The Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) is accusing T&TEC and the Ministry of Health of colluding to cover up the impact of tuberculosis (TB) among the commission’s employees.
At a media conference outside T&TEC’s Central Warehousing in California yesterday, Roget said that while there were five confirmed cases among at T&TEC, the union knows of three suspected cases. He said both bodies do not want citizens to know the exact figure of those suffering from the illness. He said the employees are currently in the public health system.
Last Sunday, Guardian reported that employees at two of the Commission’s central offices had accused management of concealing a TB outbreak. It followed isolation of a female employee at the Caura Hospital in El Dorado after she tested positive for the disease in early March. She was stationed at the California warehouse while four other employees at the Point Lisas Distribution Centre tested positive for a latent TB but were not hospitalised.
“There is a major cover-up with respect to information, with respect to the spread of and the incidents of tuberculosis here in T&TEC in Central. We have some five cases confirmed and three additional cases now being investigated. Now that is cause for serious concern,” Roget said.
On Monday, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said there was no TB outbreak at the commission’s facilities. Speaking in the Senate, Deyalsingh said that there was one a case and the employee who had contracted TB happened to work in both offices. He assured that all standard procedures were followed and that public health sensitisation sessions were held with the employees.
On April 11, the union sent a letter to T&TEC, requesting an urgent meeting with the Commission’s executive to discuss the incidents of TB and the plan going forward in accordance with the OSH Act. Section 25 (1) of the Act mandates that every employer ensures that his or her employees are provided with health surveillance that is appropriate, having regard to the risks to their safety and health which are identified by the annual risk assessment.
Roget described the commission’s approach as laissez-faire as he said the union had to implement precautionary measures when the same situation happened months ago in Arima.
“Perhaps it is not by mistake that the executive management of T&TEC is refusing to meet and discuss what is clearly their responsibility in law under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Additionally, there seems to be some sort of collusion with the Ministry of Health where this information regarding the national impact. They are suppressing that information. The question of which community is impacted more than the rest. How many cases throughout Trinidad and Tobago?”
T&TEC’s acting corporate communications manager Clare Cooper-Vincent confirmed that the union requested a meeting with the commission’s General Manager Kelvin Ramsook. Vincent said Ramsook delegated the Chief Operations Officer Kervis Francois and Supplies Manager Nasilee Smart to meet with the union, which they did on Monday. She said this was done after a re-education session with the employees.
Vincent said the union was advised that the building was sanitised and on the weekend, the offices and vents were cleaned.
“On March 21 when we were made aware of the situation, the employee representatives of the OWTU were informed of the situation and that same afternoon, an awareness session was held with the employees,” Vincent said.
Cooper said she could not confirm whether there were three suspected cases currently in the commission.