Michael Annisette

The National Trade Union Centre (NATUC) has called on Government to amend the Public Health Regulations to have board members charged when they fail to protect their workers.

The call came from the union’s general secretary Michael Annisette while speaking during a media conference yesterday as he accused the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) of playing with workers’ health, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He accused the company of only being concerned about getting buses out on the roads.

“You see you charging people $1,000 for not wearing the mask, we believe the time has come to hold boards accountable and charge them when they fail to follow the policies to protect their employees,” he said.

Annisette told the media he has received word that some workers and members of the management team have been placed in quarantine, posing a risk of exposure to other workers and their families.

PTSC workers downed tools on Thursday to send a message to management that they will no longer tolerate any unnecessary risks. One of their concerns, according to Annisette is management’s failure to heed the prime minister’s instruction to the public service to implement a rotation policy.

According to the general secretary, “The board and management of PTSC says we are not concerned with what the PM says because we are not public servants, we are a statutory board.”

Furthermore, he called for PTSC to reinstate temperature checks for passengers as he noted this is done by even small businesses as an additional layer of protection.

Meanwhile, Calleand Quarles, Port-of-Spain North Branch President of the Transport Industrial Workers Union told the media there was growing anxiety among them.

This as she indicated, “We have at least two positive cases at PTSC and you’re hearing about cases here and cases there… at our depot you not seeing them closing down the area to sanitise.”

She added, “Even the guy who tested positive, he was around us for a period of time and he didn’t know until he went for himself.”

First vice-president of TIWU, Paul Smith emphasised that the workers took no pleasure in taking protest action but, “we only get results when we take this type of necessary action to embarrass the management.”

PTSC issued a statement shortly after the union’s press conference yesterday saying the union had misrepresented its response to COVID-19.

PTSC assured that all protocols in place are in compliance with the requirements of the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization. These protocols it went on to say have been agreed to by the union. The company said it continues to provide the PPE to those workers in need. Additionally, the company assured all buses are sanitised after every trip, which exceeds international standards where other bus companies usually sanitise their fleet once per day. As a new measure for persons entering at bus stops along routes, the PTSC stated it will be installing hand sanitiser dispensers on all buses.