SECRETARY GENERAL of the Communications Workers Union (CWU) Clyde Elder was forcibly ejected from TSTT's Nelson Exchange in Port of Spain yesterday as he tried to speak with workers who asked to meet with the union.
Around 9 am, Elder and members of the CWU executive went to the Nelson Exchange office on Edward Street to meet with workers who were “redeployed” and, as such, had “grievances” they wanted the union to address.
Elder told the media that workers were upset that allowances such as lunch, travelling, disturbance, vehicle upkeep and mileage were being withheld, even though they are entitled to same as part of respective collective agreements.
He said in a text message to Newsday: “The security told me that their instructions from (TSTT’s executive vice president of human resources, industrial relations and corporate support services) Carol David was that the meeting is unauthorised and I must leave TSTT'S compound immediately.
"I told them that I was not here for a meeting, but to address grievances of workers in accordance with the law and the collective agreement. They said their instructions are to have me removed from the compound. After a long discussion with them they said since I was not leaving they will remove me.”
Elder claimed he suffered soft-tissue damage as a result of his ejection.
TSTT, in a statement issued last evening, denied security used force to remove Elder. The company said it was never told about any union meeting at the exchange, or any other location, and that security management "requested without force" that Elder stop the meeting. "The secretary general and his supporters became extremely disruptive threatening the safety of all employees," TSTT said. "Absolutely no force was used to escort the secretary general and his supporters out of Nelson Exchange. This appears to be a deliberate attempt by the CWU to thwart any efforts by the company to ensure that the organisational transformation is seamless."
TSTT said the union is required to give the company notice of any visit to its premises during working hours to investigate any employee's complaint and work conditions according to the industrial agreement. And if it wanted to hold a meeting, the union must give the company 72 hours notice so it could consult with the "impacted line" and security.
"This is a sensitive time at TSTT and the expectation is that the CWU will see this as an opportunity to lead with respect, restraint and responsibility for the benefit of all employees and the success of the organisation which the CWU claims it values," the company said.
However, in support of CWU, the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) said it condemned, “in the strongest possible terms”, Elder’s physical assault.
As leader of the recognised majority union for TSTT workers, Elder has all legal rights under the Industrial Relations Act, the Constitution and international human rights and labour law to stand in defence of all workers represented by his union, JTUM said, and the actions of TSTT’s security, as well as whoever issued the instructions to eject Elder, were “a gross violation of trade union rights and an assault on the trade union movement.”