THE call for workers to rest and reflect is just the start of plans by the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) to send a message to the Prime Minister about the importance of treating workers with proper respect and consideration.
JTUM leader and president general of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU), Ancel Roget, made this clear this evening while addressing the media after a lengthy meeting with Dr Rowley and senior Cabinet ministers – including Energy Minister Franklin Khan – about Petrotrin and other workers’ issues, Office of the PM, St Clair.
“(Rowley) said we are saying that somebody else going to buy (Petrotrin’s refinery). He doh know. He’s telling us if we know who going to buy it, tell him, and a set of cheekiness. But we hold to the position that they are attempting to do the greatest form of union-busting by shutting down the entity where unionised workers work.” Roget – supported by other union leaders and dozens of union members on the sidewalk outside OPM – declared that the PM cannot simply dismiss the OWTU’s April 3 memorandum of agreement with the Petrotrin board about how the state oil company should be restructured so that it can return to profitability.
“(Rowley) is holding to the position that they should violate the agreement that we have...that the government has a responsibility which supersedes the agreement. We disagree with that position because it cannot be that we sit and negotiate with different entities and then some other force superimposes – even under the rubric of national concern – something else contrary to what we agreed to.”
On the matter of compensation packages for all 1,700 refinery workers, Roget said he told the PM the union disagrees on the figures used to justify closure and therefore, its focus is on “optimum refinery performance.”
Hence JTUM’s decision to set up a “war room” at the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union (SWWTU) Hall, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain last night, where its members would “determine exactly what is going to happen” next.
“You cannot have a PM disregarding a process and then trivialising it at this stage, when that process will have dire consequences for workers and workers throughout the country,” Roget warned before declaring that today’s “rest and reflection is on more than ever.”