Michael Annisette, president of the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC) and the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union (SWWTU) says the issue of sexual harassment of women in the workplace needs to become a national one rather than being left to be handled by respective companies.
He said that in the outside world companies are taking “effective” action against powerful people, whether they are in politics, sports or entertainment, where accusations of sexual harassment are made and there is credible evidence of wrongdoing. He said TT needs to reach the place where similar serious action is taken against persons where there is persuasive evidence of wrongdoing.
Annisette was speaking with Newsday during a break at a conference entitled ‘The Future of Work in the Caribbean and the Decent Work Agenda’ organised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) and held at the Centre for Critical Thinking at UWI, St Augustine campus.
On the subject of Dr Rolph Balgobin’s continuation in the post of chairman of Angostura Holdings Limited, despite weeks of protest led by the SWWTU on behalf of the workers of that company, Annisette said the government had appointed Balgobin and has the power to remove him. He said it should not be left up to the company to decide Balgobin’s fate but should be one for the government.
Reminded that Cabinet only last week announced the matter was one for the Angostura Board of Directors, Annisette disagreed. Allegations of sexual harassment have been made by a senior female Angostura executive. The woman took her accusation to the police supported by the result of a lie-detector test which she commissioned.
Annisette said that in addition to protests, the union wrote government and in particular, the Minister of Finance and several business groups, but nothing had been done.
More importantly, Annisette said, the whole question of how do we treat women in our society and how we treat women in the workplace, definitely needs to be on the front burner in TT. “No longer can this issue be a company issue but it needs to be a general issue for society where the required legislation will be put in place to protect our women folk.”