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TRINIDAD | Court grants OWTU injunction to keep PETROTRIN open, Gov't seeks funding

Featured OWTU president general Ancel Roget and jubilant union members outside the Industrial Court after ruling OWTU president general Ancel Roget and jubilant union members outside the Industrial Court after ruling
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, October 8, 2018 - Trinidad and Tobago's Industrial Court on Monday granted the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) an injunction against the state owned oil company Petrotrin, restricting any further termination of employees and even the issuance of voluntary separation letters.

President General of the OWTU Ancel Roget, welcomed the decision of the Industrial Court in granting an injunction preventing the closure of  PETROTRIN, and the dismissal thousands of workers.

President of the Industrial Court Deborah Thomas-Felix who granted the union its injunction against the company, restricted the further termination of employees and the issuance of voluntary separation letters. The injunction will remain in effect until the issue of the closure of Petrotrin is fully ventilated in the court or if the company successfully appeals the decision.

Last Tuesday, Roget along with attorney Douglas Mendes, SC, representing the OWTU, filed the injunction after he alleged that Petrotrin violated the collective bargaining agreement by refusing to hold discussions with the union.

Roget OWTU 460
OWTU president general Ancel Roget and jubilant union members outside the Industrial Court in Port-Of-Spain, Trinidad, after the ruling.

Speaking with reporters outside the Industrial Court, Roget said he was satisfied with the court's ruling and described it as "pure justice".

He also accused Petrotrin of using "scare tactics" as it attempted to defend its decision to close the refinery by describing it's position as insolvent, and said he was pleased with Thomas-Felix's decision to dismiss Petrotrin’s attorney Senior Counsel Reginald Armour's application to stay the ruling.

"The court would have granted injunctive relief to protect the workers simply because the board of the company, supported by the Cabinet, was simply breaking the law. The company has been ordered to stay its hand. The board has no regard for justice, fair-play or the law,"Roget told reporters after the ruling.

"Petrotrin ought not to go ahead and hand out termination letters, it is clear contempt and we have not heard the Minister of Labour, and she ought to be the first one to come out and urge the company to hold its hand. There can be absolutely no justification for breaking the law," he said.

But in an immediate response, Senior Counsel Reginald Armour said that the company would be filing an appeal in the Appeal Court on Tuesday.

Roget said the ruling was against the “high hand of abuse” insisting that the company and the Keith Rowley government were “simply breaking the law”.

“The Industrial Court would have delivered justice for the workers and for our judicial system. They are breaking the law. The government, the Cabinet, the board they are all breaking the law and there can be absolutely no justification anywhere for breaking the law,” he told reporters.

The company, which is said to be losing an estimated two billion dollars annually, had already started issuing termination and voluntary separation employment package (VSEP) letters to the workers, but the ruling now means that this would have to be put on hold pending the outcome of the substantive motion.

The OWTU said it had filed the injunction preventing the company from sending home its workers, accusing it of breaching an industrial relations offence outlined in the April 3, 2018, Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that outlined restructuring the company over an 18-month period and to form a working committee.

The union said that the MOA also paved the way for PETROTRIN to be divided into four entities and that the committee would address, resolve and agree on the four organisational structures, work processes, skills, competencies and manpower requirements which would make the company internationally competitive and ensure its survival, sustainability and profitability.

Both parties also agreed to a timetable for meetings starting in April 2018 with the enhancement of operational efficiencies, reduction of waste and the promotion of the company’s business.

Roget said that the ruling has given the union even more confidence that the company could be saved.

“We have always been confident that the company can be saved. Look we have a proposal before them to lease the entire company,” he said.

 

Last modified onTuesday, 09 October 2018 00:12

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