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Petrotrin workers back on the job

By Carolyn Kissoon carolyn.kissoon@trinidadexpress.com

The week-long work stoppage that crippled operations at State-owned Petrotrin ended yesterday after employees were ordered to return to work by the Industrial Court.

The court made the order on Tuesday after a late-night hearing of an application by Petrotrin which sought an injunction compelling the Oilfields Workers' Trade Union (OWTU) to cease protest action.

The industrial action by the union forced the shutdown of Petrotrin's refinery operations. The company has claimed estimated losses of $700 million during the period.

OWTU president general Ancel Roget said the union advised that all workers return to the jobsite yesterday. He said the union was law-abiding and would comply with any order of the court.

"Therefore, we had to send the workers back to work. The union went to the various fields and divisions and told workers what the court order was and they should go back to work. Every single worker complied and they are now on the job," he said.

Roget said he was "intrigued" by Petrotrin's actions, as the company had stated there were contingency plans in place to deal with any industrial action.

"The company said the public is not to worry, and (said to) the motoring public there will be enough fuel for them and so on. Then they went to the court claiming the opposite. And on the basis of that claim they were granted that injunction to debar the workers from taking further protest action," he said.

Roget said workers returned to work angry, upset, demotivated and demoralised.

He said the issues which triggered the shutdown did not vanish, including filling 800-plus vacancies and outstanding payments. He said the court recommended that both parties go into conciliation to bring a resolution in the matter.

On Monday, Petrotrin applied to the Industrial Court for an order against the OWTU in respect of its commission of an industrial relations offence contrary to the Industrial Relations Act.

On Tuesday night, both Petrotrin and the OWTU appeared at the Industrial Court in respect of Petrotrin's application for an injunction to compel the OWTU to cease its industrial action.

The application was heard by president of the court Debra Thomas-Felix, members Albert Aberdeen, Nizam Khan and Kyril Jack.

At 9 p.m., the court ordered the cessation of the industrial action by the OWTU.

Appearing for Petrotrin were Russell Martineau, SC, Douglas Mendes, SC, Addison Khan and Allister Khan.

Appearing for the OWTU were Stuart Young, Michael Quamina and Anthony Bullock.

Tomorrow, the parties return to the Industrial Court for further directions.

The Express understands that the injunction and Petrotrin's complaint regarding an industrial relations offence will be heard as one issue before the court.

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