Industrial action by workers at the Scarborough Port on Tuesday forced the late sailing of the T&T Spirit as the Port Authority branch of the Estate Police Association heightened calls for a resolution to wage negotiations.
The T&T Spirit was originally scheduled to depart Tobago at 6:30 am, however Newsday Tobago learnt that officers at the port proceeded to conduct a thorough search of all vehicles boarding the ferry, causing the boat to leave at 8:15am instead.
Contacted for comment on the vessel’s late sailing, Manager, Marketing and Public Relations at the T&T Inter-island Transportation Company (TTIT, Vilma Lewis-Cockburn said that several checks had to be carried out at the Port, which took more time than anticipated, causing the delay in the sailing.
One officer at the Scarborough Port, meanwhile, declined to describe the Port police’s work as industrial action.
“The Port Police in Tobago were working in compliance with the standard operating procedures, which is in compliance with the International Ship and Port Security Facilities Code… the Estate Police Association cannot take industrial action,” he said.
He admitted, however, that the officers move to search vehicles well past the departure time of the boat, was aimed at highlighting their plight on the lack of action their wage negotiations, which have been ongoing since August 2011.
“Enough is enough… we have been patient, seeing that we have been in negotiations for close to seven years. We are a quasi-military organisation and industrial actions are not allowed but we want to be treated fairly… we are operating on 2010 salaries, but yet still we are coming out and protecting the port and the travelling public 100 per cent,” he said.
A senior official with the Association told Newsday Tobago that officers were totally fed up with the situation.
“Officers are highly disgruntled, annoyed, disturbed and angry on the treatment meted out to them by the management of the Authority and those in authority as it relates to the (wage negotiations) period August 1, 2011 to July 31, 2015,” he said.
The official said the Association stands in support of any action taken by its members as he noted the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with management inAugust 25, 2015.
“Up until this morning (Tuesday) there has been no response. The workers…feel as if they are being used, abused, confused and refused and as such whatever action taken by the membership, the Association stands in support of it. We have no control at this time over what action the membership chooses to take. As a matter of fact, they would have shown tremendous restraint, look how long they would have been quiet,” the official said.
He added: “They would have said to the Association, when you stay quiet in the country, nobody takes you on, and they would have also said to us that all the rest of organisations and entities whose negotiations would have been settled, they would have acted in a particular way and when you act in a civil way nobody takes you on. So, whatever moves they choose to act in, once it is in the confines of the law, they have the full support from the Estate Police Association,” he said.
Another Association official advised: “We are saying to the Port Authority to take care of the officers in their employ because enough is enough. When people can’t take any more and begin to feel oppressed, they will start to fight back... and the effects of that is what we have started to see.”