Roget: Minister ordered NP firings
Tuesday’s dismissal of 68 National Petroleum (NP) workers was punishment for allegedly being loyal to the People’s National Movement (PNM), president-general of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) Ancel Roget charged yesterday, adding that a “high-ranking” member of the Government “cabal” is behind the dismissals.
Roget, at a news conference at the OWTU headquarters at Henry Street, Port of Spain, yesterday, said he was reliably informed a particular minister gave the termination order, and said “we have deep pockets” with regard to the possibility of having to compensate the fired employees.
He said the Sea Lots-based company has already begun to hire out contracted workers as replacement.
Roget said the dismissals, which came interestingly after Monday’s local government elections, were of the nature of “political victimisation” and were to be considered a “frontal attack” on the OWTU.
“We are with good information that a high-ranking official, within the Cabinet of the Government, instructed the board, which in turn instructed the management,” Roget said.
The employees were told their dismissals were based on their participation in protest action on August 14 and 15.
On those days, they downed tools to bring attention to what they said are numerous and long-standing health and safety violations that are putting their lives at risk.
Several fired employees said they tried to bring the violations to the attention of the management of NP and, after being ignored for years, were forced to take protest action.
Roget said there were workers who were rostered as off-duty on those days, but who have been caught with a broad stroke and also dismissed.
The dismissals were supported by the People’s Partnership, for which the Government will be made to “pay”, Roget said.
“We hold the Cabinet, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar responsible for the onslaught that was unleashed on these workers,” Roget said, surrounded by the dismissed, with whom the union met yesterday morning and afternoon.
While a number of the former employees hail from nearby Sea Lots and Port of Spain, there were those from as far off as Pointe-a-Pierre. Roget said the workers were legitimately defending their lives via protest action, as, according to a report from the Occupational Health and Safety Agency, the company had been cited for 19 violations up to September 23 of this year.
Copies of the report, provided by Roget, showed as many citations from the OSH Agency and included inadequate arrangements for forklifts access and egress around corners and along warehousing traffic routes, obstructed fire extinguishers, inadequate cleaning of spillages, equipment and products haphazardly stored in the chemical warehouse and no designated area for trucks to load drums. The matter of the protest action, for which workers faced a disciplinary hearing two weeks ago following nearly ten weeks of suspension, is currently before the Industrial Court.
Roget said the union will be seeking the re-instatement of the workers, as well as compensation for the “trauma” they would have suffered after receiving letters of termination.
Promising that action will soon be taken to demonstrate the union’s nonacceptance of the dismissals, Roget said he was not ready to divulge what was being planned, as this would allow its detractors to “wait in the grass”. “In particular ways, they will be made to pay,” Roget said.