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Sando hospital staff say no to shutdown

Employees at the Social Welfare Division of the Ministry of the People and Social Development at the ABMA Building, St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain, have walked off the job.  Led by Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke, employees of the division enforced Section 15 of the Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) Act after complaining of poor working conditions. The workers complained of poor air quality caused by dirty air condition vents and old carpeting.

An employee said the building gets its water from tanks which are filled by the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA). He said the tanks had not been cleaned in years and as a result the water in the taps ran brown. Employees complained that emergency exists were blocked by boxes and old files and the electrical panel room was cluttered. Addressing employees and the media outside of the building, Duke said: “Had they (the Government) improved the condition of this building by one per cent they would be moving in the right direction.” He said employees were being forced to work in “pig-like conditions,” adding: “When you look at the air condition vents you would swear somebody painted them black.”

Duke said employees would not return to work until a health and safety committee was established and took immediate action to improve the building. The PSA leader said the work done by the employees of the Social Welfare Division was vital to the population and served over 100,000 citizens, including 74,000 pensioners. He said the social welfare officers were in charge of pension, adoption, the TTCard programme and other social services. Duke said the workers would not be at work today. He instructed them to sign in and leave.

Over the last three weeks, the PSA has shut down seven Government offices for unhealthy working conditions. These include Central Statistics Office, Independence Square, Port-of-Spain; Government Service Commission, Woodford Street, Woodbrook; Ministry of Legal Affairs, South Quay, Port-of-Spain; Eric William Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope; San Fernando Licensing Office; Arima Magistrates Court and the Social Welfare Division. Duke said Trinidad House, St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain, and Customs and Excise, Nicholas Plaza, Port-of-Spain, will be shut down soon .

<strong>Negotiations today</strong>

The Public Services Association (PSA) will meet with the Government Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) Stephanie Lewis today to continue salary negotiations for public servants. Duke said the PSA  hoped Lewis would place a higher offer on the table. “We will not settle for anything that is not in the double digits,” he said. Duke warned that the PSA would resume its protests if Lewis’ offer did not go up from one per cent into double digits. He said due to rising inflation and stagnant salaries, public servants had lost their purchasing power and their $100 is only worth $75. Duke said if the CPO’s offer remained the same, public servants would gather in Woodford Square on November 30 to begin their new “Blue Tuesday” protest.

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