PUBLIC Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte is distancing himself from influencing the alleged attack on Communication Workers Union general secretary Clyde Elder by TSTT security or having the union decertified, as claimed by an opposition MP.
Former minister in the Ministry of Labour and Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh said what happened on Wednesday at TSTT’s Nelson Exchange, Port of Spain gives the impression that the company wants to decertify the representing union. Elder claimed he was bodily lifted and thrown out by security guards as he met with workers who are on the verge of losing their jobs,
Indarsingh told the Newsday, “In addition to retrenching Elder, they belittled him in front of his members. That aggression by TSTT guards reeks of somebody in a high position sanctioning that action. I am certain that instruction did not come from the level of general manager, CEO or the board chairman. It reeks of ministerial influence.”
He said Le Hunte must say whether TSTT is moving to have the CWU decertified as the recognised bargaining union for its workers.
“Any time an employer is behaving in this aggressive manner is because they don’t want any union.”
He said never in the years he served as president general of the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers Trade Union, was he treated with such disrespect by employers in the private or public sector. He said even though he and businessman Arthur Lok Jack “did not see eye to eye, when the ATSGWTU represented workers in his employ, Mr Lok Jack always treated me with respect, allowing me on the compound and making the lunch room and other areas on the compound accessible for meetings.
“In the cut and thrust of industrial relations, he conceded, situations can become acrimonious and degenerate, but the aggression and violence meted out to Elder is tantamount to a declaration of war.”
Le Hunte in response said no one, especially politicians, relishes the thought of workers being rationalised, but supports the TSTT management and board in their restructuring efforts.
“Because I think what is being put in place is an attempt to save an organisation from bankruptcy down the road," he said. "TSTT is operating in a competitive and dynamic industry and therefore, what needs to happen, based on financials of what TSTT has produced and projections – if something dramatic is not done, then TSTT would end up as a company in the graveyard and then taxpayers will be called upon to rescue TSTT.
He saw the move as saving the jobs of 1003 workers.
"TSTT is no longer operating in a monopolistic sector. The company has to be able to compete via its products and services. We cannot wait for the company to bleed to death and put at risk all of the people working in the company. That is all that is happening at TSTT,” Le Hunte said.