Oil was also thrown on the roadway to prevent or make it extremely dangerous for any vehicle to get into or leave the TCL compound.
At 7 pm, a shuttle bus transporting the six workers who had completed their shift at the factory was driving out of the compound when according to Production Manager Keith Ramjitsingh, at least 20 to 25 strikers surrounded the 12-seater “VIP Shuttle Bus” and began shaking it while also attempting to pull open the doors and windows.
On seeing the commotion, Ramjitsingh who was driving in his car behind the shuttle bus said he began reversing into the TCL compound.
“The strikers then grabbed the metal barriers brought by the police and began placing them in front the vehicles. As both vehicles began reversing, the men started to hurl stones at the bus and my car, forcing us to drive further into the compound,” Ramjitsingh said.
“They were really noisy and boisterous, then I saw workers pulling out tyres from their nearby strike camp and placing them along the driveway while another striker brought out containers of oil and poured it on the tyres and set them on fire to block the passageway,” he added.
The burning debris which blocked the entrance and the angry mob effectively kept the six workers trapped inside the TCL compound. A report was made to the police and fire services.
At 9 pm, heavily armed officers from the Riot Squad swooped down at the compound, clearing away the smouldering debris. Under the officers’ watch, the six workers left the compound to their various homes. No one was injured during the tense siege.
Asked if he was afraid to return to work today, Ramjitsingh last night told Newsday: “We are not going to back down. We are going to continue producing cement for our customers.”
Last night’s siege came hours after a meeting yesterday between TCL management, the striking workers’ union — Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) — and mediator Labour Minister Errol McLeod ended in a stalemate.
The meeting was held at the Labour Ministry’s San Fernando office. Yesterday’s meeting lasted for five hours, during which McLeod met separately with TCL officials and then OWTU officials before meeting jointly with both parties.
Another meeting has been scheduled for tomorrow in Port-of-Spain between the parties, but it is not known if this meeting will come off given last night’s violent siege outside the TCL compound.
This is the third act of violence perpetrated against those TCL workers who are either opposed to the strike or who have broken ranks with the striking workers and returned to their jobs after signing individual contracts.
On Sunday last, at 11.23 pm, an attempt was made to firebomb the home of TCL chemist Wayne Benjamin.
However, two molotov cocktails (crude, homemade incendiary devices) hurled at the walls of Benjamin’s home, failed to ignite. And on March 16, a maxi-taxi transporting 24 TCL workers, most of whom were women, to their cars parked near the TCL compound, was attacked by two masked men who threw stones and shattered four windows of the vehicle.
Last night, no one in the angry mob which laid siege to the TCL compound wore masks. As Riot Police kept guard, some in the mob waved OWTU flags while others proudly wore their OWTU clothes at the strike camp.