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OWTU's Roget defiant despite Petrotrin termination letter

Newsday

Ancel Roget

By Azard Ali

PORT SPAIN
Petroleumworld 10 23 2018


BY terminating him, they believe they could cut the head in the hope they'll kill the Oilfields Workers' Trade Union (OWTU), said president general Ancel Roget yesterday.

A week ago today, Roget, sitting in his office at OWTU's Circular Street, San Fernando headquarters, had an unwelcome visitor from state-owned Petrotrin. It was a private courier the company has hired to deliver termination packages to staffs. Roget was busy at his desk and the package was left in the office.

Roget told Newsday he did not open it, but suspects it contains his termination letter thanking him for his 17 years of service.

First, he worked at Pointe-a-Pierre and then at Trintomar before he was elected OWTU president general in 2008. Roget had been seconded to the OWTU since he took over leadership from Errol Mc Leod. who became Minister of Labour under the People's Partnership government.

Another OWTU executive member, Richard Lee, was also sent his package on Tuesday. Lee worked in the Fyzabad/Palo Seco oilfields and was also seconded to OWTU as general secretary. A Petrotin official told Newsday yesterday that all of the refinery workers have now been given their termination packages and in the case of those who opted not to collect theirs at the company's Pointe-a-Pierre offices, the company had posted them.

The official commented that the decision to serve Roget with his termination letter was “not aimed as a personal attack on the president of the OWTU."

Confirming his termination, Roget told Newsday, “When you want to destroy something you cut the head off, and that is what Petrotrin attempted to do.

"We are still before the Industrial Court on the issue of the complaint we filed against the company. We had asked Petrotrin to cease the issuance of such letters.

"Instead, they showed their high-handedness by firing the leader of the trade union who brought the complaint.”

The OWTU lost when Petrotrin appealed in the High Court over the Industrial Court (IC's) granting an injunction to stop the company issuing termination letters. However, the court is still to deal with the union's complaint of an industrial offence over Petrotrin's failure to meet and treat with the OWTU before deciding to terminate. Hearing of that matter was fixed for October 30, 31 and November 1.

Two weeks ago, Petrotrin began calling in senior staff and handed them termination packages as the company seeks to shut down refinery operations at Pointe-a-Pierre. This was followed up by refinery workers who are members of the OWTU being called in and handed their packages.

Some 800 such employees have collected their letters thus far. Roget confirmed to Newsday that the company has since posted termination letters to all of the workers.

Roget told Newsday he and Lee did not open their packages, but immediately sent them to Douglas Mendes, SC, who is lead attorney for the OWTU in the complaint before the Industrial Court.

Roget also confirmed that all the unionised workers have received termination letters.

He added, “I can only view this move as an an act of disrespect.

"I want to tell Petrotrin that the OWTU is alive and well. and even if you cut off the head, we have a strong and vibrant membership who continues to stand strong and will be fighting tooth and nail in this battle to save the refinery.”

Petrotrin's chairman Wilfred Espinet was unavailable for comment.

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Story by Azard Ali from Trinidad & Tobago Newsday

newsday.co.tt 10 23 2018


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