Caridoc worker Jason Mason reads his furlough letter given to him by the company, during a media briefing on Monday in Chaguaramas. Next to him is show steward Huewin Charles. PHOTO BY AYANNA KINSALE –
FURLOUGHED workers at the Caribbean Dockyard and Engineering Services Ltd (Caridoc) are asking for a speedy resolution to their situation after 137 workers were given a 90-day furlough last Tuesday, leaving a skeleton crew of 24 workers and 21 managers at the facility.
A letter sent to the furloughed staff dated May 16, signed by Chief Operations Officer Wayne Beharry, said the reason for the furlough was because the company was in a bad financial position.
“Due to our adverse financial position, owing to the submergence of the Drydock in August 2022, it has become necessary for the Caribbean Dockyard and Engineering Facility (CDESL) to temporarily reduce our workforce.
“As a consequence, you will be placed on furlough (temporary layoff), for a period of 90 days, effective June 1, 2023, with an expected return to work date of August 30, 2023. This period may be shortened based on the business needs of the CDESL.
“During the aforementioned period, you will not be allowed to work without written authorisation from the Human Resource Manager. Similarly, you will not be required to attend work during the period of notice (May 16-May 31).”
The letters were given out following a staff consultation at the UTT Chaguaramas Campus on May 16.
SWWTU shop steward Huewin Charles said workers, especially the older ones, want to know their fate now instead of waiting three months.
“Their concerns are what happens after the 90 days. Some of the workers, about ten of them, are outside the retirement age, with the oldest being about 75. They want to know what their position will be at the end of the three months, whether they will be reinstated, sent home, or if they will be paid off.
“We know the company is in financial difficulties but we know something more could have been done, rather than sending home 137 workers.”
He said the workers found the furlough harsh considering that many have families to provide for.
The workers said they would be writing to the Labour Ministry and line minister Rohan Sinanan and they hope Sinanan would meet with them to address the situation.
Charles said all workers from the blasting and painting, operations centre, fire department, yard support, and docking operations, have been sent home.
“Some workers from steel, occupational safety and health, electrical, mechanical, one person from engineering, four people from commercial, QA/QC manager alone, rigging, and one forklift operator remain.”
Charles said the problems began when the floating dry dock sank on August 27, 2022, but there was work that could be done above sea level.
“Government put out tenders for a new floating dock, but the company on the whole is in a state. There are three or four shipyards on this stretch that are getting work all the time, and we who are one of the first facilities here, not getting any, and none of them have floating docks either. Somebody not doing something right, and the government has to figure that out.”
In January 2022, workers staged a protest to draw attention to the dilapidated conditions of the docks, buildings, and the state of salaries. He noted there was no pension plan in place at the company, and that SWWTU had only been granted permission to represent the workers in 2023.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced on September 10, 2020, that government had acquired Caridoc, which was being managed by state-owned company National Marine and Maintenance Services Company Ltd.
There is now a permanent board headed by Hayden Charles, a director of Solo Beverages and a former director of Clico. Caridoc was under the Finance Ministry before being transferred to the Works and Transport Ministry last December.