Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 24th 2016 Contents GEISHA KOWLESSAR
An urgent call has been made for the
Government to amend the Industrial Rela-
tions Act to ensure domestic workers are
fairly treated under the law.
Making the call was Ida Le Blanc, general
secretary of the National Union of Domestic
Employees (NUDE), who was speaking at
a multi-stakeholder meeting held by the
Employers Consultative Association (ECA)
in Aranguez yesterday.
She said for far too long these workers
were being taken advantage of and were
also afraid to seek redress for fear of vic-
timisation and job loss.
"We continue to call on Government to
amend the Industrial Relations Act to include
domestics as workers.
"The many complaints coming from
domestic workers are that employers are
not paying National Insurance on their
behalf and when they complain they are
fired and they have no recourse because
they are not considered," Le Blanc said.
She said despite the fact that a lot has
been achieved for domestic workers they,
however, were not generally respected.
"Our main issue is we want recognition
for domestics as workers under the Industrial
Relations Act because we want to be brought
up in line like any other worker," Le Blanc
Saying domestic workers were the "most
difficult" to organise, as there was a stigma
attached to this kind of work, Le Blanc
added that they continued to be fired at
the whim and fancy of employers.
"Most of them are ashamed to admit
they are domestic workers.
They are also afraid that their employers
would find out they are associated with the
union and they could be fired. So being in
a union is something they have to hide," Le
At a meeting with Labour Minister Jen-
nifer Baptiste-Primus some two months
ago, Le Blanc said only 63 people were reg-
istered on the domestic workers registry.
"We are calling on the Government to
make that mandatory because it is all about
getting a decent life for domestic workers,"
Le Blanc urged.
Family life of such workers often suffered,
especially when they had to go to work and
leave their children home alone or unsu-
"When they have to leave their children
to go to work a lot of the children end up
in crime. Nearly in every community has
a pusherman now," Le Blanc said.
Althea Coombs Rivas, president of the
Service Workers Centre Co-operative Society
Ltd, who also spoke said financial constraint
was a key challenge facing the organisa-
The main reason the co-operative was
formed was to give workers the power to
bargain with employers regarding wages
and conditions of work.
Other challenges like sexual harassment
were also faced by domestic workers,
Coombs Rivas said.
"Domestic workers are valuable like any
other worker in the country and we deserve
the respect and the recognition as any other
"We understand you are scared to bring
a stranger in your home but we are scared
to go into people 9s homes and these days
there is so much sexual harassment going
about and we have to face that," Coombs
She said while most domestic workers
could not read and write they were doing
a good job in the homes by looking after
children and providing meals.
"I would really like for all domestic work-
ers to take one day and stay home...what
will happen? Nobody will be able to go to
work because there will be no one to look
after your home and children," Coombs
Tuesday, May 24, 2016 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
President of the Service Workers Centre Co-operative Society Ltd, Althea Coombs Rivas,
left, chats with general secretary of the National Union of Domestic Employees, Ida Le
Blanc, Co-operatives consultant Vanessa Bransburg and Kelvin Sargant before the start of
yesterday's meeting. PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR
Govt urged to amend
law to help domestics
on DUI charges
Two medical interns at the San Fernando Gen-
eral Hospital who were arrested after a co-worker s
birthday lime at a popular spot in San Fernando
appeared in the court yesterday charged with
driving under the influence
One of the doctors, Nicholas Boodai, 24, was
just one microgramme above the legal alcohol limit
while the other, Dr Sarah Albert, 20, exceeded the
limit by seven microgrammes. Commenting on
this, San Fernando Magistrate Natalie Diop sug-
gested lawmakers review the law to treat with
offenders who exceed the limit by a minute amount
in a manner which would not attract a criminal
conviction. The legal limit is 35 microgrammes.
Both doctors, attached to the neurology ward at
the San Fernando General Hospital, were arrested
during the early hours of Saturday morning during
a police road traffic exercise at Hilda Lazarri Terrace,
San Fernando. Albert, who was arrested by WPC
Griffith around 12.33 am, claimed she drank three
drinks of rum and coke.
Her attorney, Subhas Panday, started off his mit-
igation plea by saying, "To whom much is given,
much is expected." Being a university student for
about seven years, he said, one expected Albert
would be au courant with the developments in
society. Saying his client was sorry, Panday said
she was very concerned and cautious about what
effect this would have on her. Unlike a simple man
in the street who may not have finished high school,
the magistrate said Albert was well trained to know
what effect certain substances would have on the
human body. The magistrate fined her $1,500 or
three months in jail. Albert was allowed two weeks
to pay the money.
Boodai, who was arrested around 1.40 am, admit-
ted to having two shots of Johnnie Walker whiskey.
Saying it was his first offence, Panday said he came
from a very humble family. The magistrate said
there was no provision in the law to treat with
people who come before the court with a low read-
ing that would relieve the offender of the criminal
record. "That does not exist here, only punishment."
She also noted police officers showed no discretion
at all. Panday said the law was introduced to send
a message to drivers in a time when road deaths
were heavy and prevalent.
However, he promised to do all in his power to
try to have the court s concerns addressed. Boodai
was placed on a $2,000 bond to keep the peace
and be of good behaviour for 12 months. He was
warned by the magistrate that if he breaches the
bond he will return for sentencing. T&T signs gas deal with Venezuela
T&T can now purchase gas from
Venezuela following the signing of a Mem-
orandum of Understanding (MOU) yester-
The signing took place between Prime
Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Venezuelan
President Nicolas Maduro at the Diplomatic
Centre, St Ann s.
Commenting on the signing afterwards,
Energy Minister Nicole Olivierre said the
MOU would help boost T&T s gas short-
"What is unique about this particular field
in the North Coast is that this is not a field
which is across borders of both countries.
This is a wholely Venezuelan oil field,"
Olivierre said of the Dragon Field where the
gas would be accessed.
"What is new about the arrangement is
that we now have an opportunity to purchase
gas from Venezuela. We are seeing Venezuela
as a source of gas that would address our
current shortfall situation."
Asked if this move would require the laying
of 19 miles of pipeline from Atlantic LNG
to Venezuela, Olivierre said the Government
had not identified if the gas would be going
to Atlantic LNG, since the shortfall was in
"both the domestic sector and Atlantic LNG."
Olivierre, however, stated that a new
pipeline would have to be laid because the
field would have to be "inter-connected in
our gas transmission system."
She said the closest point for the gas to
flow was through the Hibiscus Platform in
the North Coast marine area.
Olivierre said the agreement was signed
between both countries "so we are looking
at the state companies initially. What this
Dragon Field arrangement is simply is a
source of gas to Trinidad and Tobago to mit-
igate against our shortfall."
One of the MOUs signed, Olivierre said,
would have spelt out how the six parties
involved --- four companies plus two Gov-
ernments --- would operate.
"That agreement would have outlined
how these six parties, which is the directing
committee, would liaise with that unit oper-
ator and in terms of decision-making... who
has what percentage say."
On Wednesday, Olivierre said the standing
committee on energy would also meet with
Petrotrin so they could come up with a better
framework for building the oil company s
capacity to increase its oil production "and
really getting it out of the financial situation
it is in."
Olivierre said she was now more hopeful
T&T could see the commencement of extrac-
tion of gas from the Loran-Manatee field,
an issue which it has been negotiating with
Venezuela for years.
"One of the other agreements we signed
was an agreement that outlined the param-
eters under which that field would be oper-
ating," she added.
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