“Trinidad and Tobago,” I patiently repeated for the second time.
“What?” She frustratingly retorted.
Daily-paid sanitation employees of the Port-of-Spain City Corporation are feeling disrespected by the decision of the Mayor’s office to hire temporary employees in an attempt to reduce the amount of money spent on overtime for current sanitation workers. The employees downed their tools yesterday as they held a protest outside the corporation’s sanitation department on Mucurapo Road, St James. A garbage pile-up was avoided when the corporation hired a private contractor yesterday to remove the city’s garbage.
“The workers feel disrespected and we are wondering if the reason the corporation is handling the situation the way they are is because this is considered a low-level job,” said president of the Amalgamated Workers’ Union Michael Prentice yesterday. Prentice said the union supported the employees in their complaints but said he was only notified of the protest after the action had been taken.
Over the past month, the union, workers and corporation have been in public disagreement over the corporation’s decision to reduce the overtime budget of over $300,000 per fortnight by hiring new workers. “The workers feel angry and upset. The union warned the corporation that if the matter wasn’t handled properly there would be a huge falling out and this is what is happening now.” Prentice said the corporation was not taking a sensitive approach to the workers situation.
“This overtime situation has been around for almost 40 years. These workers have been working seven day weeks and serving this city without complaint and the corporation is handling this badly.” “We understood the decision to offer more employment to people in the city but that is not happening.” Prentice said the temporary workers hired by the corporation were people who had other jobs during the week and considered the work to be a second avenue for income.
“The corporation has cut the income of these workers in half and is now supplementing the income of other people. That is disrespectful to the employees. This is not how it should have been handled,” Prentice said. Deputy Mayor Keron Valentine met with workers yesterday morning at the protext site and gave them a commitment to investigate their complaints and meet with them by next week.
“We employed about 215 workers for a three-month basis and we plan to rotate and bring in another set of workers at the end of that time,” Valentine said. “The purpose of this decision was to provide employment for people in the city and deal with an exorbitant overtime bill.” He said workers had made complaints that some of the workers hired were already employed.
“I will meet with the council on Monday (April 28) and there will be an investigation into their claims. If they are valid, these people will be removed from the system.” Valentine said the sanitation workers were very important to the corporation. “They keep this city clean. We know how important they are,” he said.