Eight workers dismissed from the T&T Consulate in New York have written to Ambassador in Washington Neil Parsan and the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) to be reinstated. The T&T Guardian understands that Parsan was compiling a report on the matter. The workers claim a high-ranking official at the consulate in New York “summarily” dismissed them.
“We want our jobs back,” the workers demanded in a letter, dated July 18, to the OWTU. Former security officer Ashton Hosford, in a July 7 letter to Parsan, said he did not feel the official respected him. He said: “There was a post built specifically for security purposes and it was removed when (the official) came...I was given a wooden table and chair.”
He said his life was threatened while on duty at the consulate one day. He recalled: “A national was having a problem with the interviewing officer and wanted to go into the office area that read, ‘No Unauthorised Entry.’ “When I approached him and told him that area was off limits, the problem escalated. He held on to me and we ended up on the floor of the public area.”
He said when the official arrived at the consulate, staff members were told to take all their vacation. He said he was still owed money for work done, and had felt “stressed and intimidated” since the official began working at the consulate. Hosford said he had many financial commitments to meet. “What should I do now, Mr Ambassador?” he asked.
“I need your help, Sir, and I need my job back.” Clerical officer Susan Butcher-David, in her letter to Parsan, said her service was terminated “abruptly and summarily.” She said while she was clearing out her belongings, an official “hovered about as though I was a felon rather than an employee with 12 years of loyal service.”
Butcher-David added: “The shock and uncertainty created by the awkward manner in which this whole matter has been handled has also led to ugly speculation about the motives for this heartless cleansing,” and referred to “worrisome murmurs in the political arena.”
Another former employee with two years’ service told Parsan: “In the last couple of months, the workplace got very tense and workers felt unsettled. “We were told to be kind to our nationals each and every day, but who was kind to us?” she added.
Michael Brathwaite, who had been employed at the consulate since 1989, in various positions, said in his letter that over the past 23 years, he had worked under “many different regimes and have adjusted to suit, but unfortunately I have been very uneasy since the new regime came in.”
He said after being dismissed, he was escorted out of the building as though he was a criminal. The former workers complain of being dismissed after failing an exam they were not prepared for. Charmaine Anderson-Smith, whose job entailed interviewing nationals, data entry and customs services, also expressed concern about having to write the exam.
Anderson-Smith told Parsan: “This has affected my health due to loss of appetite and I am having day/nightmares not knowing how I am going to support myself and my daughter.” New Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran was unavailable for comment when the T&T Guardian tried to reach him yesterday.
Former Foreign Affairs and Communications minister Dr Surujrattan Rambachan said it was not proper for ministers to comment on issues affecting other ministries. Consul General Rudrawatee Nan Ramgoolam said she would comment on the development only after a statement had been issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as it would be a breach of protocol to comment on the matter at this stage.
The dismissed workers are:
Susan Butcher-David—12 years’ service
Angelina Ramlal—seven years
Judy Greaves—five years
Michael Brathwaite—23 years
Ashton Horsford—18 years
Cherylann Etienne—three years
April Sturgeon—nine months
Charmaine Anderson-Smith—seven months.