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Workers’ rights violated–claims PSU

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The newly introduced International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) Code is causing contention between the Port Authority, the Public Service Union (PSU).
The issue has to do with recognition of former Port Guards, upgraded to Port Police. On Wednesday the PSU held a press conference to discuss the changes at Port Authority as a result of the implementation of the (ISPS) Code. {{more}}The meeting also looked at how the new measures affected working conditions at the Port Authority.
PSU’s President Harvey Farrell and General Secretary Elvis Abbey alleged that the Port Authority was denying the Port Police officers union membership.
Farrell stated: “They are denying them the right to become members of a union of their choice.”
Farrell said that at a meeting with the Port Guards shortly after the introduction of the ISPS Code, Management of the Port Authority told them that they could no longer be members of the Union because they were police officers.
When asked if the PSU contacted the Port Authority’s Management formally on that claim, Farrell admitted that the Union had not done so and would be doing that.
Farrell pointed out that it was not improper to stage the press conference because, unlike previous occasions when the Port Authority responded to the Union in due time, the relationship was not the same since the introduction of the ISPS Code.
He said traditionally the Public Service Union represented Port Guards. They have since been upgraded to Port Police. The Port Authority’s Act of 1987 provides for security officers like the Police Force. Under that Act, the Port Authority in consultation with the Commissioner of Police appoints the guards. Farrell disclosed that since that Act was established, the Public Service Union had been the bargaining agent for the Port Guards. However, with the introduction of the ISPS Code and the change of name from Port Guard to Port Police, the Port Authority told guards that they could no longer be members of the Union.
“The workers are already unionised so what we’re saying is that this is a blatant disregard on the part of the Port Authority for the workers’ fundamental rights that is guaranteed to them under the constitution,” Farrell said.
Farrell added that while the Port Authority argued that the workers were police officers, the Port Guards were not covered under the Police Act.
“They are still employees of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Port Authority and they are not police in the spirit of the Police Act. It is only a guard force of police style. We are saying while the guards are employed by the Port Authority, they have the right to be represented by a union of their choice.”
Other areas discussed were changing of the shift of the guard force. The new shift is from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. and from 9 p.m. to 7 am. The shifts, said Farrell, are creating difficulties for the workers since they encounter difficulties getting to their homes when they leave work at 9 p.m. Farrell said before the implementation of the ISPS Code, the Port Authority attempted to change the shift system so that they could have the new system in place. But resistance from the Public Service Union put it on hold. “Now that they have introduced the ISPS Code, this has gone through the window.”
Farrell added, unlike the Police who have a barracks, there are no overnight facilities at the Port. He said one of the Port Authority’s arguments why they had to change the shift was to bring it in line with the Police Force.
He further disclosed that there had been a reduction of the lunch period from one hour to half an hour since the introduction of the ISPS.
Farrell said shortage of staff was failing to provide manpower to police the requirements of the ISPS Code. He used the Campden Park Port where on the introduction of the ISPS Code, one officer worked for about 17 hours.
“These are serious problems that need to be addressed and we think that the only way they can be addressed is by having a Union to stand up for the workers,” Farrell went on.
Unlike the action taken to go to the media, Farrell said it would be premature at that time to mention what other actions the union would take. He remained optimistic that the differences could be ironed out.
The PSU is hoping to maintain recognition of 49 Port Police officers.

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