Just over one year since state-owned Petrotrin closed its doors in November 2018, approximately 2000 workers are still awaiting proper compensation packages from the company.
On Friday, the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) – the representing union for the workers, and Petrotrin representatives went to the Industrial Court, San Fernando to have these unresolved matters addressed.
The union said it is bent on ensuring the workers are treated fairly and has also filed similar matters before the High Court on their behalf.
First vice president of the union, Ricky Benny, and representatives from six of the bargaining units which represented workers in the former oil company, bowed their heads and prayed before entering the Irving Street court for a preliminary case-management hearing with Petrotrin before the registrar.
Consultant, Harrison Thompson, took lead role in presenting the union’s side of the matter to the court. There was no information regarding the company’s team.
Benny said a grave injustice was done to approximately 2000 workers – casual, temporary and permanent – and the union will take an aggressive approach to ensure workers get their just due.
He said the units present on Friday represented workers across the entire Petrotrin organisation from Penal, Forest Reserve, Santa Flora, Pointe-a-Pierre, Trinmar including those previously working in the hospital services.
“We are dealing with all matters regarding the closure of Petrotrin, from pensions to medical and incorrect calculations of termination benefits. There are members who did not receive any items.”
After the case management phase, the next step will be to file evidence and arguments and set a date for hearing.
Benny said the union is hoping to secure a victory for all workers to get the compensation they are entitled to.
He said since the closure, life has been very difficult for most of the workers who are still unable to find jobs.
Benny blamed this on the “stereotyping of oil workers as highly paid and lazy.
“These stereotypes affected workers to the point where they still can’t get jobs. The market is very tight.”
He said the workers are hopeful the union’s Patriotic Energies and Technologies Co, which Trinidad Petroleum Holdings Limited has offered to operate the refinery, will be able to absorb some of their unemployed members.
Asked for an update on the progress of that arrangement, Benny said OWTU’s president general Ancel Roget will address that issue.
Benny said, going forward, opportunities in Guyana with its new oil find is also an option for some of their members to pursue.