“Stop recycling workers, start recycling plastic.”
This was the call by employees of the Solid Waste Management Company (SWMCOL) yesterday as they protested outside the head office calling for the immediate reinstatement of 21 workers from the Recycling Division who were retrenched two days ago.
Leading the workers during the midday protest was president of the Industrial General and Sanitation Workers Union (IGSWU), Robert Benacia who continued to level accusations of corruption and financial mismanagement at the Board.
Critical of the move by SWMCOL to send the 21 workers packing, the union’s general secretary Steve Cupid-Theodore argued, “The union agreed with this company in a Collective Agreement that workers doing this work should be permanent workers.”
“You cannot have workers doing the same job, up to their elbows in plastics and dirty garbage for six to eight months and then not give them a good reason for firing them.”
Benacia and Cupid-Theodore both lamented the plight of the contract workers who were presented with the termination letters on September 20.
They dismissed the company’s justification that the move was necessary in order to ensure other persons in society benefitted.
Confirming the 21 workers had been hired on a contractual basis, Benacia explained the group was comprised mainly of single mothers who had once again been placed in a disadvantageous position by not being able to provide for their families.
He explained, “The workers had been employed for the past seven to eight months and were in line to be made permanent, but the company claimed they want to spread the pie so they want to rotate workers instead of creating stable jobs for workers.”
Benacia said the action was done in the absence of any consultation with the union.
He said, “A lot of these workers are young men and women, single parents trying to make ends meet and it is unfair to treat them that way. They can’t plan their lives and it is only leading to a deepening of the dependency syndrome.”
Cupid-Theodore called on SWMCOL to get its’ act together.
He too accused the company of trying to eradicate the permanent workforce and replace them with a continual rotation of contract workers without long term benefits and job security.
He stated that SWMCOL employees had an important part to play in keeping the nation clean and recycling plastics to ensure it stayed out of the watercourses. Cupid-Theodore said their overall operation also contributed to T&T’s role to mitigate the effects of climate change and environmental degradation.
On the issue of stalled wage negotiations - Benacia said in December 2018, there was a break down in the negotiating process following a meeting with the Chief Personnel Officer.
To date, the IGSWU is still awaiting counter proposals before moving forward regarding the period 2014 to 2016.
Cupid-Theodore said the recent purchase of the Petrotrin refinery by Patriotic Energies and Technologies Company Ltd - wholly owned by the Oilfield Workers Trade Union - indicated workers were not afraid to put their money where their mouth was they are ones doing the work daily.
He said, “The time to invest in workers is now.”