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Sunday decider on strike

VERNE BURNETT Saturday, January 7 2017

THE Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) and the Stateowned oil company PETROTRIN will meet on Sunday with the Minister of Labour and the Industrial Court in a final bid to avert a strike by oil workers threatened for Monday.

The OWTU said yesterday 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 met at 1:30 PM at the Industrial Court, St. Vincent Street, Port of Spain. The company and the union are negotiating for two periods, 2011 – 2014 and 2014 – 2017 for which PETROTRIN has offered a zero, zero, zero percentage increase, an offer the union has dubbed unacceptable.

OWTU President General Ancel Roget said yesterday’s meeting at the Industrial Court was an opportunity for the company to place a new position before the union and avert the strike threatened for Monday. However, no new offer was placed on the table and the two sides will meet again on Sunday. “We have placed before the court on the last occasion and for them to consider for settlement at ten percent. That is to say that if the company comes this afternoon with a ten percent offer for the period 2011 - 2014 we will consider that offer and, of course, we are prepared to call the strike off should the company settle at ten percent for the earlier period 2011 - 2014.” He said the union could not accept zero, zero, zero percent for the 2011 - 2014 period and the same zero, zero, zero for the later period of 2014-2017. He said since the 2014 - 2017 period is before the Minister of Labour and is the period for which the union has served strike notice and everybody is saying that the parties need to settle the earlier period first, yesterday’s meeting at the Industrial Court was the opportunity for the company to achieve a settlement. He said once that is done the union will call off the strike, but this agreement must be achieved before Monday otherwise the union will proceed with the strike. However, he stressed that “zero, zero, zero plus another set of zero, zero, zero is certainly disrespectful to the oil worker who produces.” Roget said no progress was made at Friday morning’s meeting at the Ministry of Labour despite the presence of the Petrotrin President, Fitzroy Harewood, who had been summoned to attend the meeting by Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development, Jennifer Baptiste-Primus the day before. In a brief release reportedly issued by the Petrotrin President, Harewood said the meeting at the Ministry of Labour was called “with the two negotiating teams from the company and the union which are and have been led for this entire process by the Vice President Human Resources and Corporate Services of Petrotrin and the President General of the OWTU.” He said that at the start of Thursday’s meeting the minister contacted him and requested his attendance when certain matters were being discussed. “It was mutually agreed that at the continuation of the meeting at 8 AM Friday January 6, 2017, that Mr. Harewood would attend and participate in the discussions.” Roget said that at the meeting the 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 on Sunday morning.

“Or if you can’t do that, settle the other one, 2014-2017 and we are not demanding any backpay at this moment. That retroactive pay, that backpay, can be paid over a prolonged period of time based on a deferred payment option and plan that we are very amendble to sit down and discuss with the management of the company. And even more than that, we said to the minister and the company that we are prepared to, on the basis of the increase in production and productivity and looking at all of the inefficiency issues and so on over a period of time once the company makes money, we are prepared to from that money use to discharge this debt owed to the workers.” He said it was an innovative and reasonable suggestion that from money the company made in the future it could discharge its debt to the workers and he felt it was an offer the company should embrace with both hands.



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