OWTU: Workers’ plight ‘modern day slavery’

Roget said intervention was important to ensure the workers were paid their outstanding monies and that they be returned to their native country.

The Chinese workers, who are employed by the Beijin Liujian Construction Corporation Ltd, shot into the national limelight when they attempted to highlight the non-payment of wages and deplorable living conditions. They journeyed to the Chinese Embassy in Port-of-Spain from their camp at Chatee Trace, Cunupia on Tuesday.

The workers, who spoke little English were forced to rely on hand gestures and notes written in both English and Chinese characters to communicate their plight to police and media personnel.

When Newsday revisited the Chatee Trace camp yesterday, accompanied by OWTU officials, the enclosed inner courtyard, was littered with the workers navy blue uniforms. Their gestures and one-word syllables, indicated that they were no longer working for the company.

One worker, asked by Roget what was his monthly salary, was informed, after much scribbling on a sheet of paper and hand gestures to identify month and total monies paid per month, stated that $23,000 was divided between 150 workers each month. This amounted to some $153 per worker, per month.

This was described by Roget as the “worst working conditions that ever existed in modern day Trinidad and Tobago.”

“This is exactly what we were complaining about, and it is not the first time that we had raised the issue of exploitation of the Chinese labour with the Minister of Labour. The Minister of Labour continues to cover up for the exploitation of Chinese labour by Udecott and he continues to hold out as example, the Chinese labour as the way to go in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.

“We are not in support; we were not in support, and we are still not in support of the importation of foreign labour, but to the extent that the exploitation that’s taking place we call for an immediate end to these levels of exploitation, the modern day slavery that has been operating here in Trinidad and Tobago,” he added.

“It is a breach of our labour laws; our labour standards; Occupational Safety and Health Act, a total breach of the international labour organisation’s convention, where workers today in 2009 have to work in squalor; in the worst and most inhumane conditions you can imagine,” he declared.

“We call immediately on the Occupational, Safety and Health Authority (OSHA) to intervene and do their job, and put an immediate end to what has taken place.”

Roget, who also met with two persons, one a translator and another, as a project manager. They claimed that the company had paid all of the workers their outstanding monies.

However, his request to see the rate of pay, the currency paid and the worker’s contract was politely deferred with the translator promising to forward the relevant documents to the union via e-mail.


"OWTU: Workers’ plight ‘modern day slavery’"

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