COMING to work drunk at Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL) has been outlawed as the company, now controlled and operated by Mexican giant Cemex, has introduced a mandatory breathalyser testing for workers before they can enter its premises.
The test, which was implemented yesterday morning, met strong resistance from the workers represented by the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU).
Some workers refused to submit to the tests administered by security guards manning the gates to the Claxton Bay compound.
Those who refused were prevented from entering with their cars.
Led by the branch president Ahmad Mohammad, between 40 and 50 workers refused to take the tests, parked outside the compound and walked in through the pedestrian gate.
Others, including women, were seen blowing into the breathalyser held by the guard.
Mohammad said workers who submitted were not defying the union, but trying to “secure their tenure, in other words keep their jobs.”
None of the workers tested failed the legal limit.
All of this was done under the watchful eyes of the risk manager, Alejandro Madrigal, who used his cellphone to take a video of those resisting. He told the media Cemex was ensuring the safety or workers, plant and equipment.
Madrigal said he just wanted to ensure those who came to work at TCL returned home safely at the end of their shifts to their families.
Mohammad said the union was not against testing for alcohol levels in an environment such as the one in which they operate. He said the defiance shown was in objection to the unilateral decision of Cemex to introduce this policy without consulting the union.
“We want to know we have a safe work environment, but we also want to know any policy implemented in the company is done with the requisite consultation with the stakeholders.”
He said the union is part of a joint health and safety committee which should have reviewed such a policy before it was implemented.
“This is an imposition.”
Mohammad said the company, headed by GM/country manager Guillermo Rojo de Diego, is insisting that it is a private entity, “albeit it is public-traded,” and does not require the approval of the joint committee or the union.
Cemex has taken over the cement company operating business units which includes TCL, Trinidad Packaging Ltd and Trinidad Ponsa Ltd. There are approximately 200 employees at TCL's Claxton Bay plant.
“It is pretty much an arrogant and antagonistic approach. We are not saying you need our approval, but at least have a consultation, hear the concerns and treat and adjust those concerns.”
He said while workers queued up for testing, extending into the main road, traffic backed up for miles as people hustled to get to work and take their children to school on the first day of the new term.
“We are not sure what would happen tomorrow," he said. "We have reached out to the management to try to stimulate conversation and re-engage the parties so we could bring some amicable solution. I mean, the antagonism does not make good for the company and the negative publicity is not really desirable by either of us.”
Mohammad said he is hoping for dialogue, but if that does not happen, “We will rely on legal and industrial-relations guidance as we go forward.”