|‘OWTU ready to rumble’ |
RICHARDSON DHALAI Thursday, January 5 2017
COME next Monday - the first day of the new school term - over 4,000 workers at state-owned oil company Petrotrin are expected to down tools and embark on a three month strike. This after Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) president general Ancel Roget yesterday confirmed that strike notice was served on management at the oil company. As he spoke to reporters yesterday, Roget’s voice was drowned out by the cry of “let’s get ready to rumble!” by union members.
However, addressing workers shortly after serving strike notice on Petrotrin president Fitzroy Harewood at the company’s Pointe-a-Pierre administrative offices, Roget said the union had not ruled out last minute negotiations to avert strike action. “The collective agreement provides for the company to have a minimum of 96 hours (to avert the strike on being served the notice).” He said that the 96 hour grace period, from the time of the notice being served, would end at 10 am on Sunday, but, “we have given them an extra 24 hours so that will be on Monday morning and we said to the president of the company, while serving him, that despite the fact that we have served strike notice, we are still open to discussions between now and Monday morning,” Roget said.
He said the 96 hour window also gives the government enough time to open discussions with the union regarding a settlement of the 2014- 2017 bargaining period. “Unless the government, who claims to have the authority and who said Petrotrin does not have the authority to negotiate, unless they begin to talk with us the strike will go on,” he warned.
“So the ball is in the court of the government, in the court of the Finance Minister who in fact attacked the OWTU with those zeroes (in the offer to the OWTU).
And all members of the public who talking now (against the union), when government send up the price of gas and when they begin to bring hardship through austerity measures on everybody, then they will begin to understand the struggle we were putting in place this morning to prevent austerity measures against the people,” Roget said.
Meanwhile, the union together with Petrotrin executives are scheduled to meet with Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus at the Ministry’s head office in Port-of-Spain at 1.30 pm today.
Roget advised union members against listening to criticisms from the various business and energy chambers as well as “those bleeding hearts” in society. “I want to advise comrades not to listen to those critics, not to listen to those bleeding hearts in the media, not to listen to the business community, the Energy Chambers and the ECA...all they want is foreign exchange!” Roget also poured scorn on Petrotrin’s contingency measures saying neither the Army nor Police are trained to work in the high-risk energy industry.
“They have absolutely no contingency measures,” Roget said adding, “I don’t know anywhere in the training for police and for soldiers, they know how to start up and to run a cat cracker which is a very volatile piece of equipment.
The soldiers and police cannot do the job for which they are paid to do right now so I don’t know how they can do the job of oil workers.
That has to be some kind of magic (if soldiers and police do the oil workers’ job).”