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Port police threaten industrial action
The Port Authority of T&T (Patt) has been warned that it could face a possible blacklisting by US authorities if they fail to settle outstanding salary arrears for port police before the end of this month.
The US Coast Guard is due to return to T&T some time in June to carry out a final inspection of the security operations of the Patt.
With 244 officers at port in both Trinidad and Tobago, if T&T's operations are found to be lacking in any way, a senior official of the Port Authority Estate Police Association said, "The Port Authority will be given a failing grade and this could lead to T&T being blacklisted, resulting in all US-registered ships being advised not to come here to transact business."
This, he claimed, would lead to a decline in local employment as well as further cripple the foreign exchange situation.
US officials visited the country one year ago and made certain recommendations for general security improvements at the Patt. This was confirmed by the Patt on Friday. However, the authority was unable to say when the US Coast Guard would arrive in the country. The Patt, however, has never before been blacklisted.
Association officials advised, "We are saying to the Patt to take care of the officers in their employ because enough is enough. When people can't take any more and begin to feel oppressed, they will start to fight back."
Hoping to use the upcoming visit by the US authorities as leverage to propel Government to settle the period 2011 to 2014, the association hinted that it may not be smooth sailing ahead.
One officer said "Just like we have helped both the public and the Patt to navigate the rough seas between T&T safely, we can also make sure that no sailings take place. It's their choice."
But as another association officer explained, "None of the vessels that sail between T&T can do that if our officers do not report for work. We are responsible for ensuring the safety and security at the Patt including all buildings and ships owned by or leased by the Patt so the Cabo Star can't sail if there is no security on board."
Stating that they were frustrated with the "run around" by the ministries of Finance and Works and Transport, the association added that the 244 officers awaiting payment continued to struggle with their monthly commitments.
They association said they had been accommodating through the Christmas, Carnival and Easter holidays, but the officers' patience is running out.
The last meeting of the Cabinet-appointed Human Resource Advisory Committee chaired by Finance Minister Colm Imbert took place on May 18, following which the Patt Board reported to the association that two additional documents had been requested.
The association said officers are owed over $2 million in arrears for 2011-2014, and they had not even begun negotiations for the periods 2014 to 2017 and for 2017 to 2020.
Patt did not respond to an email sent on Friday.
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