NATIONAL Workers Union (NWU) education and research officer Gerry Kangalee said it appears government is looking for a “hatchet man” to get rid of all port workers.
Kangalee said his suspicion was aroused by an advertisement for a general manager/CEO of the Port Authority (PATT).
He said according to the ad, the GM/CEO will be “accountable for providing executive leadership in facilitating and delivering the organisation’s business strategies goals and objectives and be responsible for providing strategic and transformational leadership.”
Kangalee expressed scepticism about the word “transformational,” which was also used before the shutting down of state-owned Petrotrin and the handing over of Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL) to Mexican giant Cemex.
“It seems the government is looking for a hatchet man to manage the handing over of a critical publicly-owned facility to the eager claws of the one per cent.
“The port, therefore, needs its own Wilfred Espinet to get rid of 'all, all, all' port workers so that they can become non-unionised contractor workers like at Heritage, only this time the State is ceding ownership. The union claims 1,300 permanent jobs could be eliminated,” Kangalee said.
Espinet was tasked with overseeing the transition of Petrotrin and when asked about the number of workers to be sent home, he answered: "All, all, all”.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced in the 2021 budget plans to explore a private-sector partnership to keep the port afloat.
Kangalee said the PATT has control over four entities: the PATT Governing Unit (PATTGU); Port of Port of Spain, the Cargo Handling Unit; TT Inter-island Transportation Company (TTIT) – the inter-island ferry service; and the Port of Spain Infrastructure Company (POSINCO) – the landlord unit.
He said, "According to the Minister of Finance the business strategies, goals and objectives of the port are to rationalise by the end of fiscal 2021, the operations of the PATT and to introduce a private sector operator into the port handling operations.
“Therefore, it is logical to assume that port handling operations, in the first instance, are going to be handed over to the private sector, back to the days when the big merchant houses and shipping firms controlled the port, before the Port Authority Act 39 of 1961 was proclaimed on June 14th 1962 in the lead-up to independence.”
He said government seems to be searching for another Espinet or Nigel Edwards, “who did a clean hatchet job at TCL in handing it over to Cemex and in shutting down Petrotrin.”
He said a vacancy for a HR manager is also being advertised, he suspects, to “take charge of the elimination of unionised labour.”
Recalling the International Monetary Fund (IMF) 2018 Article IV Report, which said urgent action is needed to increase efficiency and reduce labour rigidities in the public sector, Kangalee said that is bureaucratic jargon for getting rid of unionised labour,.
He said this must not be allowed.