Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 10th 2014 Contents A5
Thursday, July 10, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Immigration workers will consider sur-
rendering their rights once the court injunc-
tion against them is removed, says Public
Service Association (PSA) president Watson
Speaking yesterday at a press conference
at the association's headquarters, Abercromby
Street, Port-of-Spain, Duke said:
"This could end tomorrow... it could end
tonight but they must withdraw it (the injunc-
tion) forthwith and then say, Let's talk.'
"The only way we are going to consider
giving up our rights or surrendering our rights
for the sake of the public is if they remove
that injunction gun over our heads."
On Monday, Duke had said: "We don't
really want this injunction to be discharged.
It could remain because it does not affect
us."Asked yesterday why he had changed his
tune, he said: "The injunction is provocative.
It's nonsensical. It's irrelevant and has no
place in employer-employee relationships
where health and safety is concerned.
"If you really want to show yourself as rea-
sonable, take away that... come down and
talk but so long as you have a big stick in
your hand and threatening to use it then you
ain't ready to talk yet."
Commenting on meetings with National
Security Minister Gary Griffith and Housing
Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, Duke said:
"Those talks remain just talks and there is a
lot of posturing on one side but a lot of will-
ingness on the side of the PSA."
He said matters would get worse if the
PSA's demands were not met.
"Should the State move to even attempt to
enforce any part of that injunction on persons
innocently, they would have escalated this to
a different level that would not be able to
calm itself anytime soon.
"It's going to get ugly because next week
I will act drastically in defence of my mem-
After three weeks the doors of
the Immigration Division offices
in San Fernando were opened
yesterday but only for the collec-
tion of passports.
Some people were smiling while
others left with disappointed frowns
as they still could not advance their
renewal applications or other busi-
ness. People seeking to do other
business transactions were in fact
told they would have to try back at
Among those who did not get
through was Dominican national
Zynab Octave, who made her second
visit to the office with her five-year-
old daughter, Harlyn, to apply for a
student permit so her daughter could
register for a primary school.
Octave, who has been living and
studying in this country for the past
three years, said: "I am disappointed.
We are just visiting but while we are
visiting my daughter has to go to
Octave said she was told by offi-
cials to return today.
Another disappointed customer
was Haripersad Mahabir, who said
he received a phone call on Tuesday
to come to the passport office yes-
terday to collect his passport.
"They tell me come and pick up
my passport when I come today they
say it ready but it not here. They
tell me to keep checking. Is two
months and more I trying to get a
Expressing relief and joy were sis-
ters Taruna and Tanuja Mangroo, of
Penal, who have been waiting almost
two months to get their passports.
Taruna said: "We heard they were
open so we came and got through."
She said they were supposed to
have left for Miami to visit with rel-
atives two weeks ago.
"We had to pay US$350 to change
back our tickets. I am very disap-
pointed but I am glad now."
Whether they get a flight to Miami
is another issue. "That's the next
thing. I hope we don't lose all our
money and ticket too," Tanuja said.
Even as immigration workers
contemplate a resumption of work,
Government is thinking of further
legal action against the Public Serv-
ices Association (PSA) for its deci-
sion to defy the court injunction
In a press conference at his Point-
a-Pierre constituency office in Mara-
bella yesterday, acting Prime Minister
and Labour Minister Errol Mc Leod
said Cabinet would meet today to
weigh all its options, including legal
ones, as its seeks to end the current
In what seemed a stern warning,
Mc Leod said: "I sought the injunc-
tion on the State's behalf and I wish
to state only that I encourage dialogue
and I proclaim peace but hear this,
I do not have more patience than
Job. Today is the seventh day."
For the pass two weeks, workers
have shut down operations at immi-
gration offices in Port-of-Spain and
San Fernando, leaving hundreds of
citizens without passport services.
Yesterday marked the seventh day
since McLeod successfully got an
injunction in the Industrial Court to
prevent workers from taking indus-
However, workers have since been
defying that order by working shorter
hours owing to health and safety con-
Mc Leod said Cabinet would dis-
cuss matter at length today and
would let the public know what it
would decide to do.
"We are looking at all of our legal
options. At this time, work is being
undertaken to remedy whatever the
conditions, frivolous and otherwise,
that has been identified by a so-
called report done by some inspector
of the OSH Agency."
He said he was unable to determine
when operations would resume at
the immigration offices, saying that
the action should have ended on
Tuesday. He said because Govern-
ment had exercised patience and
called for dialogue, further action
against the PSA was delayed.
PSA president Watson Duke has
cited several health and safety vio-
lation in the buildings that could be
detrimental to workers' lives. Not
denying Duke's claim, Mc Leod said
all Government work places had
health and safety concerns.
He added: "There are health and
safety issues no doubt at all of our
workplaces but the OSH Act talks to
imminent danger to the health, to
the life and to the limb of the affected
"In such circumstances, where
there is imminent danger that will
injure the health, the life and the
limb, there is a particular procedure
that they have to follow.
"I am saying that nothing that has
so far been pointed out, points to
imminent danger that should effect
a withdrawal from the workplace.
"I support every request and every
demand for the most absolute health
and safety conditions but, as I said
just now, let us not cry wolf when
our intentions are other than securing
the door from the wolf."
He said Government was not about
compromising workers' health and
Duke said workers at the Port-of-Spain
immigration office were threatened for
refusing to work.
He said: "Some of my colleagues had to go
there and deal with the brainwashing and
coercing of this Chief Immigration Officer
telling contract workers that their contract
will cease if they do not work in a sick
He said the PSA had written to Gerry
Downes advising him about the Occupational
Safety and Health Act.
"Both Section 20a and 76 of the act begin
by saying, 'No employer shall dismiss a
worker, discipline a worker, threaten to
dismiss, threaten to discipline, intimidate,
coerce a worker because the worker has acted
in accordance with the act.'"
He said according to the act, the workers
had a right to refuse to work under poor
health and safety conditions and the PSA's
lawyers were in the process of drafting letters
of complaints on behalf of the workers.
The action by the immigration workers
started on May 14 as part of a series of
PSA-led protests against poor health and
safety working conditions in the public
Last week Thursday, Minister of Labour
Errol Mc Leod got an injunction from the
Industrial Court which prevented workers of
the Immigration Division from taking further
The court order said: "The public officers
are hereby restrained from taking and/or
continuing to take such industrial action
within the meaning and provisions of the
Industrial Relations Act until further order."
On Monday the passport office was again
closed and Duke said the injunction did not
apply to the workers, as "industrial action"
did not include refusing to work under poor
health and safety conditions.
Yesterday, the Port-of-Spain office stayed
open for normal office hours ---7 am to 3 pm
--- but only dealt with people who came to
Margaret Emmanuel, left, Tanuja Mangroo and Taruna Mangroo proudly display their passports after
collecting them at the San Fernando Immigration Division office yesterday. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH
...Relief for some in Sando
Cabinet to consider
taking more action
Duke to Govt on immigration impasse:
Stop injunction and we'll talk
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