Chairman of the Port Authority of T&T (PATT), Lyle Alexander.

Chairman of the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago’s (PATT) Lyle Alexander said an investigation was launched into claims of discrimination against Tobago’s port employees by the workers’ union, the Seafront and Waterfront Workers Trade Union (SWWTU).

President of the union Michael Annisette said they met with port officials in Tobago on August 10 to discuss the situation, asking the port to rescind its latest decision to transfer a port of Port-of-Spain employee to the Scarborough port.

“Morale among workers at the Tobago port is low because senior Trinidad managers are usually taken to Tobago through interdepartmental arrangements to act in positions that qualified Tobagonians can occupy.”

He added: “Tobago’s workers are never taken through interdepartmental arrangements to act in positions in Trinidad. They are only transferred if there is a vacancy. Inter-department arrangements in these instances are not customary at the port.”

He said the proverbial final straw that broke the workers’ backs when a junior Trinidad employee was transferred to Tobago “to manage senior, more qualified and experienced personnel from Tobago.”

He claimed that the manager, now on maternity leave, was replaced with another Trinidad employee despite the union’s protests.

“The person brought to act in this temporary position holds a higher position in Trinidad. It’s like putting a superintendent to act like a sergeant in the police service,” Annisette claimed.

“There are many Tobagonians with degrees and more experience to act in the position, but they (port officials) like to discriminate against Tobagonians,” he added.

The SWWTU head spoke of another alleged act of discrimination at the Scarborough port.

“Imagine telling a Tobagonian acting as a senior person in the Health and Safety Department for six years that because she is not qualified, she will be demoted. However, you bring an unqualified Trinidadian to act in another position. Is there one rule for a person from Trinidad and another rule for someone from Tobago?”

He outlined the union’s next move.

“We would follow the confines of what is open to us in the Industrial Relations Act. We have met with the management. We asked them to rescind their decision. We gave them seven days to respond. If they don’t, we will take it up as a dispute with the company, and we will take further action.”

Guardian Media sought comment from PATT’s board about SWWTU’s claim about the port’s most recent alleged discriminatory action.

“We are aware of the matter. We are investigating it and when the matter is thoroughly investigated, we will issue a statement,” PATT’s chairman Alexander said.