President of Estate Police Association Deryck Richardson speaks at a press conference at the association’s office in Marabella on Thursday. – Marvin Hamilton
THE Estate Police Association is concerned that the dismissal of 33 of its officers as part of planned retrenchment at state-owned Telecommunications Services of TT (TSTT) could be the start of a process that could see the removal of estate police officers from other state-owned companies in the near future.
Association president Deryck Richardson expressed this concern at a news conference at the association’s office in Marabella on Thursday.
“I am sounding a warning.”
On Tuesday, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) secured an injuction from the Industrial Court to stop TSTT from retrenching over 400 workers represented by that union for 14 days. Estate police officers are classified as essential service workers by law and cannot approach the court directly if they are threatened with retrenchment.
Richardson said the association’s lawyers have approached the Labour Ministry to file a dispute. Once approved by the ministry, the association will be able to approach the court on behalf of its 33 officers at TSTT.
Since February 1, there were virtual meetings between the association and TSTT about the company’s restructuring.
Richardson said, at that meeting, there was no mention by TSTT about where estate police officers would fit into a restructured TSTT.
“Curiously we were told that it will come (a role for estate police in a new TSTT). So they can’t be serious.”
The association wrote letters to TSTT seeking further clarification on what restructuring meant for estate police officers employed at the company.
Richardson said the company later told the association “the estate police at TSTT will be surplus to the requirements in the restructure.” This meant there will no more estate police officers at the company.
He said the 33 officers at TSTT took the news hard. “People are distraught.”
Who will perform the officers former role to secure TSTT’s facilities? Richardson said TSTT told them it would be done by electronic security. But the association wanted to know how would such systems be reinforced physically.
Recalling that private security firms provided supporting roles to estate police officers at TSTT, Richardson claimed those firms would now assume the officers’ duties. He claimed that Amalgamated Security Services Ltd seemed to be the preferred entity in that regard.
Richardson also recalled that TSTT did a retrenchment exercise in 2018. Fearing for their jobs, he continued, estate police officers accepted a zero-zero-zero offer from the company. Noting recent concerns over a proposal advanced by the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) to public servants in their negotiations, Richards said 2018 showed that accepting such a proposal is no guarantee that workers would not be retrenched.
The CPO’s offer was a two per cent salary increase for hourly-, daily- and weekly-rated workers of the Central Government, the Tobago House of Assembly and municipal corporations over an eight-year period spanning 2014 and 2021
Richardson advised estate police officers at the TT Electricity Commission (T&TEC) and the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) to pay close attention to events at TSTT. He said estate police officers also played a key role in recent efforts by the police to curb TSTT copper cable theft.
While TSTT is switching from copper to fiber optic, Richardson claimed private security officers could not tell the difference between the two.