JTUM President General Ancel Roget

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The Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) is calling on the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) to reign in it security contractor, Amalgamated Security Services Ltd (ASSL) after its estate constables assaulted journalists at the San Fernando General Hospital last Wednesday.

In a media conference at the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union’s Paramount Building headquarters in San Fernando, JTUM leader Ancel Roget said the assault on CCN TV6’s Cindy Raghubar-Teekersingh and TTT’s Che Teekersingh occurred in a time when the media’s role is crucial in providing the public with information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cindy and Che were among a group of journalists in the carpark of the hospital when guards tried to physically remove them off the compound, with one even taking his baton and striking Che and his camera.

“Media workers are one of the groups of workers who are at the frontline line, bringing real-time information to the public. This is the benefit of all the citizens, including the ill-informed security officers. We call on the management of the SWRHA, that they must take full responsibility and ensure this unwarranted attack on media workers never happens again. And at the same time take action against those security officers,” Roget said.

The assaulted journalists reported the incident to the San Fernando police. Despite ASSL stating the constables involved were temporarily removed from their post while an internal investigation takes place, they have defended the officers’ actions.

JTUM was also concerned that many employers were taking advantage of workers as the country slows down. Roget said some are refusing to pay workers who are self quarantined or are at home caring for their children.

While some workers are sent down because of slowed operations, these businesses are forcing employees to work longer hours. Saying that now was not the time for politics, he said politicians should look at the countries that are successful in containing the spread of COVID-19. He said in those countries, the various political parties have united to fight the virus.

“It has no respect for race, religion, political affiliation, class social stature or geographical borders. Therefore we are without choice or option but to take it seriously.”

While the JTUM commends and support the government for the measures they’ve taken thus far, he said more is needed. These include aggressive testing, tracing and containment.

“JTUM insists testing should be made available to all public health centres, hospitals, private health facilities and nursing homes. Simultaneous with the testing, aggressive tracing must be done to identify people who would have been exposed and the containment of affected persons to have them quarantined.

“It is clear that countries that have been successful, such China, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, they have all taken critical measures that have worked in flattening the curve and have thus far contained the outbreak in their countries.

“One critical common measure was strict, vigorous virus testing, tracing and containment.”

He also thanked Barbados Prime Minster Mia Mottley for accepting 35 T&T citizens who were on a cruise ship in South African and were left stranded after the closure of T&T’s borders.

He called on the Government to do whatever is needed to ease the citizens’ burden while they are quarantined in Barbados.

A minute of silence was held for Hansel Leon, who died from the virus on Tuesday. Roget called on all JTUM members and citizens to follow the advice of the public health experts to overcome COVID-19.