15 February 2012

OWTU looking to ‘make mas’?  “An ultimatum to the company to find an amicable solution” might be the oxymoron of 2012 thus far.

Panic buying as OWTU serves strike notice on Petrotrin Union demands 75%; company sticks to 5%

“Forget Carnival; we will have a longer Carnival. You will get to play mas another time; you have to first see about your business.”

This was the message delivered yesterday to workers of State-owned Petrotrin by Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) president general Ancel Roget after he delivered an ultimatum to the company to find an amicable solution to salary negotiations or brace for strike action by Saturday.
Roget yesterday delivered a formal strike notice to the company, following the breakdown in negotiations.
The notice stated that upon the breakdown of the conciliation exercise between both parties, the workers intend to take strike action from February 18.
Roget announced the union’s intention at Petrotrin’s Pointe-a-Pierre refinery where he instructed a strike camp to be immediately erected near the entrance to house workers for possibly the next 90 days.
Roget, accompanied by several OWTU members, marched into the company’s administration building and handed the letter to Petrotrin president Kenneth Allum at around 10 a.m.
He said the strike included workers from the company’s operations in Pointe-a-Pierre, Trinmar, Fyzabad, Palo Seco, Penal, Moruga and Guayaguayare.
“The collective agreement provides for some 96 hours for the employer to take down plants and machinery safely. Plants are not of the nature that they can just shut down; you have to systematically bring them down for safety. The wells and offshore facilities, the compression and pumping need to be taken off once they determine that they cannot run these facilities in the absence of the workers,” he said.
Roget said the company was trying to convince the motoring public that plans were in place to ensure an efficient supply of petroleum products.
“The claim that they would be able to man these facilities, continue to produce products for the motoring public in Trinidad and continue to supply foreign markets for the next three months is a lie,” he said.
Roget said Allum should be fired for telling the public the strike would not affect the company’s production.
“From the moment you see long lines at the gas stations, and from the moment the public begins to suffer inconvenience as a result of bad management there and bad governance at the level of the country, somebody should be accountable for that,” he said.
Roget said no worker—permanent, temporary, casual or contract— would be penalised for participating in the strike. And he warned contract workers that they would be used as “scab labour” and paid below minimum rate.
“We are in battle for all workers, so you are expected to be outside with us for the next few weeks,” he said.
He accused the company of feeding Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Minister of Energy Kevin Ramnarine false information and making them believe contingency plans were in place.
The union and company were expected to meet Minister of Labour and Small and Micro-Enterprise Development Errol McLeod last evening.
Roget said: “We are attending the meeting because we want to be fair. There is still a window for opportunity as long as the offer is decent. This strike can end the first day or first week. But you must be prepared for the long haul,” he said.
The strike is expected to begin on Saturday at 10 a.m.

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