitting due to the fact they have not been paid, and they will continue this sitting until they are paid. Now I have been informed by Government officials that the funds to pay these men and women has been allocated and should be in the bank by Thursday, meaning they should be paid by Friday for the latest. This includes their month’s salary in addition to back pay arrears which would have been agreed to previously. But out of an abundance of caution, they have decided to wait and continue their protest actions until they receive their funds.

“Now today, workers are saying the vehicle that the CEO uses is a company vehicle and if they have not been paid then the vehicle, being an asset of the welfare, should stay on the compound and not be used. I spoke to Mr Suratt and asked if he could give in for a few days until these men and women get paid. But he indicated he needed the vehicle to conduct business, and as a result of the workers physically preventing the car from moving, he went to the police,” Maharaj said. 

The officers stayed on the compound for an hour, before returning to their vehicles and leaving.

The Express caught up with Suratt as he was leaving the Central Police Station, and he indicated he was going to allow the “stalemate” between himself and the workers to continue.