We want 30%
By SASHA HARRINANAN Saturday, October 6 2012
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PROTEST: Workers from the Solid Waste Management Company (SWMCOL) protest yesterday outside the company's Port-of-Spain offices over stalled wage nego...
WORKERS at the Trinidad and Tobago Solid Waste Management Company (SWMCOL) yesterday staged the third protest of the week, to highlight their frustration over stalled wage negotiations to cover the period January 1, 2008- December 31, 2010.
Shortly after 3 pm, about two dozen SWMCOL employees began chanting, “we want we money right now”, while walking in a circle — some with placards — outside the company’s headquarters at 34 Independence Square, Port-of-Spain.
There are approximately 140 daily-paid workers at SWMCOL, of which 106 belong to the Industrial, General and Sanitation Workers’ Union (IGSWU). Speaking during the protest, union president Robert Benacia said workers no longer trust SWMCOL’s negotiating team, after learning some shocking information on Thursday.
“In July we met and agreed on non-cost items but the Human Resources Manager Khari Murray and the Industrial Relations Consultant Anthony Inniss, told us they couldn’t negotiate salaries because the CPO (Chief Personnel Officer) hadn’t advised SWMCOL on a percentage increase,” Benacia said.
Benacia told Newsday after three months of, “waiting in vain”, workers decided to protest. Last Monday afternoon, they protested outside the gates to the Beetham landfill off the Beetham Highway.
Then on Thursday, union members marched outside the CPO’s office on St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain at which time Benacia said IGSWU was “reliably informed” that CPO Stephanie Lewis had not received any documents from SWMCOL regarding daily-paid workers.
The State agency’s daily-paid workers have asked for a 30 percent salary increase for the 2008 - 2010 collective bargaining period at a rate of ten percent per year. The union boss said this was a reasonable figure.
“We are the lowest paid in our field, and even with a 30 percent increase,” Benacia declared, “we would still be earning less than our colleagues in the Port-of-Spain City Corporation.”
“Welders and fabricators are paid $173/day while other welders get $300 - $400 a day. SWMCOL crane operators; the people who operate the machines that lift those large bins, they get $146/day compared to $300/day elsewhere. That’s why we’re asking for a 30 percent increase,” Benacia said.
The union leader also told Newsday that last Monday’s protest gained the attention of a director on SWMCOL’s Board. “At first, the director said he thought we were asking for too much but when I broke down the wage differential for him, the director expressed shock at how little we currently earn,” Benacia claimed.
Benacia said he wrote on August 16, to SWMCOL chairman Suruj Baboolal, asking for a meeting to discuss 12 outstanding issues including “the poor and hazardous working conditions at all sites in TT.”
Benacia told Newsday this included a lack of/sub-standard bathroom facilities at SWMCOL’s landfills, which he said management moved to rectify once they were in receipt of his letter.
“Management moved fast, hiring contractors to fix/install proper bathrooms, lockers and to extend workshop space at the landfills and other work sites. I think they did this to avoid having to admit there were ever any health and safety issues.”
Expressing disappointment in the lack of progress following the March 2011 appointment of a new SWMCOL Board, Benacia said workers have been taken advantage of for too long.