Lake Asphalt, union meeting ends in stalemate
By Laurel V. Willimas / TT Newsday
Petroleumworld 10 01 2021
The meeting between officials from state-owned Lake Asphalt (LATT) and the Contractors and General Workers Trade Union (CGWTU) ended prematurely on Thursday.
New CGWTU president general Ermine De Bique-Meade said LATT officials could not say when workers would be paid their outstanding wages and salaries, so the meeting was pointless.
She also dismissed the Government's offer of a subvention, as it has not yet materialise, nor have details been made public.
The workers asked the CEO, Roger Wiggins, for a timeline and how payments would be made in light of the release by the Energy and Energy Industries Ministry saying it would give the company a subvention.
De Bique-Meade told Newsday by phone on Thursday afternoon: "We indicated to the CEO that there was no need to continue the meeting. The first thing on the agenda was the outstanding payment of salaries for the workers.
"Since he could not address that, then there was no need to continue the meeting."
De Bique-Meade, former secretary general, was elected over the weekend, becoming the CGWTU’s first female leader.
De Bique-Meade said her predecessor Joseph Phillip also attended the meeting, at the company's plant at Brighton in La Brea.
"Many workers have outstanding payments to financial institutions. One of the burning questions from workers relates to who would be paying their late fees. The company could not answer," De Bique-Meade said.
"We (union and workers) cannot say what the next step is, but there would be steps to come. Workers are very angry about the manner the Government has been treating them."
Apart from the union executive, the meeting was attended by members of LATT branches, including hourly- and weekly- paid junior and senior staffers.
De Bique-Meade said LATT’s team comprised the CEO, finance manager, HR manager and security personnel.
On Tuesday, hours after disgruntled workers knelt in front of the company’s gate calling for the Prime Minister for help in getting payment owed to them for the past six weeks and more, the Energy and Energy Industries Ministry responded.
A release said the minister, Stuart Young, urgently sought and obtained Cabinet approval to provide LATT with subventions to help it pay its expenses, including paying workers.
His ministry is said to be communicating with the Finance Ministry to prioritise the subvention payment. The amount has not yet been disclosed.
From what the CGWTU was told, neither ministers nor officials from the ministries directly contacted the CEO on the payment issue.
De Bique-Meade said, "Government issued the release, and since then no one from either ministry contacted the CEO to say when and how they would be releasing the funds. That (bailout promise) was just a charade."
An official from LATT promised to give feedback on what transpired at the meeting.