The T&TEC compound on Castries Street in Scarborough, Tobago.

Camille McEachnie

Workers at the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission’s (TTEC) Tobago branch are calling on their Trinidad managers to rethink the transfer of a senior south-based supervisor to Tobago, as they fear he will fuel long-standing racial tensions affecting the delivery of services to Tobago’s customers.

The supervisor is scheduled to begin work today (March 8).

But the Tobago workers want nothing to do with him due to his alleged racist behaviour.

In fact, they allege two supervisors from TTEC’s South division are of similar ilk. One of them allegedly made racists remarks for which he was suspended while the other allegedly left a work-related WhatsApp chat, after making racist remarks soon after his colleague’s suspension.

Guardian Media has seen a copy of the chat. It read: “Cuzzo… a n**** moving out of our apartment cause he can’t pay his rent.” Five minutes later, the T&TEC supervisor wrote: “Sme1 had my phone…my humblest apology….”

The rest of the chat will not be used by this newspaper due to its offensive content.

In a March 4, 2021 letter, the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union wrote to T&TEC acting Area Manager Distribution North Wendell Bhaginath objecting to the supervisor’s transfer to North Trinidad and highlighting the alleged racist behaviour.

“It is alleged that an employee in the position of Senior Supervisor … is carded to transfer to Distribution North (Port-of-Spain) pending the completion of a suspension that he received for his continuous expression of racist remarks in reference to fellow employees of Afro-Trinbago ethnicity,” the OWTU wrote in the letter.

The union said given the history of the supervisor’s history of behaviour and nature of the northern population, the supervisor was “not a good fit for the Area’s mandate for integrity, exemplary conduct, professionalism and respect.” They alleged he had a history of similar behaviour.

OWTU Port-of-Spain’s branch president Kevin Julien yesterday verified the authenticity of the document but refused to comment further on the issue.

Guardian Media understands Tobago employees are expressing concerns about the other South supervisor who exited the internal WhatsApp chat.

“We do not want (supervisor named) to come to Tobago as the area is peaceful and we do not want any discrimination. This racial tension going on too long,” Tobago’s OWTU’s shop steward Bainet Hamlet told Guardian Media.

He said TTEC’s management needs to come clean on their motives for the supervisor.

History of tension

Guardian Media saw a copy of an internal document itemizing racial tensions over the past years in Tobago.

As recently as August 2020, a supervisor wrote top management alleging one ethnic group was “refusing” to work with the other.

The complainant said he had written two similar reports on the issue. However, he said he got “no feedback, and the items are unattended.”

He said because of the ethnic strife, the re-estimate of street light jobs and damaged appliances reports from March (year not included) were not addressed.

He claimed someone at the company was also not telling the truth about the issue.

“The picture being painted is not what actually exists, and there needs to be intervention…,” the supervisor wrote.

Guardian Media contacted TTEC acting general manager Kelvin Ramsook for comment on the situation yesterday. However, he said “there is no documented evidence” to suggest the South senior supervisor who is headed to Tobago is involved in any racist behaviour towards his co-workers.

“Let me make it categorically clear, the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission in no way supports anyone … with negative racial overtones. This is an equal opportunity company,” Ramsook stressed.

He said the Tobago supervisor was sent for training and a vacancy was created.