In the T&T: Toney: Our hands are tied

14 February 2012


Disruptions at the port continue as workers await “second tranche of payments.”

“We have a port to run and we need to get instructions as early as possible,” Joseph Toney, chairman of the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT), declared yesterday.

He was responding to protest action by security officers at the Port of Port-of-Spain in which 30 of the 42 officers called in sick, over outstanding wage negotiations for 2008 – 2011.

Toney said talks with the Estate Police Association (EPA) were in stasis because Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) Stephanie Lewis had not yet commented on their proposals.

“We at the board and management level, our hands are tied in so far as the negotiations, until we hear from the CPO. We have had some talks already, proposals have been put on the table by the management of the Port Authority. There have been counterproposal by the estate police association but we need the guidance of the CPO before we could go forward,” Toney said.

In an effort to get talks moving forward and therefore put an end to security officers’ sick-out action, Toney said he instructed PATT CEO Colin Lucas to speak to Lewis.

Meanwhile, first vice-president of the Estate Police Association (EPA) Curtis Robinson said port security officers felt disrespected by the “laid-back attitude” toward their wage negotiations.

“The authorities moved with haste to address the port workers’ issues yet exactly one week after security officers first called in sick, we are yet to hear from anyone at PATT or the CPO,” Robinson said.

Asked how likely it was port security officers would feel well enough to report to work today, Robinson said that would depend on how soon PATT responded to their concerns.

“Until the CEO, Mr Colin Lucas, or the Executive Manager of Human Resources, Lyrine Lewis, answers one of our calls or (initiates) contact with the union, the security officers are not likely to recover from their illness,” Robinson said.

Negotiations for 2008 – 2011 began in late 2010 and 15 meetings have been held since but Robinson said things have been at a stand-still.

Meanwhile, port workers represented by the Seamen and Waterfront Workers’ Trade Union (SWWTU) found themselves in a similar situation with their own collective bargaining agreement for 2008 – 2011.

Although port workers received the first tranche of back-pay last December, they staged another protest last Friday, apparently without the approval of SWWTU president, Michael Annisette. Workers said they were protesting the outstanding second tranche of payments.

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