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After protests by workers: PTSC spends $m to remove asbestos

Published: 
Friday, August 29, 2014

Under the threat of potential protests from workers which could affect thousands of commuters, the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) has begun removing potentially dangerous asbestos from two main workspaces at its South Quay, Port-of-Spain, headquarters. The corporation’s general manager, Ronald Forde, said so yesterday during a media tour of the facility to highlight the start of the removal process which was initiated almost four months after independent tests revealed the presence of the toxic building material. 

Forde said the delay was caused by the use of a “clear and transparent” tendering process for the over $1 million contract to remove the asbestos. When asked why periodic testing had not been done on the buildings considering their age, Forde said: “Because nobody knew at the time the material was asbestos. There is no history of any employee of the PTSC who has gone down with any ailment related to asbestos.”  

He also admitted PTSC’s operations had been hampered by the process and the ongoing repairs but claimed its customers were not affected greatly. “We have been very resilient during this period because we have been moving our numbers. We may not be keeping all of the tight schedules but we have been lobbying with our customers and our numbers have stood up,” Forde said. 

As he also confessed that the corporation was short of almost 100 buses to operate at full capacity, Forde announced the shortage was expected to be reduced with the arrival of 35 new compressed natural gas (CNG) buses from China in early November. During the tour, Forde said work was expected to be completed in three weeks on two affected areas, central workshop and the bus drivers’ lounge.

The two buildings were covered in sealed tents outfitted with decontamination zones, while workers at both locations were seen wearing protective suits and masks. Branch president of the Transport and Industrial Workers Union (TIWU) Marcus Grannum, who was present during tour, praised the corporation for its efforts in addressing the issue but said it was long overdue. 
However, Grannum said there were several other health and safety issues on the compound, including flooded service bays, oil-filled drains and faulty diesel storage tanks, which, he said, needed to be addressed urgently.

“It’s not that we don’t want to work. The Government has a lot of money to do a lot of things except for the backbone of the nation’s workers,” Grannum said.

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