However, in an emailed response, Minister of Energy and La Brea MP, Nicole Olivierre, urged both workers and company officials to engage in a “peaceful discussion” to resolve the issue. “I am aware that the workers at Tofco have stopped work in protest of HSE issues at the company.
I sympathise with the workers. However, I consider this to be an industrial relations issue between the workers and the company,” Olivierre stated.
“I understand that in the past, workers have made similar claims and the OSH Authorities have conducted investigations.
I am also aware that the company sources 31 percent of its labour force from the community. I certainly want to urge both the workers and the company to sit down and have a peaceful discussion to resolve their issues,” she added.
Under brilliant sunshine and the watchful eyes of police officers yesterday morning, workers carrying placards, some of which read “TOFCO refuse to buy proper PPE for workers”, engaged in a noisy demonstration to highlight their issues.
Workers’ representative, Clyde Charles, who is employed as a welder, described health and safety at the company as “poor” saying there were approximately five shock incidents on the Juniper project.
He said severe shock incidents occur from poor grounding of the shock welds, and which can cause serious injury to welders.
“We have five shock incidents so far, we have indiscriminate sand-blasting being done, there was a contractor on the port on Saturday that had to shut down their operations because of the sand-blasting that was being emitted from this yard,” Charles said, adding, “In the night we have issues where workers working here, there is poor lighting, and also cranes being operated with no light on them.” “There was also an incident where a pin fell out from a crane and hit a guy in his head, and knocked him out. He had to be off of the job for awhile,” he added.
Asked why the workers engaged in that particular action yesterday, Charles said, “in light of the present economic situation, we work on meagre wages, and if today or tomorrow, one of us get damaged due to the hazardous conditions, for example the sand blasting operations is silicon-based, which is a cancer causing agent, when we leave this job we basically wouldn’t have enough to see about ourselves, so we need to see about our health and safety, that is paramount.” “This is not about money, we not fighting about money,” Charles said, and pointed out that the workers were attempting to obtain representation by a trade union as the company was also attempting to get workers sign three months contracts.
Workers are also fearful of a repeat of an incident which alleged occured in 2015 an involved the electrocution of two workers at the facility.