Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 30th 2013 Contents A5
Tuesday, April 30, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Construction of the Golconda
to Point Fortin Highway project
has ground to a halt after hun-
dreds of workers downed tools
in protest of poor wages and
deplorable working conditions.
The contract workers who are
non-unionised sought the inter-
vention of the Oilfields Workers'
Trade Union before they walked
off the job around 7 am yesterday.
They marched to the offices of
the Brazilian main contractor, OAS
Constructora Ltd, demanding a
meeting with project manager
Andre Luiz Albuquerque Carval-
ho.Heavy equipment operator Bish-
nu Ramdhan said occupational
health and safety standards were
not being met.
He said: "Drinking water is not
readily available for us. We start
to work from 7 am and water
arrives sometimes at 10 am. Also
the places where we shelter is over-
They have set up 10x10 tents to
shelter hundreds of people,"
Ramdhan said. He added that
restrooms and lunchrooms were
"inadequate and inhumane.
"There are insufficient chairs
and tables for eating and there is
no emergency procedures for
workers," Ramdhan said. He also
said dust masks, coveralls and boots
Ramdhan also said workers were
risking their lives by working in
confined spaces with poor lighting.
"Workers are entering trenches
to tie steel and construct boxes but
they are not trained in critical safety
evaluation and there is no permit-
ting system or rescue procedure,"
Ramdhan added. He explained that
the rates of pay were inadequate
with a labourer earning $24 an
"We have skilled heavy equip-
ment operators earning $38 an hour
when in other industries we earn
as much as $60 an hour," Ramd-
han said. He also called for better
wages for surveyors, carpenters,
masons, trackers, charge hands,
loader operators and banksmen.
What the union said
Labour relations officer of the
OWTU, Aaron Moyne, said the
union got involved in the struggle
because of the violations in health
and safety. He noted a proposal
was forwarded to OAS requesting
an increased wage rate for the
workers between $40 an hour to
$70 an hour.
Moyne said the workers were
eager to get back to work but
could not do so if proper health,
safety and wage conditions were
not met. He also added that
expatriates were getting
Carvalho was unavailable for
comment. However, Works
Minister Dr Suruj Rambachan said
he hoped the issue could be
"This is a matter between OAS
and the employees. I have spoken
to Dr Carson Charles (Nidco
chairman) and we are hopeful the
employees will go back to the job
soon," Rambachan said.
He also said he would examine
the contract with OAS to
determine if there was a breach in
the hiring of expatriates to work
in the project.
There is a degree of "uncer-
tainty" over whether or not
Lawrence Duprey, former chair-
man of the CL Financial Group,
will give evidence in the
Clico/HCU commission of
enquiry tomorrow, the commis-
sion s chairman Sir Anthony
Colman has said.
He was speaking yesterday on
the first day of the 12th session
of the enquiry at the Winsure
He said he would determine
over the next few days what course
of action he would take to deal
with Duprey and others who had
been subpoenaed but who were
unlikely to be present to give evi-
Duprey and Andre Monteil, the
group's former financial director,
are supposed to give evidence
Richard Trotman, former pres-
ident of Clico Investment Bank
(CIB), is also supposed to give evi-
dence on that day.
"Trotman may re-emerge on
Wednesday morning. I would not
want to express any degree of con-
fidence in which that anticipation
"Then we have Mr Monteil and
Mr Duprey and there is a certain
degree of uncertainty and one will
have to wait until Wednesday or
tomorrow to see what course I will
propose to take, if any," Colman
Today Lennox Archer, former
CIB president, who preceded Trot-
man as CIB president, is supposed
to appear as a witness as well at
the former CIB vice president Mala
Colman also spoke about "ques-
tion marks" hanging over these
"As far as Tuesday is concerned
we have major question marks. We
do not know if there will be evi-
dence on that day at all.
"We do know there is evidence
programmes to be heard on that
day but we do not know if the wit-
nesses will respond to their sub-
"That is therefore an open ques-
tion. What I can say is that the
commission has done its best to
try to procure the attendance of
the two witnesses," he said.
Colman also said he still has to
determine whether there would be
another session to allow for further
evidence to be given.
The commission's Queen's
Counsel Peter Carter said if wit-
nesses did not appear, then the
commission would not remain
"Should Mala Gandhi and
Lennox Archer fail to appear then
they should not assume that the
commission will be silent. There
will be certain things concerning
them that will be put before the
commission and read as public
record," he said.
Michael Carballo, former CL
Financial Group director who gave
evidence yesterday, said there has
been "suspicion of corruption" in
the Green Island Florida real estate
He said after September 4, 2008
CL Financial's board decided to
end the services of the then British
American Insurance Company
Limited (Baico) chairman Brian
"I for one and the entire board
felt that the entire Green Island
acquisition was corrupt. The board
felt strongly that unless there was
a change in the composition of the
Baico board it could have put the
group at risk," he said.
He also said he met personally
with an agent of the Baico trans-
action deal who "confirmed" he
made a US $80 million commission
off the Green Island transaction.
"I got that information com-
municated to me directly by the
agent," he said.
Carballo also said Duprey had
dreams of turning CL Financial
into a global powerhouse.
Jack Warner could win the upcoming
Chaguanas West by-election even if he has
to run as a UNC "independent," commen-
tators have said.
But the PNM would not win no matter who
it put up.
Former public service head Reginald Dumas
said Warner, who resigned his seat on Friday,
had challenged the UNC hierarchy, putting
them in difficulty but he could be tripped up
by legal/FIFA matters he might face.
He said Chaguanas West constituents had
already said they wanted Warner as the UNC
candidate in the expected by-election but the
party hierarchy had to decide if to take him
and back down to constituents' wishes, thus
losing face, or not.
Dumas said Warner could win the seat and
could run as a UNC independent, making it
clear he was still UNC.
He said if UNC accepted Warner as candidate
he would win the seat.
"Then they have Jack to deal with, but more
so, what's his ultimate objective?" he asked.
Dumas, who said UNC officials had to be
careful in what they said in criticising Warner,
added the PNM would lose the seat no matter
who its candidate was.
He said Warner's planned weekly newspaper,
part of his strategy, was bound to have articles
critical of the Government.
"Although he may say the paper is designed
to pull the party up from its dungeon of
despair' and any articles critical of Government
might be explained away as freedom of the
Political analyst Bishnu Ragoonath said
Warner's chance of being a UNC candidate
was up to the party, which had to decide if it
was following constituents' wishes.
He said Warner could win the seat even if
he went independent, especially if members
felt they needed to send a message to the Prime
He said the election would be seen as a ref-
erendum on the party and would concretise
the fact the PNM had no base in that seat.
PNM general secretary Ashton Ford said,
"We haven't started to deal with that. Every-
thing happened Friday (and) this is only Mon-
COP officials said the party had a briefing
last Sunday where its position was made clear.
UNC leader Prime Minister Kamla Per-
sad-Bissessar might call a meeting of the
party soon at which issues concerning the
by-election may be examined.
UNC deputy leader Suruj Rambachan
said so yesterday when asked Warner's
chances of being UNC candidate for the
Rambachan was also asked if Warner ran
as an independent, if he could win it, bear-
ing in mind the depth of his pockets and
if the by-election would be seen as a ref-
erendum on government performance.
Rambachan said: "When we meet as a
party we'll look at these issues."
What happened in 2010
UNC: Jack Warner 18,767 votes
PNM: Ronald Heera 1,471 votes
Experts: Even as
Warner will win
CLICO COMMISSION OF ENQUIRY
No word yet if Duprey will testify tomorrow
Highway workers down
tools over poor wages
OAS Constructors Ltd workers walk off the jobsite at Golconda, San Fernando, yesterday, in protest over
poor working conditions and salaries. The workers are part of the construction crew for the controversial
highway to Point Fortin. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH
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