Trinidadian cruise ship workers currently being quarantined on the Enchantment of the Seas are pleased with the Government’s solution which finally allowed them to take their second COVID-19 tests yesterday.
“We are happy that we are on the final leg of this arduous journey,” one national told Guardian Media yesterday, hours after 295 of them were tested at the Cruise Ship Complex in Port-of-Spain.
The tests were initially staged for Tuesday but protest action by port workers seeking wage increases and better working conditions prevented the process.
But even as the workers continued to press their concerns yesterday, Ministry of Health officials were able to conduct the tests after the vessel docked at the Port of Port-of-Spain just after 3 pm. Health officials who carried out the testing arrived in shuttles and in their own vehicles and the entire process was completed without any issues.
The cruise workers quarantine period aboard the vessel is scheduled to end tomorrow. If none of them tests positive from yesterday’s sampling, they could be home on the weekend. Six of their compatriots tested positive after they returned and were first tested on June 14.
Speaking as the tests were being conducted, Seamen and Waterfront Workers’ Trade Union president general Michael Annisette denied the protest action was timed to interfere with the testing, saying the workers’ cry started long before COVID-19. He said all they wanted was for the Government to implement salary increases that were already legally negotiated.
“Workers are dissatisfied. It’s not now we have been asking for this,” Annisette said.
Annisette told Guardian Media their protest should not be blamed for the delay in the COVID testing but noted that it showed the importance of port workers’ jobs.
“If you are serious let us think about it, about the COVID and the cruise ship people, won’t you find the time, an hour, to meet with the union,” he said.
“If you know all that and the union made a simple request, are you going to stand up and say Tuesday or nothing.”
Surrounded by port workers who were holding placards and playing instruments, Annisette said they worked through the COVID-19 lockdown to ensure the country kept running.
“While everybody was sleeping the frontline workers who would have ensured that the hospital get all the medication that was coming from foreign,” he said.
He said approximately 1,500-1,700 dock workers had not received salary increases since 2014. Other than that, he said their working conditions were deplorable and unsafe.
“We work miracles,” one protester shouted.
The workers said areas on the port had pigeon infestation and they were working with old machinery and poor lighting.
“We working with machines over 40 years old,” another worker said.