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OWTU, TCL ready to go back to bargaining table

By Camille Bethel camille.bethel@trinidadexpress.com

THE Oilfields Workers' Trade Union (OWTU) and Trinidad Cement Limited (TCL) are now ready to return to the bargaining table in an attempt to resolve the wage impasse that has resulted in crippling strike action and a cement shortage.

Many of TCL's 600 workers have taken up residence at the gates to TCL's Claxton Bay factory since March 5, when the union served strike notice on the company, after rejecting a 6.5 per cent wage offer.

Union branch president Lawrence Renaud said yesterday that the union's president general Ancel Roget had given instructions that a letter be sent to the Ministry of Labour requesting its intervention in the negotiations.

Last week the Ministry stated that both parties needed to request the Ministry's intervention towards resolving the wage dispute.

However, Roget said last evening that the letter seeking intervention did not mean that the strike was over.

"Absolutely not. All this is, is informal discussions to attempt to resolve the issue. It will never be resolved until we are satisfied that we have achieved a fair settlement for the workers," said Roget.

TCL general manager Satnarine Bachew yesterday said returning to the bargaining table was now in the hands of the Ministry of Labour.

"It is out of our hands. We have already indicated to them since last week Tuesday that we are ready to come to the table. Anytime we get that call, we are prepared," he said.

Asked about whether the company is prepared to raise its 6.5 per cent offer

Bachew said: "When we get to the negotiating table we will talk about it, that is what negotiations are about."

He said TCL sold about 1,500 tonnes of cement from its silos at the weekend when 53 tankers came to the plant and were successfully loaded.

Two shipments of bag cement came into the country between Thursday and Sunday, said Bachew.

The company, he said, expects another shipment of cement today and later in the week.

Bachew said the plan is to get the market "back to as normal as possible" by this weekend.

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