State fuel distributor National Petroleum (NP) yesterday filed an industrial relations offence (IRO) against the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) following what the company has said was an illegal work stoppage at its gantries last week.
Sea Lots-based NP said the IRO was filed “pursuant to Section 84 of the Industrial Relations Act, chapter 88.01 for the illegal work stoppage” that occurred at its plant between August 13-15.
NP suspended more than 60 workers who were involved in the protests.
“Strikes are usually pursuant of wage negotiations which was not applicable to this illegal work stoppage. NP and the OWTU await notice from the court as to when both parties should appear in this matter,” NP said in a statement late yesterday.
The company said its focus remained to ensure the timely delivery of fuel to its service station network, airports in the country, industrial customers including the Port Authority and PowerGen; all hospitals and all of the protective services.
Earlier yesterday, OWTU president general Ancel Roget suggested the assets of NP were being used by “rich people trying to get richer” from Government contracts for operations at the company.
“NP belongs to the people of Trinidad and Tobago and the people (working here) have a responsibility to operate it in the best interest of the country,” Roget said as he met with workers yesterday morning outside the company’s Sea Lots compound.
He said the main issues at the company were workers’ health and safety concerns, as well as alleged corruption, especially with the proposals to give lucrative private contracts to “friends of the Government” when there were workers who could do the job. He said the company was even requesting that workers train these contractors.
“It is a violation of the collective agreement and the fundamental principles of the union. These types of jobs can’t require fly-by-night training, or it will be a risk for everyone,” Roget said.
He said by refusing to investigate the workers’ health and safety concerns, the company was in violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and by not meeting with the union to discuss the concerns, and then indefinitely suspending workers, was not abiding by the Industrial Relations Act.
He said the union is speaking with its lawyers to determine how to proceed with action against the company.