CARIRI, OSHA to probe lab conditions
Thursday, October 25 2012
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Workers protest: CARIRI workers clamour for better salaries and working conditions during a protest outside their building at UWI, St Augustine yester...
Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) and Occupational Safety and Health Authority (OSHA) officials are to meet today to choose a team to investigate complaints about unsafe conditions at CARIRI’s main building in St Augustine.
“Once the team is chosen, full investigations will commence,” Wesley Francis, BIGWU assistant labour relations/health and safety officer, disclosed yesterday, after a second protest by CARIRI workers.
Francis said a meeting took place last Tuesday with Chief OSHA inspector Gaekwad Ramoutar and his team, the union branch executive and CARIRI management, and it was decided that they would meet again today to chose an investigative team.
CARIRI workers are currently staying in their staff room until investigations are completed. As such, work that was being done in the printing room, petroleum, chemistry lab, calibration and material labs has stopped.
Workers yesterday staged a second protest over poor working conditions and pending wage negotiations, and attempted to get the attention of CARIRI’s board members who were scheduled to have a meeting at its compound.
“This protest is to highlight to the board in a visual way, the problems of health issues and wage negotiations in CARIRI,” said Gerald Herreira, Banking Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU) branch president.
The workers have complained of poor indoor air quality, exposure to dangerous gases and vapours, work areas high in carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide, an inefficient air conditioning system, the growth of mould and fungus at CARIRI’s building.
Herreira said workers wanted the board to address their issues quickly, adding a letter was sent to the directors a few months ago informing them of their concerns.
He claimed the board only acknowledged their issues and no action was taken.
In response, Liaquat Shah, CEO of CARIRI, told Newsday the management was addressing the workers’ concerns about the conditions of their working environment.
“We have absolutely no problem working with workers to solve these problems. We are doing things to make sure they have a safe and healthy work environment,” said Shah. He added, “this protest that came about gives the appearance that CARIRI is not doing anything, but in fact, we are doing a lot.”
Professor Clement Sankat, principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine campus, where CARIRI is housed, said although the institute is not part of the university he was concerned about the health issues raised by the workers.
OSHA officials visited CARIRI after the first protest last Thursday.