Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 18th 2014 Contents A9
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The Great July Sale
The Joint Trade Union Movement
(JTUM) has accused the Government
of launching a vicious attack against
Immigration Division staff by forcing
them to return to work in an unsafe
and unhealthy environment using
threats of unemployment and victim-
Speaking at a press conference at
the Amalgamated Workers Union office,
Port-of-Spain, yesterday, JTUM leader
Ancil Roget said the intimidatory tactics
were being carried out via Labour Min-
ister Errol Mc Leod s move to institute
legal action to force employees to return
He also chronicled the campaign led
by Mc Leod in his former capacity as
president of the Oilfields Workers Trade
Union from 2004 to 2006, demanding
the proclamation of the Occupational
Safety and Health (OSH) Act.
"It is necessary to make the point
that this same person who, back then,
was with the call for the proclamation
of the act that gives workers the rights
to remove themselves from harm s way,
unsafe and unhealthy conditions---this
same minister now is using the deep
pockets of the Government, hiring
high-priced and high-paid attorneys
to coerce and force workers back to the
same unsafe environment," Roget said.
Immigration workers at Port-of-
Spain walked off the job in April, and
workers at the San Fernando office
halted operations several weeks ago.
Issuing a statement yesterday, in
which JTUM said it would stand in sol-
idarity with the workers and support
their action, Roget said JTUM met in
a special session on Tuesday to discuss
the matter after talks with the workers
union, the Public Services Association.
Roget said the OSH Act provided
protection for all employees at work
and mandated all employers to demon-
strate a duty of care and responsibility
by ensuring the work environment was
safe and healthy, so the highest level
of productivity could be achieved with-
out workers having to fear for their
lives, limbs and safety while at work.
He also raised concerns about the
independence of the Industrial Court,
as all the judges with the exception of
the president were on contract.
Condemning the actions by the
Labour Minister, which he said, "are
geared towards preventing workers exer-
cising their right under the OSH Act,"
Roget added, "It is clear that the min-
ister is fulfilling government s anti-
He urged all workers to stand in sol-
idarity on the issue of health and safety
in the workplace and not to allow
employers or the Government "to flaunt
and violate with impunity this law
which gave us the right to remove our-
selves from harm s way without fear
of victimisation or any form of disci-
Cabinet approved $24 million
to fund the Ministry of the Envi-
ronment s reafforestation pro-
gramme, after protests yesterday
outside the Office of the Prime
Minister, St Clair.
More than 30 people marched
back and forth in front of the
office holding placards asking to
be paid their salaries.
The nearly 2,000 people in the
programme had not been paid for
the past two months, a situation
that has repeated itself during the
months of June to September over
Minister of the Environment
Ganga Singh yesterday said the
contractors would be paid next
"The funds for their payment
comes out of the unemployment
levy and comes out of the URP.
Cabinet approved $24.8 million
today to fund the reafforestation
programme for the rest of this
John Belgrave, one of the area
managers of the National Reaf-
forestation and Watershed Pro-
gramme, said the situation was
unbearable. He asked why every
year, participants of the pro-
gramme needed to resort to
protests in order for issues to be
"We work very hard, planting
trees and using different methods
to stop soil erosion," he added.
In the dry season the workers
cut fire traces into the mountain-
side and also assist in fighting
fires. The Fondes Amandes group
assisted with the fires which rav-
aged St Ann s and parts of Maraval
earlier this year.
"Every year the money runs out
and we have to wait six and seven
fortnights before we get paid,"
The timing of the lack of pay-
ment could not be worse for these
workers, most of whom are single
"Some of the parents here can t
buy books for their children or
make preparations for the new
school term," Belgrave said.
Cathy-Ann Francis, the area
manager for Morvant, said the 35
people who worked in the pro-
gramme had not received training
or equipment but actively worked
during the fire season.
She said for years, the workers
had been begging for benefits and
for a raise in salary and were being
Francis said workers earned
approximately $800 a fortnight,
a figure she said was not enough
to support a family.
"We get no benefits, no sick
leave, no maternity leave. We get
paid for the days we come to
work, and that is it."
Dominique St Louis, head of
the programme, said the contract
of employment was being dis-
cussed by the ministry and added
that changes were being made.
He said workers should have been
aware of that, as each contractor
had been sent a memo informing
them of the progress being made
on their behalf.
JTUM accuses Govt
of attack on workers
$24m after protest
Workers of the National Reforestation and Watershed Rehabilitation Programme protest outside the Office of
the Prime Minister, St Clair, yesterday. PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR
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