Over 300 employees of the Point Lisas Industrial Port Development Corporation Limited (Plipdeco) walked off the job yesterday after one of their colleagues discovered three cameras hidden in electrical wiring trunking in a room area used by female employees to change.
Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union (SWWTU) president Michael Annisette told Newsday the walkout took place at 7 am after a 33-second long video was posted to social media showing a raising the face strip of the trunking to expose three hidden cameras. “Around seven am, the workers discovered in the terminal clerks’ changing room, three hidden cameras which were being used for the illegal surveillance of workers,” Annisette said.
“While the union has no issue with the company placing cameras to secure themselves on their compound, the use of hidden cameras in that area which is used by some 25 female employees as a changing room, is a clear violation of the workers’ privacy and confidentiality.” Annisette said the female employees used the area to change as no other area was provided for them by the company.
“I don’t think there could ever be any justification for cameras being placed there. It is inexcusable because there is no changing room for females. We are not aware of who collected that data and how many people have seen that data or what they would have done with that data.”
Annisette said the workers didn’t know how long the cameras were installed as they were under the impression the trunking was being used to facilitate electrical lines leading to air condition units.
But after workers downed tools and Annisette was called in, the company removed the cameras. “The president of Plipdeco Ashley Taylor was present and he instructed employees of the IT department to remove the cameras. The company has also agreed to hold a joint meeting with union representatives and management to destroy the footage from the cameras,” Annisette said.
At the emergency meeting, Annisette said, Taylor apologized to the workers and promised the company would begin preparation to construct a changing area for female employees. “They have agreed to start construction on a changing area for the female workers as it is illegal under the Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) Act for management not to provide separate changing rooms for male and female employees.”
Annisette said because of the swift response by the company, there is no plan to continue any protest action. “I believe workers would have gone out for the second shift, which is from 3 pm to 11 pm. There is no plan not to go back to work because the company met all our conditionalities and Mr Taylor addressed the workers and apologized to them unreservedly,” Annisette said.
Contacted by Newsday, Taylor said the area where the cameras were found is not a designated changing room but rather a labour selection area. “Contrary to what is being put forward on social media, it is has not been classified as a changing room, it is a labour selection area, a common area used by both males and females,” Taylor said.
Asked why cameras were placed in this room, he responded, “the corporation has close to 200 cameras in different areas on the compound, in the open areas as well as enclosed operational areas to monitor operations.”
Asked why the company removed the cameras if the area is not a designated changing room, Taylor said, “we removed the cameras today because we only became aware that the area is sometimes used as a change room for females. Based on that information, we removed the cameras,” Taylor said.
Asked if he apologises to the workforce for the cameras, Taylor replied, “I addressed the workers. The subject of that address is an internal matter and we have dealt with it already.”