Threat of industrial action by lifeguards concerns Secretary of Tourism

THA Secretary of Tourism and Transportation Oswald Williams is both concerned and baffled by the threat of industrial action by lifeguard in Tobago over the Carnival weekend.

Speaking at the post executive media briefing on Wednesday (2nd March 2011), Williams said: “I just want to make an appeal to them (the lifeguards) because we are concerned about the safety of bathers on our beaches. Over the weekend, traffic on our beaches increases and therefore the risk of not having the service at that time increases significantly.”

The Secretary said he as well as other top officials at the Division had visited all lifeguard posts last year and had been constantly engaged in talks with the lifeguards since May/June 2010. Admitting that there had been challenges and no overnight fixes to issues, Williams noted that the Tobago House of Assembly had already been able to provide infrastructural upgrade to several lifeguard facilities.

“We have early last year opened a brand new facility at King’s Bay for the lifeguards; there is also a new tower that was built for the lifeguards at King’s Bay and there is a new tower at Pigeon Point. At the facility which we opened last year at Bloody Bay there is accommodation for the lifeguards including a new tower and of course at those new facilities at Buccoo there is accommodation for lifeguards.

He said further to that the Administrator of the Division had in a meeting on February 1, 2011 promised that staff was working on computing the overtime and the arrears that were due to lifeguards and that those payments will be made this month. “We’ve just entered March and I am sure that that process is well in train”, Williams said.

He said the Division was committed to further talks on others issues raised by the lifeguards and noted that some had already been addressed.  Williams said the THA had discussions with the Management and Board of Pigeon Point for the construction of a building to house the lifeguards. He said the Assembly agreed to provide a sub-divided duplex building which will also accommodate the lifeguards and staff of Pigeon Point as well. “That agreement went further than just talk because a design was provided by the Division of Infrastructure and Public Utilities for that. It came to us but when we looked at it and after discussions and coming out of the discussions in June/July last year we recognised that there was no provision to house their equipment so we would have sent it back and asked them to please include that.”

In terms of a lifeguard tower at Buccoo, there is a matter of finding the right spot because he was informed that the land at the beachfront do not belong to the State. Williams said the issue of increasing the lifeguard complement on the island will be a matter for Cabinet, but the appeal from the THA for the increase could only be done after an evaluation, audit and projection of the entire system.

“We are making efforts to continue to upgrade the facilities that are available to them and we really wish that the conversation and the service are not disrupted in a way that puts the bathing public at risk,” Williams appealed.

Meanwhile the Secretary announced that he as well as the Director of Tourism Warren Solomon, Transportation Coordinator Samuel Henry and Tourism Development Officer II  Vern Jack-Adams will attend the  International Tourism Bourse (ITB), (the world’s largest travel trade show), in Germany from March 9 to 13. He said this show as well as the Sea Trade Convention in Miami scheduled for March 14 to 17 at which Tobago will also be represented, allow for various stakeholders in tourism and travel to meet to discuss and share information, cement arrangements and negotiate.

Williams said the significant success in increasing cruise ship visits to Tobago in recent times was a direct result of the Division’s participation in trade shows. He announced that recently the Assembly had successfully negotiated to have two additional cruise liners visit Tobago, one to begin from the 2011 -2012 season.

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