COUVA South MP Rudranath Indarsingh has called on Government to pay the full settlement remuneration packages for 100 former Petrotrin workers within the next week.
On Monday more than 100 former Petrotrin workers submitted letters to the Industrial Court in San Fernando to complain about money owed to them by the defunct oil company.
Indarsingh, in a release, called on Finance Minister Colm Imbert, Energy Minister Franklin Khan and Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus to explain why the workers have not been paid their full packages.
He said this is totally unacceptable, given the assurances and commitment made to them by the Dr Keith Rowley-led Cabinet that they would be paid before the company’s last day of operations, November 30, 2018.
“Why is that, that these former employees now have to seek redress and intervention from the Industrial Court to get what is theirs? Why the continued anti-worker stance from this administration?”
Indarsingh said that as a former trade union president, he “continues to witness with amazement and disbelief the continued violation of the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act that is there to protect the rights and hard-earned benefits that trade unions had secured for their members.
“In this case, Petrotrin had until December 30, 2018 to pay these workers their outstanding monies, but seven weeks past that date, the workers are literally begging for what is due to them.”
He also questioned which authority had the responsibility for ensuring that the workers received their money from the defunct state-owned Petrotrin.
“Is it the Central Government or the new company that assumed the operations of Petrotrin, Trinidad Petroleum Holding Company Ltd?”
Indarsingh described the non-payment of redundancy entitlements as being “mean-spirited” by the Government, which he said had ignored the many years of loyal service that these employees had made to Petrotrin.
He was also very critical of the approach of Baptiste-Primus, who has been promising to update and modernise important labour legislation, such as the Industrial Relations Act and the Retrenchment and Separation Benefits Act, “but so far has been part of an administration which has continually undermined the principles of good industrial-relations practices and labour laws since it came into office in September 2015.”
Indarsingh, a former minister of state in the ministries of Labour and Finance in the People’s Partnership administration, said he was not surprised at this turn of events, since even before Petrotrin’s closure was announced, the Rowley Cabinet “had been blatantly dishonest with the country on the course of action it had adopted with regard to the closure of the refinery.”
He called on the Government to prevent this matter from going before the Industrial Court and expressed hopes that the retrenched workers will be paid within the next week.