PORT OF SPAIN – San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello says an investigation will be launched into allegations that members of the Contractors and General Workers’ Trade Union (CGWTU) are demanding sexual favours from women to help them gain employment at the San Fernando City Corporation (SFCC).
However, the union’s president, Ainsley Matthews, says such accusations come with the territory and denies any of his members engage in any such action.
The allegations came to light yesterday as San Fernando mother of three Jovanne Edmunds staged a one-woman protest at City Hall’s doors.
Armed with a placard, Edmund criticised the corporation’s recruitment process for casual labour, saying the union had too much authority over who gets hired. She said while working for the People’s National Movement (PNM) during the 2016 Local Government Elections and the 2015 General Elections, campaigners were promised jobs for their children. Since then, she said her 27-year-old son has only received fortnightly labour twice. She said this was a problem for many young people in her community and if nothing is done, she will take her protest to Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein.
Sympathising with Edmund, a few members of council said the situation between the SFCC and CGWTU is untenable and puts councillors under pressure. Members told the T&T Guardian that when the PNM took over the council, they met a system whereby the union submits a list of names for fortnightly labour, which accounts for 70 per cent of the workforce. The corporation’s administration chooses 20 per cent of the labour while the councillor gets 10 per cent, which usually amounts to one person from their area over scores of unemployed youths.
“The collective agreement is that the union can recommend workers for consideration, but they cannot demand. The union is getting 70 per cent of the employees that come looking for jobs and this is a big racket running in the corporation. This puts councillors under pressure because in Embacadere, Pleasantville, and Marabella, you have a lot of unemployed people looking for jobs. We met a corrupt system in place and this has been going on for years,” council members, who did not want to be identified, said.
“Recently, the union barged in and cuss up the corporation workers. They are using war tactics and a senior union member was cautioned by the police for threats made to a female member of staff.
“A senior member of the union was challenged by an employee for making sexual demands on women looking for jobs. I have had women coming to me crying and can you imagine mothers, who are just looking to feed their children having to give sexual favours for a job? This is wrong.”
Responding to the allegations yesterday, Matthews said the union’s right to make recommendations for employment is included in their collective agreement with the SFCC. He said the union does not intimidate anyone, but does demand dialogue on issues affecting workers. If the dialogue does not happen, they make noise, he said.
“We must look at the vacancies and we demand to see those vacancies. There are some new people in positions and they are not aware of the relationship the union has inculcated with the management. Upon these two people taking office, they wanted to ride roughshod over the union and we are not taking that,” Matthews said.
“We do not threaten anybody, we used industrial language. If they can’t understand good language, we used industrial language.”
However, stressing that the allegations were serious, Regrello said he will have to look into the recruitment practices used by the administration. He said members of the council were the policy makers and do not dictate the administrative functions. He said he met with Edmunds yesterday and one of her sons was able to get employment on Wednesday.