The Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC) says it has no choice but to bring all its employees back out to work. In a press release issued this afternoon, TTEC stated that critical maintenance work had been deferred which can lead to widespread outages. The following is a press release from T&TEC:

As an essential service provider, the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC) has a responsibility to continue to serve the public throughout the Covid-19 pandemic in Trinidad and Tobago. In an effort to safeguard employees and members of the public, the Commission instituted several measures to reduce the risk of the spread of the virus.

These included significant infrastructural upgrades to create physical distancing; the implementation of new and revised health and safety policies; the provision of necessary PPE for all employees and the implementation of a rigorous sanitization schedule in all buildings.

Additionally, the Commission worked with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Public Utilities to host several internal vaccination drives. A system for the rotation of field and office workers and the staggering of arrival and departure times was also introduced. While T&TEC has made every effort to provide the public with a reliable supply of electricity with staff on rotation, this is untenable in the long term and has started to impact on reliability.

Unfortunately, maintenance work cannot be deferred indefinitely as this will eventually manifest as a major problem such as a significant wide-spread outage. In order to complete deferred critical maintenance work on the grid and ensure that reliability continues over the coming months, T&TEC has decided that all office employees will return to work on August 3rd and all field employees on August 5th.

The return was in fact delayed by one week based on a request by the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU), at a prior meeting to discuss the full resumption of work It is regrettable that the OWTU would choose to resort to fear mongering among the public with imagined instances of a super spreader site developing and the possibility of employees taking the virus to customers. The Commission has established, since April 2020, guidelines for employees to eliminate interaction with members of the public on the field. Guidelines are also in place to govern how crews work together safely, to minimize their risk of exposure.

Since May, T&TEC has organized six vaccination drives for employees. Only 30% of employees have taken up this opportunity. Some employees have also been vaccinated outside of the Commission’s efforts. We continue to dialogue with the OWTU to encourage its members to take all opportunities available to get vaccinated, as it is proven that vaccinated persons are better protected from the worse effects of the virus.

T&TEC remains ever mindful of the safety of its employees and its customers and will continue to do all that is necessary to ensure that it can provide a high quality, safe and reliable supply of electricity to the public, while reducing the spread of Covid-19.