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posted 4 May 2015, 21:31 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 4 May 2015, 21:37 ]





The National Workers Union (NWU) calls upon the National Infrastructure Development Company (NIDCO), the Ministry of National Security and the Licensing Authority to explain why NIDCO is allowing OAS Construtora, the Brazilian firm building the Point Fortin Highway, to import hundreds of South American workers to operate as truck drivers, excavator operators, graders and even to do masonry and carpentry.

Migrant workers just out of the maxi taxis at Golconda

Not only are these workers doing jobs that citizens of T&T have been doing for decades, but are, in fact, displacing nationals of this country. These workers, from all reports, hail from Brazil, Bolivia and Venezuela.ot only are these workers doing jobs that citizens of T&T have been doing for decades, but are, in fact, displacing nationals

The National Workers Union reminds the country that OAS Construtora is deeply involved in the corruption scandal in Brazil where in a massive money laundering scandal at Petrobras, Brazil’s state run Oil Company. OAS overpriced construction projects on Petrobras refineries and bribed politicians to get state construction contracts.

Several OAS executives were arrested when Brazilian police raided OAS headquarters in São Paulo last year including the head of its main construction division. In November last year José Adelmário Pinheiro Filho, president of OAS, was arrested and was only released under conditions of house arrest a few days ago. 

The company, which has been suspended from bidding for government contracts has found it difficult to refinance debt and borrow new cash, has failed to pay interest on hundreds of millions of dollars of global bonds and other debt instruments. The company has filed for bankruptcy in the Brazilian courts.

Fitch, the rating firm, has cut OAS rating to C, meaning that its bonds are now considered junk bonds and have stated that OAS and its subsidiaries are likely to default on their debt in the near future.

OAS has been building a subway system in São Paulo since the mid 2000s. Nearly ten years on less than 13% of the project has been completed. It one of the construction teams building the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, the largest water power project in the world, and the cost overrun on that dam run into billions.

This is the company that the government has folded to its bosom to undertake the largest infrastructural project in the country’s history – a company deeply mired in money laundering, graft and corruption and infamous for massive cost overruns on its megaprojects. The relationship between OAS and the government of T&T seems to be birds of a feather sticking together.

Carson Charles, the president of NIDCO, has been cited in the media as saying the South American workers, a further one hundred and fifty of whom arrived on the Golconda camp on Saturday, were brought in because of a labour shortage in critical areas. So, all of a sudden citizen of T&T no longer drive Heavy T vehicles, are unable to operate construction equipment, to do masonry, carpentry and steel bending. Mr. Charles must explain why the sudden influx of hundreds of these workers.

He must reveal what are the conditions to which these workers are subjected; how does their remuneration compare to that of locals doing the same job; how much does it cost to house them; where are they housed; why are locals being forced to train them; whether nationals are being terminated in favour of these workers?

Carson Charles has a duty to answer these questions because more than seven billion dollars in public funds are being expended on this controversial project and it is the right of citizens to know how their money is being spent, particularly when there is a suspicion that some of it is being routed into the pockets of migrant workers who may be the unwitting pawns in a massive money laundering scheme, given the history of OAS Construtora and the well-known venality of our eat-a-food politicians.

The National Workers Union calls upon the Ministry of National Security to explain why these workers have been granted work permits, as Carson Charles claims; what are the conditions governing the granting of these permits and what is the time frame for which these work permits are valid? If they have not been granted work permits why are they being allowed to work in T&T to the detriment of local workers?

The National Workers Union calls upon the Licensing Authority to say whether the South American truck drivers and heavy equipment operators have been granted licenses to operate equipment in T&T; if they have not been so granted what is the Authority doing about the situation? The Authority must say whether they are aware of any of these workers being involved in an accident and whose “permit” was in Spanish.

The National Workers Union calls upon the government to say whether this influx of South American workers onto the Point Fortin Highway project is to ensure that the Debe to Mon Desir section of the highway is completed before the elections are held.


Gerry Kangalee (National Education and Research Officer.  Cell: 785-7637)