No Govt hand in 68 firings
By SASHA HARRINANAN Thursday, October 24 2013
CHAIRMAN of State-owned National Petroleum Limited (NP) Neil Gosine yesterday denied allegations by the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) that, “a high-ranking official within the Cabinet” instructed NP’s Board to fire 68 workers who were part of a work stoppage in August.
“That’s not true. There was no political victimisation, no directive from any Cabinet minister to issue termination letters,” Gosine declared as he responded to the claim made by OWTU president general Ancel Roget during a mid-afternoon press conference yesterday.
Roget claimed the termination of 68 workers was done to allow NP to hire more contract staff as well as provide job openings for, “friends and family of the People’s Partnership (PP).”
“We consider this to be a frontal attack on the OWTU,” Roget added, “and the workers are a mere casualty in that regard. NP’s attempt to teach workers a lesson and to teach the union a lesson is just that, an attempt...and a foiled one at that.”
The union leader told reporters that OWTU was in communication with its lawyers and will do whatever is necessary within the law, to ensure all 68 workers are returned to their jobs with compensation for their “trauma”.
But in responding to Roget’s claims, Gosine yesterday made it clear to Newsday that, “an illegal work stoppage is an illegal work stoppage”.
“The Board never got any instruction from Cabinet to fire anyone. The management held hearings to verify who were legitimately absent from work which is why out of the 85 suspended workers, only 68 were fired,” Gosine said.
Although efforts to contact Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine proved futile up to press time, Gosine said he was in contact with Ramnarine yesterday morning. “We briefed the line minister (Ramnarine) about these latest developments and he told us to, ‘follow proper procedures.’ That’s exactly what the Board and management of NP are doing,” Gosine stated.
Roget claimed that NP had “conveniently” not mentioned a September 23 report from the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Authority, which Roget said, cited 19 non-compliance issues on the part of NP.
“A reinspection of the facilities, to ensure compliance, will be conduced in three months’ time. Does this not suggest that something was wrong and the OSH pointed it out and asked the company to correct it? That was not addressed and certainly they are not putting that out,” Roget said.
He added that this was evidence of the health and safety concerns NP workers had been raising for some time prior to the August 12 - 16 work stoppage that was deemed “illegal” by the company.
“When the executive of the union calls on the company for discussion in respect of this issue, the company ought to by law, have responded. They disregarded that and instead opted to take instructions from their political bosses,” Roget claimed.
Gosine said these matters are handled by NP’s management and directed Newsday to speak with the company’s Acting Corporate Communications Manager Rae Gilbert, who in turn yesterday said she had to consult the chief executive and other managers before publicly responding.