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Workers protest against Forestry Authority (with CNC3 video)
Workers from the Forestry Division protested yesterday outside the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, corner of the El Socorro Main Road and Hassanali Street, El Socorro.
The protest, which was scheduled for outside the Forestry Division, Long Circular Road, St James, was moved to El Socorro because the workers said they got wind of a meeting at the ministry between the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FOA) and the Conservator of Forests, Johnny Seepersad.
They chanted “the forest dying, the forest bleeding, we not leaving” and waved placards which bore inscriptions, such as “forest for the people”; “no consultation”; “Johnny keep on walking”; “I am proud to be a forester” and “Ramnarine go home”. Police arrived at the scene and told the workers to stop using a loudspeaker and keep a less noisy protest.
Vice-chairman of the Public Service Association’s (PSA) Forestry Section Lallan Parmanan said the protest was against the division being converted to an authority to manage the forests, protected areas and wildlife of T&T. In an interview with the media, Parmanan said: “The protest is against the change from a forestry division and bring it under an authority.”
He said the PSA had discussions last February with former line minister, now Housing Minister Roodal Moonilal, to set up a committee to address several issues and concerns in moving forward. Parmanan added: “We have no way of moving forward right now. They are keeping a meeting and no discussions are being held.
“They are just going ahead with their strategies with no discussions. Without discussions we can’t have no movement. “They have not had any discussions with the workers and want to change it under an authority. The meeting in there now has to do with funding but we have to get the workers involved.”
Parmanan said the workers feared they would be made contract workers and lose several benefits. “Contract work is one year and you know how that works. That is what we don’t want. This meeting today is without the technical officers and the workers,” he added. He said the workers were expressing themselves by protesting.
President of the PSA Watson Duke said no positive results could come out of the new arrangements. He added: “The Government is bent on setting up a forestry authority. The PSA could only imagine the worst for the workers in terms and conditions in the authority.”
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