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Violation of workers’ privacy, says Duke

Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Objection to CCTV cameras at Trade Ministry...

Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke has described the installation of four CCTV security cameras on the 11th floor at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Development as a serious breach of employees’ right to privacy. In a telephone interview yesterday, Duke said he led 50 employees in a walkout from their job at the ministry because of the security cameras which were set up without employees’ consent. “It is to monitor the workers as a telling tool for their performance appraisals,” he said.



The installation of security cameras was part of the ministry’s plan to curb a “series of security incidents” throughout the seven floors it occupies at Nicholas Tower, Port-of-Spain, according to manager, corporate communications, Yolande Agard-Simmons. Agard-Simmons also denied that 50 employees walked out. She said it was about five.


In a media release, she said: “The installation of security cameras throughout the ministry is part of a comprehensive exercise being conducted for the personal safety of staff and that of the property of the ministry, which was planned several months ago.” Duke, however, said it was a violation of the condition of service to set up the cameras “over staff who carry out their daily duties.” “Only the PSA can alter those conditions of service,” he said.


As a result, Duke said, the PSA “physically removed” the cameras from the 11th floor, and moved them to the 17th floor, near the office of permanent secretary Sandra Indar. “We do not want cameras there (11th floor). They cannot keep violating employees rights. What they going to do with the footage?” 


Agard-Simmons’ statement addressed this concern about monitoring workers, saying: “The intention of this security equipment is to be used for preventative and investigative purposes and not as part of any programme to continuously monitor the movements or performance of staff.” It said the footage, which will be video recordings only, will be the remit of the permanent secretary and the corporate services department. 


Agard-Simmons said it was a mechanism that will “keep person and property safe,” and a series of cameras will be placed on different floors throughout the building, although not all have been installed as yet. One employee, who did not want to be identified, said the majority of staff welcomed the security cameras, as there have been incidents where personal effects and ministry equipment went missing. She added that there was no violation of privacy.


“We don’t understand why he (Duke) is doing this...The cameras are not in the bathrooms.” She said the PSA had no right to “deface” property by removing the camera equipment. “That is madness.” Minister Vasant Bharath is out of the country and could not be reached for comment.


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