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NP fires 68 employees

By DARCEL CHOY Wednesday, October 23 2013

STATE-OWNED National Petroleum Marketing Company (NP) has fired 68 of 85 suspended employees for illegal work stoppage in August. Workers began receiving letters of termination yesterday through registered mail. They were initially suspended between August 15 and 16 and sent home with pay, pending investigations, after they walked off the job because of concerns of possible privatisation.

On August 12, workers at the Pointe-a-Pierre gantry walked off after two of their co-workers were sent home for the day for refusing to train managers to operate the gantry where fuel transport trucks are loaded. The following day, workers at the Sea Lots compound also walked off the job, in a show of solidarity.

In a release yesterday, NP said individual disciplinary hearings were held between October 7 to 10 and each suspended employee was given the opportunity to respond to three charges — refusing to perform job functions, participation along with others in an illegal work stoppage and unauthorised absence from work stations.

At the hearings, employees were represented by officers of its union, the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU).

NP said the OWTU cited Health and Safety issues as the reasons for their members withholding their labour during the specified period, however, the company said, at the time of the illegal work stoppage, the OWTU cited privatisation as the reason.

The company noted that it requested an Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) inspection in July which took place on August 28 and 29, and September 3, 11 and 12 2013.

It said it was in receipt of the OSH report which did not trigger the issuance of an improvement or a prohibition notice as is mandated in cases of serious or imminent danger in accordance with Section 74 of the OSH Act.

NP Chairman, Neil Gosine in a telephone interview yesterday said the company had no choice but to terminate the employees. He said in the last two years the union has shut down NP 20 times and everytime they did, it cost the company $9.5 million a day.

“They claimed it was privatisation and it was absolutely not true there is no way NP will be privatised,” he said.

He said the company has approximately 750 workers and the filling of the vacancies would be done through the normal process through the company’s management team.

Gosine said he did not know what this termination would cost the company but he said the company would save money. He said while the investigation was being conducted, there were no disruptions and they have since increased its deliveries.

In the statement, NP said it was committed to the practice of good industrial relations.

“The company’s focus remains to ensure the timely delivery of fuel to our service station network; airports in Tobago and Trinidad; industrial customers including the Port Authority and Powergen; all hospitals; and all of the protective services,” NP said.

Newsday tried contacting OWTU’s President General Ancel Roget as well as OWTU’s second vice-president, Tedd Stapleton, who is responsible for NP members, but their cellphones went unanswered up until press time.

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