Workers at the Port of Port of Spain yesterday took a day of rest to highlight grievances including delayed wage-talks and health and safety issues in their daily working conditions, SWWTU head Michael Annisette told Newsday.
However in a statement in response Port Authority Acting CEO Trudy Gill-Conlon said such action could hurt the port finally and so would be deemed industrial action under the Industrial Relations Act which could lead to disciplinary action including termination.
Annisette was upset at a recent letter dated October 17 to him from the authority declining to meet the union to discuss the authority’s decision on the appointment dates of a group of junior clerical officers. He said workers were incensed by letter saying the decision remains enforced and that “no useful purpose would be served on meeting on this issue.”
Saying the letter was offensive and regrettable, Annisette said, “It can break down the relationship we as a union had worked hard over the years to build with management.” Saying the port board was not above reproach like Caesar’s wife, he said, “We have the right to engage the board, otherwise they are dictatorial and full of hubris, which has no place in a modern industrial relations society.”
Annisette lamented port workers are living on 2014 salaries in 2019. He said wages talks are under way for the 2014-2017 period, but to date the port management is only telling the union, “We are waiting on the Government to release the funds.” Meanwhile workers say they hardly have money to come to work, he added.
Annisette lamented daily working conditions, such as vehicles lacking seats which workers had to improvise by a piece of wood. He suspected a deliberate attempt to run down the port to hand in over to private investors to run, ironically while planning a port at Toco. “The port has no been dredged for years. Equipment is over 30 years old.”
Annisette viewed the Government’s shifting of the ferry service from the authority to Nidco as an attack on the SWWTU.
Annisette was due to meet his executive and workers yesterday at 2 pm to decide what would be next.
Several workers added their complaints to Newsday. One said, “Two Wednesday ago we came to work in sneakers to highlight a lack of protective footwear. Half hour later boots appeared. Imagine that!” He hoped for a wage settlement and for a proper medical and insurance plan for workers. Another agreed, “We need an update about our money owed.”