File picture, Workmen from T&TEC

KEVON [email protected]

Although utility workers’ role will be critical as the country goes on two weeks of partial lockdown, T&TEC workers may stay away from work if the management does not accede to COVID-19 safety policies the company established with the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU).On Friday, Joint Trade Union Movement leader Ancel Roget committed to Government’s measures to contain the spread of the pandemic virus, even urging his members to follow the advice of public health experts. But in yesterday’s media conference at Paramount Building, San Fernando, OWTU executive vice president Peter Burke said T&TEC’s management was putting workers at risk. Should any workers contract the virus, he said this would jeopardize the State’s containment efforts.Burke said that on March 26, the OTWU and T&TEC management agreed to reduce the number of contact hours workers had with the public. It was also agreed upon to reduce staff and the work crews on a shift. Therefore, crews would be put on a two-week rotation.Burke explained that if an employee unknowingly contracts the virus during his or her two-week rotation and spreads it to his colleagues, when their rotation ends, he or she would be home in self-quarantine for two weeks. During this off-time, symptoms may develop but the employees would not risk the health of other crews.If any crew is quarantined, Burke said that more of than half of T&TEC’s crews are on standby. However, he said that after the OWTU informed the workers of the new measures, T&TEC’s management reneged and implemented a one week-rotation.”It is a very difficult conversation to have but the possibility exists that it can happen. Hence, this is the reason why we’re trying to work with the Commission to ensure we have enough crews on standby in a worst-case scenario. “The workers have a choice, they have a responsibility. They have a duty to protect themselves. This union, fought for, won, fought again to have policies and we’ve been fighting to have it managed properly in the workplace. Under the OSH Act, workers have the right to refuse work in unsafe conditions. The Commission is confusing the workforce and they are not protecting the workforce,” Burke said.He said PPE remains an issue at T&TEC and while linesmen are not adequately supplied with fire-retardant suits, the major issue was the lack of gloves and masks for the workers who are interacting with the public.Guardian Media contacted T&TEC’s general manager Kelvin Ramsook, who said he would get back to us on the matters discussed as it was a delicate situation.