Let’s get something straight from the start.
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It’s been going on since 1996
Former San Fernando deputy mayor Sabrina Mowlah-Baksh says women approached her for help as far back as 1996, claiming that officers of the Contractors and General Workers’ Union (CGWU) had been trying to exact sexual favours from them in exchange for jobs at the San Fernando City Corporation (SFCC).
Following yesterday’s T&T Guardian article which alleged CGWU officials were hand-picking 70 per cent of workers for casual employment at the SFCC in return for sexual favours in some cases, several workers came forward to share their experiences yesterday. Mowlah-Baksh, who served as a United National Congress councillor during 1996-2000, said when she raised the issue at a statutory meeting the union led a protest against her.
“In 1996, women came to me and made those allegations. They asked me to treat with the matter. I raised it at a meeting as a matter of concern and called for an investigation,” Mowlah-Baksh said.
“At the very next statutory meeting, the union came out in their numbers and protested against me for raising the matter. The same women who complained to me alerted me that the union was going to come out to protest my call for an investigation.”
The issue came to light on Thursday when San Fernando mother Jovanne Edmunds raise the issue of “unfair” recruitment practice by the SFCC’s administration on the steps of City Hall.
Agreeing with Edmunds, Mowlah-Baksh said the SFCC’s recruitment policy is skewed in favour of the union.
“I agree with the protester that the councillors should have a greater input on daily paid recruitment. The recommendations (By the Union) is really a demand.”
A Pleasantville labourer visited the T&T Guardian office yesterday and said he plans to write letters to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein and Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus calling for an urgent investigation.
The man, who asked not to be identified for fear of victimisation, said he and several of his colleagues were casual workers at the SFCC for between nine and 15 years and cannot be guaranteed continuous employment. He said persons the union selects are guaranteed jobs every fortnight, although some of them started working two or three years ago. He claimed in order to get work, a job seeker first has to join the union and pay a fee, while some women would sometimes be called out of their homes at 10 pm to discuss “employment.”
“The habit of demanding sex has been going on years now. A certain man, who has been running a department in the corporation for years, had to run down a shop steward in the yard on Carib Street with a shovel. The shop steward was approaching his daughter,” the man claimed.
“Imagine they called out a woman to a bar at 10 o’clock to talk about employment. A woman from Embacadere told me she does not mind having sex with the man for a work because she has her children to feed, but she needed to be assured of getting regular work.
“We’ve even seen union officers coming out of hotels with the workers. If you are a woman and sexually active with one of the union officers, you will get work right through. For men, the union will take a day’s pay from your salary.”
In a voice note, another casual employee said even some union members cannot get work unless they are favoured. She said consideration for employment also meant they would have to patronise private events hosted by union officers.
MATTHEWS: COUNCILLOR OUT OF PLACE
Responding to the fresh allegations yesterday, CGWU president Ainsley Matthews said they would not bother to respond to them, reiterating they came with the territory.
However, he said the union was concerned about the councillors taking issue with the collective agreement, which allows them to recommend 70 per cent of the casual labour. He said this has been the practice since 1975.
“We find they are farse and out of place in that the union, through the collective agreement, has the right to nominate people and they cannot prevent that right. It is our right represent the causal workers and seek employment for them. If we are getting 70 per cent, they have to live with that. Common practice becomes common law,” Matthews said.
Calls made to Hosein yesterday were unanswered.
Also contacted yesterday, San Fernando East MP Randall Mitchell, whose constituency the SFCC falls, said he has not heard of the allegations. But he said if there is any truth to them, the SFCC and all corporations should revisit their recruitment and selection practices with a view to ensuring fairness, transparency and that there is no exploitation of the vulnerable.
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