Labour Minister Errol Mc Leod says the protest action by workers of the Immigration Division of the Ministry of National Security and the sickout by Caribbean Airlines pilots was illegal. Mc Leod made the comment during yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing, in response to questions on the Public Services Association-led industrial action at passport offices in Port-of-Spain and San Fernando and the CAL sickout earlier this week, which disrupted service and caused inconvenience to the general public. Mc Leod said the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) “identifies particular operations in the national economy as being essential service and essential industries.”
Without naming the specific industries, Mc Leod said there was a procedure that ought to be followed in the collective bargaining process and in occupational health and safety procedures. Action taken outside of those procedures “would be identified as illegal action,” he said. Asked if the specific action taken by the PSA members was illegal, Mc Leod, a former president general of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU), said: “It is illegal.” Asked what specific action could be taken against the workers for their alleged illegal action, Mc Leod said the law was clear on that issue. He said the management of the organisations and unions would be familiar with the actions they could take in such circumstances.
In fact, McLeod said management at CAL and the Licensing Division were taking action in respect of the protests and it would be the responsibility of the management or the union to take action as a consequence of any breach of the IRA. Mc Leod also refused to respond to threats by PSA president Watson Duke that he would force an early general election if any disciplinary action were to be taken against the workers who engaged in the action. In response to another question about an imminent labour unrest in the country, Mc Leod said he would advise trade unions and their members to pay attention to the provisions of the law.