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Duke to Govt on immigration impasse: Stop injunction and we’ll talk
Immigration workers will consider surrendering their rights once the court injunction against them is removed, says Public Service Association (PSA) president Watson Duke. Speaking yesterday at a press conference at the association’s headquarters, Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain, Duke said: “This could end tomorrow... it could end tonight but they must withdraw it (the injunction) forthwith and then say, ‘Let’s talk.’
“The only way we are going to consider giving up our rights or surrendering our rights for the sake of the public is if they remove that injunction gun over our heads.” On Monday, Duke had said: “We don’t really want this injunction to be discharged. It could remain because it does not affect us.” Asked yesterday why he had changed his tune, he said: “The injunction is provocative. It’s nonsensical. It’s irrelevant and has no place in employer-employee relationships where health and safety is concerned.
“If you really want to show yourself as reasonable, take away that... come down and talk but so long as you have a big stick in your hand and threatening to use it then you ain’t ready to talk yet.” Commenting on meetings with National Security Minister Gary Griffith and Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, Duke said: “Those talks remain just talks and there is a lot of posturing on one side but a lot of willingness on the side of the PSA.” He said matters would get worse if the PSA’s demands were not met.
“Should the State move to even attempt to enforce any part of that injunction on persons innocently, they would have escalated this to a different level that would not be able to calm itself anytime soon. “It’s going to get ugly because next week I will act drastically in defence of my members.”
The action by the immigration workers started on May 14 as part of a series of PSA-led protests against poor health and safety working conditions in the public service. Last week Thursday, Minister of Labour Errol Mc Leod got an injunction from the Industrial Court which prevented workers of the Immigration Division from taking further industrial action.
The court order said: “The public officers are hereby restrained from taking and/or continuing to take such industrial action within the meaning and provisions of the Industrial Relations Act until further order.” On Monday the passport office was again closed and Duke said the injunction did not apply to the workers, as “industrial action” did not include refusing to work under poor health and safety conditions.
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.