TCL accesses cement in silos
By Cecily Asson and Laurel Williams Sunday, March 11 2012
click on pic to zoom in
A police officer clears the way for a truck to enter the TCL compound to collect cement for delivery across the country yesterday. ...
Under the watchful eyes of a contingent of heavily armed police officers, a total of 29 bulk tankers and flat bed trucks rolled into the compound of Trinidad Cement Limited (TCL) Southern Main Road, Claxton Bay, yesterday, to begin the removal of 7,000 tonnes of cement from the silos there for distribution across the country.
The striking workers outside the compound offered no resistance as baton-toting officers ordered them to clear the way for the trucks to go in. They had blocked the entrance and threatened not to move, however, when the first convoy of trucks, accompanied by only four police outriders, arrived outside the compound at 7.20 am. The workers gave way. Many workers later told reporters they were not prepared to be beaten by police officers, who “come to share licks”.
Yesterday marked day 13 of the strike, which was called after failed wage negotiations and other work related issues. Yesterday, the protesters were almost outnumbered by police officers as they prayed and sang.
While Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) treasurer Chandrasain Ramsingh described yesterday’s action by the company as a “power play to show the public they could run the plant”, TCL general manager, Satnarine Bachew, told reporters it was important to satisfy the market “so that the customers could continue with their business”.
Bachew said he had the support of ten other managers who all rolled up their sleeves and started the plant yesterday. He called the operation “a success” and promised it would continue until all the cement is cleared from the silos.
From as early as 5.30 am yesterday, police under the supervision of Snr Supt David Lewis and ASP Deonarine Basdeo began arriving at the TCL compound, and took up positions inside and outside. Trucks arrived every half hour, with the last one arriving at 8.50 am. The first bulk tanker with cement left at 8.55 am. Workers gathered near the security booth calling on management to “do the honourable thing and give up, asking for proper wages.
Bachew added, “The strike is within its second week and our bulk users of cement, their stocks have depleted quite a bit, so what we have decided to do is that we have about 7,000 tonnes of cement in our silos and a decision was taken to open the gates so that bulk tankers could come in and collect cement. The operation is proving to be fairly successful because the main users of bulk cement are the readymix operators and the block manufacturers.”
Bachew said there was concern by TCL for companies that would have been affected by the strike.
“As you would realise, these companies would have invested money in their plant and equipment and they would have people employed working there, and having those plants shutting down because of no cement, it was really not an option. That is why TCL took the decision that we must satisfy our market so that the customers could continue with their business and that is what we are doing here today.”
Bachew said some of the striking employees have expressed interest in accepting individual contracts offered to them by the company.
He said, “We will be following up on that, so as to decide what is the next step. It is to actually invite workers to come to the plant and work.”
OWTU president general Ancel Roget and branch president Lawrence Renaud, who were absent from the camp yesterday morning, arrived later and told workers there were rumours he had called off the strike. However, he said the strike would run its full course of 90 days. He also condemned the presence of police officers at the site yesterday.
“Workers are even stronger and they recognise that police officers cannot produce cement,” Roget said.
“Try as hard as they may, the company cannot get the facilities operating. The workers are stronger than ever and we continue to give them support.”
Roget again noted the union was prepared to meet with the Labour Ministry to resolve the situation. However, he promised if the Ministry’s view on the issue does not change, the meeting would end prematurely and strike would continue.
Meanwhile, a news report said last evening that NP workers will receive a nine percent increase for the bargaining period 2008-2010. The agreement came after the first conciliation meeting between the OWTU, National Petroleum management and the Ministry of Labour, the report said. The meeting reportedly began at 8 am Friday and ended at 4 am yesterday. The report said the union signed off on an almost identical agreement reached by Petrotrin workers last month. The parties will reportedly meet again on Friday.