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June 21, 2023
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June 21, 2023

A look at labour

The death of Massy Energy Solutions Limited (MEES) employee Allan Lane Ramkissoon has again brought into focus the need for a review of the Occupational Health and Safety Act to protect workers in the industrial sector, to ensure that employers provide adequate health and safety equipment on the job site. What are they doing to ensure compliance with the health and safety act?

Ramkissoon, who was assigned to Niquan Energy Trinidad’s Pointe-a-Pierre plant, was said to be working June 15 at the facility and encountered a process leak. Naphtha, a flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture, is said to have sprayed onto Ramkissoon and while it is not clear how it happened; he was set on fire.

Media reports are that he was told to jump by unnamed person(s), and they will catch him. He did but they failed to catch him, and he fell to the floor sustaining further injuries. Ramkissoon died on Sunday, June 18.

Last year four divers of LMCS Limited lost their lives in another industrial incident at Heritage Limited in Pointe-a-Pierre. More than a year later and months after a public inquiry, the families and country still wait to find out what caused the fatal accident and the person(s) that will be held to account.

Both industrial accidents should send a clear signal to the authorities that more needs to be done to protect the lives of workers.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus says every human life is precious. “Why every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.”

Investigations into these fatal deaths are welcomed to get to the bottom of what went wrong, but how many more workers must die before companies operating in the high-risk energy sector must do everything possible to ensure the safety of workers?

The facts, we hope, will come after the investigation which, God forbid, would not take as long as the divers’ tragedy.

While issues of health and safety continue to affect workers, labour leaders were highlighting other issues affecting the working class.

On Monday, June 19 as the country celebrated Labour Day, the unions lobbied for an increase in the current $17.50 minimum wage to $30 an hour. The last time there was an increase in the minimum wage was in 2019; in the meantime the cost of living continues to rise.

President of the Joint Trade Union Movement Ancil Roget lobbied workers to stand with the trade union movement saying, “For this Government, it is a good thing to pay you menial wages, but at the same time pay a chief executive officer in Heritage (Petroleum Company) over $180,000 a month, and that is even without perks.”

Workers always seem to get shafted, but it is up to labour leaders to lobby and ensure that those in authority do what needs to be done and not just raise issues on the labour platform without follow through.

The closure of Petrotrin five years later continues to place an onerous burden on this country. Did labour do enough to stand up to the State and fight for the refinery and the thousands of workers?

While Roget says he has rejected the four per cent offer to UWI workers, most trade unions have accepted four per cent from the Chief Personnel Officer on behalf of their membership.

Labour leaders have done themselves a disservice and if today, they are viewed askew by the majority of workers, it is their own fault. It is time they look within to determine why.

Photo by Pixabay