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OWTU sets up 14 strike camps

Seeta Persad Sunday, January 8 2017

Despite talks again today between the Oilfield Workers Trade Union, Petrotrin and the Minister of Labour, the union has proceeded to set up 14 strike camps across six of the company’s locations, readying their membership for action which they have threatened will come tomorrow.

The camps have been set up at Penal/Barrackpore (two), Santa Flora (two), Forest Reserve (two), Trinmar (four), and Point-a-Pierre refinery (four).

The action comes in the wake of hardened positions by both sides in the impasse: Petrotrin, through its president, Fitzroy Harewood, indicating that the company was not prepared to increase its zero-zero- zero offer to the workers for the period 2011-2014, and 2014-2017, and the union adamant that its workers will go on strike today if there was no movement.

The union also revealed that it was receiving support for their struggle from international affiliates including he Trade Union Congress of the United Kingdom and the World Federation of Trade Unions (UKTUC).

The UKTUC, representing some 5.8 million members including many in the off-shore oil and gas industry, points out that the sixyear pay freeze that Petrotrin members are facing is unacceptable and unfair. They agree that the financial difficulties faced by Petrotrin are the fault of the management rather than the workforce and oil workers should not be made to pay the price for that crisis.

The UKTUC letter to the OWTU states further that it has long-standing links with the trade union movement in TT and in particular the OWTU. The UKTUC wished the OWTU success in its “struggle for justice.” The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) representing 92 million workers in 126 countries worldwide expresses its class solidarity with the workers of Petrotrin, who have decided to go on a strike, defending their right to a wage increase.

WFTU reiterates what the OWTU representatives have pointed out, saying for the past six years, Petrotrin had offered zerozero- zero, denying workers any wage adjustments. The body noted that after 19 hours of negotiations, the employers side didn’t show any spirit of compromise.

The Federation added that Petrotrin workers risk life and limb, working in varying dangerous conditions, to guarantee a reliable supply of fuel to the travelling public. The Trinidad and Tobago people know better than anyone that the country’s economy is based on products made possible by the tireless efforts of these workers, the global workers’ organisation pointed out, calling upon the workers and the simple people of the country to stand by the Petrotrin workers, ignoring the employers appeals to not struggle, pointing out also that “wealth belongs to those who produce it”.

Another international workers’ movement, the Industrial Global Union, also wrote to the OWTU expressing solidarity.

The OWTU and Petrotrin will meet today with the Minister of Labour and the Industrial Court in a final bid to avert a strike by oil workers threatened for tomorrow.

In an earlier report the OWTU said it was prepared to call off the strike if Petrotrin made an offer of ten percent for the period 2011- 2014 when the two sides meet at the Industrial Court. The company and the union are negotiating for two periods, 2011-2014 and 2014-2017. The union’s president Ancel Roget said Friday’s meeting at the Industrial Court was geared at settling matters before any strike actions take place.

However, there was no new offer made and the two sides must meet again today.

Roget said the court should consider settlement at ten percent and if the company offers this amount for the period 2011-2014, then the union will consider that offer and will be prepared to call the strike off. Roget outlined that since the 2014-2017 period is before Minister of Labour Jennifer Baptiste-Primus and is the period for which the union has served strike notice.

Roget emphasized there was no progress at the meeting with the Ministry of Labour, despite the presence of Harewood.

Roget said that at the meeting the Labour Minister advised the company to consider the union’s proposal for settlement of the 2011-2014 period and return to the ministry for another meeting which will take place today.

Roget has said in a settlement for 2014-2017 they will not demand any backpay at this moment. He agrees that the retroactive pay, and backpay, can be paid over a prolonged period of time based on a deferred payment option and plan.

OWTU strike camps:
Penal/Barrackpore - 2:
1. Across the street from the
Main entrance to the
compound.

2. A shed outside the Tank Farm.
Santa Flora - 2:
1. Outside the Main Gate to the
Main Office.

2. Drilling and work over Gate
(Industrial Compound).
Forest Reserve - 2:
1. Forest Reserve East Gate.
2. Point Central.

Trinmar - 4:
1. Main Entrance Car Park.
2. Terminal Entrance.
3. Tank Farm Facility.
4. Main Office Gate.

Pointe-a-Pierre Refinery- 4:
1. Pointe-a-Pierre Roundabout.
2. Avenue Entrance.
3. Gasparillo Gate Entrance.
4. Administration Building
Entrance



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