Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 21st 2014 Contents A19
Friday, February 21, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
PANAMA CITY---The admin-
istrator of the Panama Canal
says work will resume on a
major expansion of the canal
two weeks after it was halted
over a disagreement with a
contractor on US$1.6 billion in
It says the European-led
construction consortium will
go back to work even though
they haven t reached a final
agreement on how to finance
the remaining work on a set
of new locks.
The dispute that began in Jan-
uary threatens to further delay
completion of the US$5.25 billion
expansion project that will allow
extra-large tankers and container
ships to use the canal and cut
travel time between Asia and
the eastern US.
The consortium led by Spain s
Sacyr blames poor planning for
the cost overruns. Panama says
the company is responsible for
any unforeseen costs. (AP)
David Abdullah, political
leader of the Movement for
Social Justice (MSJ ) and a
former labour leader, yester-
day lashed out at unscrupu-
lous employers and business
owners, saying they need to
pay more attention to the
country s labour laws.
"There are unscrupulous
employers in the country and
so we need to have a com-
mitment from the private sec-
tor on the issues of how
employees are treated," he
"There are some employers
in retail outlets and stores who
do not pay the minimum
wage, some employers do not
pay attention to the Maternity
Act and dismiss employees
when they are pregnant, other
employers do not pay employ-
ees over time and many other
challenges that workers face."
Abdullah, who spoke at a
breakfast meeting hosted by
the British Caribbean Cham-
ber of Commerce at the
Verandah Restaurant in St
Clair, said many of T&T s
labour laws are outdated. One
of them, the Occupation and
Health Act (OSH), is "in
shambles", the MSJ labour
"Good industrial relations
is predicated on a progressive
framework of legislation. We
have laws that are antiquated
and many of them are not
legally enforceable. The state
is the largest employer---the
public service, police service,
prisons service---and the
largest number of unionised
workers are in the state sector.
How they settle is how the
rest of the country follows,"
He was also critical of the
practice of appointing people
to state boards who are loyal
party supporters rather than
"If you put people who are
loyal they will then make deci-
sions not based on good cor-
porate governance or on good
industrial relations. The public
service needs to be re-profes-
sionalised" he said.
Abdullah said if the country
wants to move ahead there
must be more unity.
"We are highly segregated
as a society. We are even see-
ing it now in Carnival. We saw
it when people came out and
were saying that the PNM s
leader Keith Rowley is too dark
skinned for his position. So
we have all these issues that
we need to address," he said.
He condemned corruption
in the country and complained
that it seems now that every-
one "want to eat ah food"
"We are in a dangerous
position in this country where
everyone wants to eat a food.
Everyone from top to bottom.
If this goes on eventually the
country will disintegrate into
anarchy," Abdullah warned.
Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie has assured
the construction sector that Government will con-
tinue to give priority to procurement legislation
with the aim of identifying and setting the appro-
priate tendering standards this country needs.
He did so in response to concerns raised by Jennifer
Smith, president of the T&T Institute of Architects
(TTIA), who called on the Kamla Persad-Bissessar-
led Administration to enact fair and transparent laws
to deal with procurement. Smith, who raised the issue
at the launch of the T&T Building Source Ltd at the
Hyatt Regency Trinidad, also called for supporting
legislation covering all areas of public expenditure,
including an independent and well-resourced oversight
agency to monitor best practices.
She called for laws to be drafted should cover the
operations of architects, engineers and surveyors, as
well as planners, in the interest of public safety.
Tewarie told the T&T Guardian: "The issue of pro-
curement has been with us for some time. Where we
are now, we would have completed this bill after a lot
of revisions and also a lot of engagements over the
last four or five months with the private sector, (and)
civil society groups.
"We have made a commitment which I intend to
keep. First of all, we will provide the draft bill that
was completed by the LRC (Legislative Review Com-
mittee). I must say that not everything they suggested
has been accepted, but I would say also that a lot of
what they said and felt were important influenced
this final version of the bill."
The minister added: "The LRC could say what we
have included... how we have included it. It will allow
the LRC also to say what we may not have taken into
account and why. And there it will allow for a con-
versation. I also made a commitment that after that
is completed and we lay the Bill in Parliament, we
will not debate the Bill for at least three weeks after
it is laid in Parliament, so that during that three-week
period people may peruse the Bill and make additional
comments. I gave that commitment and I will keep
that commitment and the chairman of the LRC who
is the Minister of Legal Affairs (Prakash Ramadhar)
has also given his commitment to honour the arrange-
ment that we have agreed."
Tewarie said many views had been expressed about
procurement debate but he chose to be "as non-com-
bative as I can," on the issue. He said commentators
on the issue had become a lot more reasonable over
time, ultimately changing the tone on the discussions.
"I think that we may be able to get a good bill in
Parliament, because the objective is to in fact have a
good bill come before the Parliament, have a vigorous
debate and then ultimately to pass the bill. It makes
no sense bringing a bill to Parliament and its not passed
and, therefore, you have the same procurement regime
that has existed by and large since 1961, with a few
modifications around it along the way," Tewarie said.
On the issue of guidelines for the conduct of pro-
fessionals in the building sector, the minister said it
was both relevant and serious since the developing
strong professionals and like-minded professional
organisations enhanced the industry.
He admitted that he did not have intimate knowledge
of the issues that could be affecting stakeholders.
"We do want, in fact, a very open transparent
society, which is why we made such an early com-
mitment to procurement legislation in the country
which is why we want to engage and which is why
we want to pass the bill and not just bring it to Par-
liament. We do want the professions to be strong; we
want standards to be enforced. We do want to have
a vigorous industry and we do want to have profes-
sionals as a kind of minimal standard in the things
that really matter because at the end of the day the
build environment is about people and their comfort
and their safety."
MSJ leader David Abdulah, third from right, shares a light moment with members of the British-Caribbean Chamber of Commerce, from
left, David Holder, Tracey Hoford, Geoff Patton, Jim Tezfer and Caroline Rostant after a breakfast meeting at the Verandah Restaurant,
Rust Street, St Clair, yesterday. PHOTO: CLYDE LEWIS.
MSJ leader hits out
at bad employers
Work resumes on Panama Canal expansion
being given to
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