Government's Position on the PSA Impasse- Minister McLeod's makes a statement
July 11, 2014: The following is a statement by the Honourable Errol McLeod, Minister of Labour and Small and Micro Enterprise Development and Acting Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago regarding the Government's position on the impasse with the Public Services Association of Trinidad and Tobago:
I wish to report that the Government stands firm on its position that the ongoing shutdown of the Immigration Offices, as orchestrated by the Public Services Association, is illegal!
On Thursday 3rd July, 2014, at a meeting between senior Government officials and representatives of the PSA, there was an agreement that staff will return to work. This agreement however was not honoured.
The Industrial Court continues to play a vital role in safeguarding the economy as a whole, since its judgements are not confined to the immediate disputants before it but also take into account the interest of the community as a whole. It is a superior court of record, which is equivalent to that of the High Court of Justice. Thus violating this injunction is violating the rule of law and can lead to anarchy, if not stemmed now!
The Occupational Safety and Health Act 88:08 clearly states that ‘an employee may refuse to work or do particular work where he has sufficient reason to believe that-
a) There is serious and imminent danger to himself or unusual circumstances have arisen which are hazardous or injurious to his health or life;
b) Any machine, plant, device or thing, he is to use or operate is likely to endanger himself or another employee;
c) The physical condition of the workplace or the part thereof in which he works or is to work is likely to endanger himself
The Government is not aware, nor is there any record, that any employee of the Immigration Department has made any reports on threats to their health or safety.
The population should note that the neglect of these buildings did not occur overnight, however Government sees its responsibility to care for our nation’s workers as important and we are actively taking corrective actions to address the legitimate issues.
In a letter, dated July 9, 2014, from the chief inspector of the Occupational Safety and Health Agency to Mr. Duke, the President of the PSA, it stated that following the inspection of the Immigration Division Head Office located at #67 Frederick Street, Port of Spain on Friday 4th July, ‘the actual safety and health workplace risk at the time of the inspection was not assessed to be unacceptable. This assessment was based on the findings documented in the Inspection Record Form which was completed by the Inspectors who conducted the inspection. In this regard, it was determined that the issuing of a Prohibition Notice on the Immigration Division Head Office at #67 Frederick Street was not an applicable enforcement decision’.
The Chief Immigration Officer has noted that the disruptive action of the staff at the Immigration Offices has also resulted in the following:
(i) Extensions of entry certificates for non nationals to remain in the country are not being processed;
(ii) Interviews for permanent resident status are not being conducted;
(iii) Interviews for foreign student permits are not being conducted;
(iv) Visas are not being processed and issued to non-nationals who require them;
(v) The inability to issue new machine readable passports has placed citizens who hold the old passport, which are only valid up to the end of June 2014, in the position of being unable to obtain the new machine readable passports and therefore unable to travel.
(vi) Citizens who have been unable to obtain their passports for travel have had their constitutional freedom of travel as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago taken away.
(vii) Citizens who are out of Trinidad and Tobago and cannot have their passports renewed are at risk of not having any valid form of identification while abroad and/or may not be able to travel on expired travel documents and so trapped abroad.
(viii) The Department’s ability to administer the Immigration Laws of the country is severely affected including the enforcement of the Department, which deals with persons or permitted entrants who are no longer so to be treated.
Government is exploring all options to ensure that the backlog is cleared up speedily.
We reiterate that the reparative work has commenced and will be completed within the shortest possible time.
We wish to assure the national population that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago will actively continue dialogue with the Public Services Association as we seek to arrive at an amicable resolution.
The Honourable Errol Mc Leod,
Minister of Labour and Small and Micro Enterprise Development
Acting Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago