Ray Funk and Andrew Martin
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Doors still locked at office in South
Even as Government sought to find an amicable solution to the impasse at the Immigration Division, scores of people continued to meet locked doors at the San Fernando immigration office yesterday. The Port-of-Spain office stayed open for normal office hours—7 am to 3 pm—but only dealt with people who came to collect passports. Among those affected in San Fernando was ailing US citizen Janet Huggins.
In an interview, Huggins, 78, said she desperately needed her passport to return home for medical treatment. Huggins, who suffers from hypertension and diabetes, was supposed to return to Pennsylvania last month. “My feet are swollen and I have a doctor’s appointment,” Huggins said.
James Daniel and his wife, Samdaye, who were expected to attend the Full Gospel Fellowship’s 50th anniversary in Guyana last weekend, also were disappointed that the immigration staff had not heeded a court order mandating them to return to work. “Public Services Association president Watson Duke should not hold the country to ransom. He trying to help 100 workers but he is hurting a million. He doing real nonsense,” Samdaye told the T&T Guardian. She said they were supposed to leave for Guyana on July 3.
Cheryl Diaz, of Debe, said urgent action must be taken. “This is not right. They are telling people to come and collect their passports and when we get here, the gates are locked,” she added. She said the passport printing machine should be relocated so processing could continue.
Roget: It’s a lovers’ quarrel
President general of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union Ancel Roget yesterday expressed solidarity with the immigration staff but said the rift between Duke and the Government was “a lovers’ quarrel.” He added: “It is strange how people, just for their own self-advancement and their own selfishness, can change positions radically.
“The former OWTU present general Errol Mc Leod initiated a stop order in the national interest and sent immigration workers back to work, using Section 65 of the Industrial Relations Act. It is the same act he condemned for its anti-worker nature.” When the Government took office, he said, it was part of Mc Leod’s mission to amend and remove that act. “It is a weapon used by employers to control workers. Now he is using that act,” Roget noted.
He added that the OWTU would support the immigration workers. “We will stand at the side of every worker who shelters under the protection of the OSHA which allows them to remove themselves from harm’s way in any situation that poses a threat,” Roget said.
He said if the employer did not provide a safe working environment, employees had a right to refuse to work.
No word from officials
Asked to respond to Duke’s defiance of the court injunction in a telephone interview yesterday, Labour Minister and acting Prime Minister Errol Mc Leod, who got the injunction from the Industrial Court last week, said: “I have no other comment on that issue. Some other institution will respond to Duke.” Contacted yesterday, Duke said he had no comment to make but would give an update on the situation at a press conference today.
Minister of National Security Gary Griffith was not available as calls and e-mails went unanswered. But the T&T Guardian understands that Duke and Griffith held a meeting yesterday to discuss the issues.
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