Last update: 13-Dec-2013 3:20 am
Friday, December 13, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Licensing in South passes Duke’s test
As motorists, car dealers and staff braced for a shutdown at the San Fernando Licensing Office yesterday, president of the Public Service Association Watson Duke admitted that he could find no health and safety violations on the compound. Armed with a bull horn, Duke turned up at the compound around mid-morning after signalling his intention on Monday to have workers walk out the compound due to unsafe working conditions.
However, when he inspected the premises and met with Assistant Transport Commissioner Wayne Richards, he announced much to the relief of customers that he found the premises to be in a good condition. His inspection came days after he led a walkout at the Port-of-Spain Licensing Office over health and safety concerns. The Port-of-Spain office remained closed for four days last week and most departments resumed operations on Monday for half-day.
Duke said: “I must commend the assistant Transport Commissioner Wayne Richards for transforming this place from where it used to be. “San Fernando has somewhat transformed from what it used to be. “We are asking that Port-of-Spain also take a cue from San Fernando and make their housing for staff more adequate as the law of health and safety and welfare of the workers are concerned.”
According to Richards steps are still being taken to improve the conditions with the implementation of new lunch rooms for staff and a driving test area for driver’s permit applicants. Richards said: “We have refurbished the photo room. In time you will be able to pass and see what is happening across there and we are making everything compliant for the staff, the members of the public and for all those who wish to see.” He said it was good that the PSA could point out flaws in safety practices so it could be fixed quickly.”
As he stood to address staff, customers who were aware of the closure of the Port-of-Spain office began to complain about the delay to accessing services. However, it was members of the T&T Automotive Dealers Association (TTADA) who voiced their frustration with Duke. In the standoff that lasted for close to 15 minutes, the association’s president and vice-president Visham Babwah and Rhondall Feeles accused Duke of using the workers in his bid to retain the presidency at the PSA’s election which is scheduled for next month.
Duke said his actions were not motivated by the election, saying that the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OSHA) and the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (Cariri) had found too many violations in the Port-of-Spain office. He added: “Since December, 2012 they were issued instructions by the Fire Services chief to make changes to the place within 30 days. “It is now one year and nothing has been done. They will have to answer to that in the court.
“Cariri found asbestos on the entire roof, OSHA found fibre glass exposed in the air conditioning system, they found a room in Port-of-Spain with a lead battery, a hot room that is permeating throughout the building. “When the structural engineers checked the roof they found that the steel in the roof were all loose. “After talking over two weeks ago, we are forced to take the minister, the permanent secretary and the transport commissioner before the magistrates court in Port-of-Spain.”
In the meantime, he said the PSA was allowing employees to work from 8 am to 1 pm at the Port of Spain office. He said those who felt their safety was being threatened could leave under the protection of the PSA.
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