Just two days after celebrating T&T’s 57th anniversary of independence, the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) is accusing Trinidad Cement Ltd of bringing “masa days back” by unilaterally implementing policies. Yesterday, a handful of unionised workers protested against TCL’s new policy which requires all workers entering their Claxton Bay plant to submit to a breathalyser test of their blood alcohol level. However, some workers said they will not adhere to the new policy.
OWTU branch president Ahmad Mohammed said the union was not against the tests, but that the company rolled out the policy without consulting them, which is required under the collective agreement. Mohammed saw this action as illegal and one of several infringements by the company under the new management sent by TCL’s Mexican parent company CEMEX S.A.B. de C.V. According to Mohammed, TCL is required to have a Joint Health and Safety Committee. However, he said there has been no committee meeting in the past six months and the chairperson has deferred each occasion.
“At the end of the day, the Union, as well, is not supportive of workers coming to work under the influence of alcohol or drunk. But what we are saying, procedurally and in terms of statutory requirements, it is a legal requirement that any term and condition ought to be privy to consultation with the recognised majority union prior to implementation.
“The manner in which this implementation has taken place as well showed a colossal waste of man-hours. It is also now affecting our company in terms of the loss of man-hours where 100 per cent of workers are being targeted,” Mohammed said.
Even general manager of the TCL group Guillermo Rojo was subjected to a vehicle search and breathalyser test. Visiting contractors were also given the test before they were allowed to enter the plant. But the Union does not agree that everyone should be tested; only when there is a need. Workers who refused the breathalyser were initially barred entry to the plant by the security. They then joined those clad in OWTU wear at the front gate. Eventually, the workers walked in together, again refused the breathalyser and began work.
The union is demanding that TCL convene a meeting of the Joint Health and Safety Committee to discuss the policy for a proper rollout. Mohammed said TCL’s management has been bullying workers and leaving the Union out of critical issues. He said that a highly skilled worker was recently fired for simply exercising his right, adding to the list of wrongs against workers.
“You are being instructed to sleep with the phone by your head, on loud. You have radiation already being emitted by your cell phones and you are being told as well that you are in a 24/7 job here, if not you can go to work at the bank. These measures in 2019 are really tantamount to the return of the plantation, albeit us celebrating independence just two days ago.
“This is the new TCL, this is CEMEX. While having a number of performance standards and ethical standards, here you see the local management at Trinidad Cement Ltd with foreigners leading, all here on work permits. We are a country, independent as it may be, giving them permission to come here and reintroduce ‘masa’ tactics again.”
Guardian Media contacted TCL for a response but was unsuccessful.