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Trinidad's workers union OWTU file an injunction against Petrotrin in court today




By Richardson Dhalai

Petroleumworld 10 03 2018

WITH weeks before state-owned Petrotrin begins laying off some 5,000 workers, the pending action was yesterday threatened with an injunction, the hearing for which is carded for today in the Industrial Court, Port of Spain.

The Oilfields Workers' Trade Union (OWTU) filed the injunction yesterday and sought an urgent hearing, citing the April 3 memorandum of agreement as the ground on which the union is asking the court to halt Petrotrin's planned retrenchment.

This morning's hearing is scheduled for 10 am. Attorneys representing the OWTU will argue a case for the court to injunct Petrotrin and prevent the company from retrenching the workers.

If the injunction is granted, it will effectively stall government's planned restructuring of Petrotrin into an exploration and production company.

This was reiterated on Monday in Finance Minister's Colm Imbert's 2018-2019 budget, when he bemoaned the $25 billion cash injection from the country's treasury that he said is needed if Petrotrin is to stay afloat in the current scenario. But even so, he said, Petrotrin has to curtail oil refining from raw crude it imports, because it still stands to lose $2 billion yearly.

However, OWTU's injunction hearing today will be based on submissions by a team of attorneys who intend to argue that the union and the company's memorandum of agreement, signed on April 3, provided a framework for co-operation in finding a solution for Petrotrin's viability and profitability. In a media release after the injunction was filed, OWTU said, “We have been complaining that the company has not been meeting and treating in good faith with the union. The Oilfields Workers' Trade Union has also filed an application for an injunction to stop the company from terminating all the workers at the Petroleum Company of TT, pending the hearing of the complaint.”

Accusing Petrotrin of having an agenda to shut down, the release said such a recommendation was never made in the Lashley and Solomon and Associates reports. Both reports, it said, supported the union's position for restructuring the refinery. Imbert had announced that the workers will take home a retirement/retrenchment package amounting to $2.6 billion.

Meanwhile, OWTU will this morning kick off a march from the refinery's Pointe-a-Pierre roundabout into Port of Spain over the next three days. It will be joined by the Joint Trade Union Movement NATUC and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs, and has been advertised as the “mother of all marches.”

OWTU head Ancel Roget will lead workers and well-wishers along the Old Southern Main Road towards Rienzi Complex, Couva. The march is expected to stop at several companies and institutions which are represented by the OWTU: Trinidad Cement Ltd, Claxton Bay; UTT; Point Lisas; YARA Ltd, Point Lisas; and T&TEC.

The workers will assemble at Isaac Junction, Couva, where they will be met by workers represented by the ATGWTU. President general Nirvan Maharaj told Newsday yesterday that the march is reminiscent of the 1975 unification of oil and sugar workers against the government of the day.

He said, “It was a march for bread, peace and justice in 1975 and workers on both sides of the divide, oil and sugar, were actually brutalised by the PNM government at that time.”


Story by Richardson Dhalai from Trinidad & Tobago Newsday 10 03 2018

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