The house being used by PRDI staff

The Public Services Association (PSA) is taking the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) to task for placing 15 employees to work in a three-bedroom “office” at Fort King George, Scarborough.

The Policy Research and Development Institute’s (PRDI) employees’ bargaining union deemed the space “inappropriate for commercial use,” thus breaking the OSH Act.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 2004 was amended in 2006. It establishes guidelines to protect workers in the workplace. The act notes that the workplace must be free from hazards and comply with OSH standards, rules and regulations.

In a report on the office space, PSA pointed out to the Assembly that space “has no fire certificate, is crowded (and the) extinguishers need servicing.”

The building, at the bottom of Ottley Street, is located at the end of a street next to a forested area, with one parking space on the property and three on the roadway. It is not a regular route.

Speaking of the general area, PSA told the Assembly” it is lonely and difficult to access without a personal vehicle.”

The union drew attention to the supply of electricity and its effect on workers’ productivity. “The power supply is inadequate and cannot be increased to satisfy the needs of PRDI.” The PSA’s report noted that “storage and lighting are inadequate.”

Employees dissatisfied

Employees who spoke with Tobago Today, on the condition that they are not named, said the space is “highly inadequate.”

“We work on the top level which has three bedrooms and three bathrooms. The bottom level has another bedroom but that is occupied by the unarmed guard on duty,” one employee told Tobago Today.

Another said she is “afraid to work late because of the nearby forest.”

Employees said they are frustrated as they were moved to the house during Carnival 2019.

“Our boss Bobby Andrews, acting on instructions from the then administrator Raye Sandy, came and told us we had two days to move from our Main Street, Scarborough office building,” she said.

She said the Main Street building needed repairs as “windows were falling off, air conditioning units were not working etcetera and it was in a state of general disrepair for years.”

The employee said when the staff was ordered to move, they were required to use their vehicles to transport their office belongings to the new location.

“We were asked to use our vehicles to move from that space and come to the current location. Our union stepped in and prevented that. The works department move us,” she said.

“When some of us visited the new space, we realised that the Infrastructure Department was still doing major work. You could smell paint and debris was all over the place.”

The PRDI is under the direct control of the Office of Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles and is responsible for doing policy research for Tobago.

Reached for a comment on the situation, Charles said: “ The matter is being handled by the Chief Administrator (Bernadette Solomon-Koroma).”

Reporter: Melissa Williams-Sambrano