NP FIRES 68
Crackdown on ‘illegal work stoppage’
State-owned fuel supplier National Petroleum (NP) yesterday fired 68 workers who it said had engaged in an “illegal work stoppage” August 13 to 15.
The 68 workers were part of 86 employees the company had suspended following the work stoppage.
In a release issued yesterday, the company noted in the last two years there were 20 work stoppages by the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU), and calculated that a single day’s work stoppage was equivalent to $9.5 million in loss of revenue.
NP said it held individual disciplinary hearings from October 7 to 10 and the employees were asked to address three issues—refusal to perform job functions, participation along with others in an illegal work stoppage and unauthorised absence from work stations.
NP said the fired workers were all represented by their union, the OWTU. “The OWTU cited health and safety issues as the reasons for their members withholding their labour during the specified period. However, at the time of the illegal work stoppage, the OWTU cited privatisation as the reason for their illegal activity, as documented in several interviews given by the OWTU to the media,” the release stated.
NP said it had requested an OSH (Occupational Safety and Health) inspection in July, which took place on August 28 and 29 and on September 3, 11 and 12. “The company is in receipt of the OSH report which did not trigger the issuance of an improvement or a prohibition notice as is mandated in cases of serious or imminent danger in accordance with Section 74 of the OSH Act,” it said.
NP said while it remains committed to the practice of good industrial relations, its focus is to ensure the timely delivery of fuel to its service station network, airports in Tobago and Trinidad, industrial customers which include the Port Authority and PowerGen, all hospitals and all of the protective services. “We have been able to maintain a non-disrupted operation in spite of the illegal work stoppage initiated by the OWTU last August. NP has actually doubled the efficiency of its deliveries since this illegal work stoppage and is committed to ensuring its continuity,” the company said.
President of the OWTU Ancel Roget has, meanwhile, alleged the dismissal of the NP workers was “politically motivated”.
He also said last night the union was meeting with its attorneys and will issue a statement on the matter soon. He did not comment on the number of workers as he “did not have all the facts”, but said “reliable reports” were that about 68 of the workers were terminated even though the matter was before the Industrial Court.
Roget said: “We are in consultation with our attorneys. We are in possession of information it was politically motivated. They chose their timing after the elections to hand out their dismissal letters. We will be issuing a full statement on the matter.
“The dismissal of those workers is an act of reprisal against the workers. It is an attempt to destroy them and the OWTU. It is coming from the hand of high officials. This action is being supported by certain members of the People’s Partnership. OWTU will leave no stone unturned to defend the interests and interest of those workers. We have seen government after government go. We will issue a comprehensive statement.”
Secretary-general of the Communications Workers’ Union John Julien last night said he learned about the dismissals from a “reliable source”. Although Julien was not their representative, he said he stood in solidarity with the workers who lost their jobs.
“It was alleged 68 workers out of the 86 workers were served with termination letters. If this is true, it’s a sad state for the labour movement. We stand in solidarity with our friends at NP and OWTU,” he said
—with reporting by Asha Javeed
and Michelle Loubon