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Unions want Angostura boss removed

Published: 
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Employees of House of Angostura from, left, Natasha Taylor with twelve years service and Sharon Joseph also with 26 years service in the quality control department carry placards during a midday protest by workers on the eastern Main Road, Laventille yesterday. PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ

“If yuh touch from behind, yuh have to resign,” chanted workers and representatives of various trade unions as they protested outside the head office of Angostura, Eastern Main Road, Laventille yesterday, demanding the immediate removal of the company’s chairman Dr Rolph Balgobin.

Balgobin is also president of the T&T Manufacturers Association (TTMA).

General secretary of the National Trade Union Centre (Natuc), Michael Annisette , who spoke on behalf of the workers, said for far too long women have been afraid to report instances of sexual harassment in the workplace and perpetrators “in office” must be held accountable.

Annisette said Balgobin must step down pending an independent probe into the matter.

Bearing placards which read, “Workers must be free to work in the workplace without any form of intimidation,” and “No to any form of sexual harassment,” the group protested under the watchful eyes of the police who stood on the pavement of the road opposite.

Workers were supported by representatives of the Contractors and General Workers Trade Union, Public Services Association, Transport and Industrial Workers Union and NUGFW.

In November 2016, a senior female executive of Angostura filed a police report at the Morvant Police Station, alleging sexual harassment by Balgobin.

Balgobin however, had maintained that such claims were false.

But Annisette said the allegations raised issues of ethics, morality and good governance and that of protection of workers from predators.

“This is a serious issue and the morale among the workers right now is pretty low. No one is above the law and the union is prepared to take whatever action that is necessary to protect workers,” Annisette added.

Saying there was a deafening silence for the rest of society regarding this issue Annisette said Natuc was prepared to have the matter addressed publicly as long a possible.

He said it was unfortunate that women were reluctant to report sexual harassment due to a number of reasons including victimisation and fear of losing their jobs.

“We must ensure there are procedures to avoid all that so that a women who is harassed would feel comfortable to make a report and she would be protected,” Annisette said adding that there was the possibility that sexual harassment may be more prevalent in the workplace due to under-reporting of incidents.

Efforts to reach Balgobin yesterday for a response were unsuccessful.

SALARY NEGOTIATIONS

Following the recent settlement of wage negotiations between the Government and the OWTU, Annisette said Natuc intended to write to the Labour Minister regarding its own negotiations.

He said the union represented a host of workers including those from the various city corporations and at the Port of Port-of-Spain.

“We have a situation at the port where for the period 2014 to 2017 there was an agreement for wage increases and they have not yet implemented that and workers are getting upset because it looks like when you make noise is only when you get a settlement,” Annisette added.

He urged government to hold talks with the union as soon as possible to come to an agreement.

There were also outstanding wage negotiations for two periods for Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) which also fell under Natuc, Annisette added.

“We are into the second year of the second period and up to now the CPO (Chief Personnel Officer) has not mandated the management to start the negotiations and apart from that there is not a board in place at the IMA....everything is at a stand still. So we need to bring all those things to the forefront if we are serious about moving forward as a country,” Annisette said.

Contacted yesterday, an official at the IMA said a board would be implemented by the first quarter of this year.