With 33 of 38 estate police officers at the Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) terminated this week, the Estate Police Association (EPA) has sounded a warning to members that the Government’s prerogative is to privatise security at State-owned companies.
TSTT served retrenchment letters to 468 workers on Tuesday but the Communication Workers Union (CWU) obtained a court injunction to stay the process for 376 workers the union represents. The estate police constables are not represented by the CWU.
In a media conference at the EPA’s Marabella headquarters yesterday, president Deryck Richardson said with 300 members retrenched at Petrotrin and 30 at Trinidad Cement Limited, he feared that the T&T Electricity Commission (T&TEC) and Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) might be next.
Richardson claimed that last year, TSTT engaged private security firms to bid against each other for a contract to provide services. Amalgamated Security Services Ltd (ASSL), he said, won that bid at $24 per hour for the supply of an officer. However, this raised concern for the EPA, as its agreement with ASSL was to pay an officer $20 per hour.
“No company can sustain a contract paying $24 an hour when you have to pay your officers $20 an hour, plus the other ancillary and overhead costs, overtime included for public holidays, national insurance, uniforms and transport,” Richardson said.
It was then the EPA realised something was amiss at TSTT, he said. The company subsequently wrote the EPA, calling for a meeting to discuss the restructuring.
Richardson questioned whether ASSL knew about the restructuring when it offered a low bid in preparation for increased service to TSTT.
He said during the presentation by TSTT management, they did not say how the restructuring would affect officers.
In a subsequent correspondence, however, TSTT indicated that officers would be surplus to the company’s proposed structure.
“We asked the question then, who is going to secure TSTT? What is the model that you are going to use? They went on to say that they would use electronic security.”
While the EPA agrees with using electronic security, it asked TSTT who would respond to incidents. Richardson said TSTT refused to name the company, only saying that no one would replace the officers.
During a previous retrenchment exercise in 2018, officers did not accept or request an increase in salary during negotiations to save their jobs. Now, four years later, the EPA asked that in light of the officers’ 2018 sacrifice, that TSTT consider an increase in severance, but the company refused. It then suggested a voluntary separation package and provided a proposal, but the company said it could not afford it.
Richardson said TSTT told the nation that it consulted with the EPA and Communication Workers’ Union in good faith on the restructuring exercise, said but it lied. He said there was no willingness to consider the living situations and debts of the officers and it was all about replacing sustainable jobs with cheap labour.
Richardson again questioned how ASSL was getting so many government contracts, especially in entities that had in-house security. He said the company has officers at TSTT, Trinidad Petroleum Holdings Ltd, T&T Prison Service, Point Lisas Industrial Port Development Corporation and Chaguaramas Development Company and was recruiting members to work at the Piarco International Airport.
“We sound the alarm. Private security has its role to play. We represent people in private security. If you have one company basically monopolising State contracts, the question must be asked, is there one security company on this island?” he asked.