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OWTU VP: Strike brought down 1995 PNM govt

An eleven-week strike by workers of State-owned Petrotrin 16 years ago was responsible for the demise of the People's National Movement (PNM) government, vice president of the Oilfields Workers'' Trade Union, Carlton Gibson, recalled yesterday.

Petrotrin's operations were shut down and workers camped outside the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery until wage negotiations were settled.

The strike in 1995 was led by then president general Errol McLeod, and was the last major strike action by the union.

Gibson said, "During that strike, the then PNM government called a snap election. The government was changed and people lost faith in the PNM. I believe that strike was a success."

There were numerous threats of prolonged strike action over the years, but they were averted when management and union representatives brokered last-minute deals.

The latest threat of strike action in the oil industry occurred two weeks ago, when a strike notice was delivered to the company's management.

The company refused to move from its five per cent wage increase proposal, while the union asked for a 75 per cent increase.

Ancel Roget, president general of the OWTU, met management in marathon meetings to settle for a nine per cent increase. The strike was eventually called off.

But workers at the Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL) said they were prepared for a long haul yesterday.

The company was served with strike notice on Monday morning and its 600 workers were instructed to leave the compound immediately.

The company has offered a 6.5 percent increase in wages over a three-year period, but the union is seeking 16 per cent. There has been no contact between management and the union since strike notice was served.

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