ENERGY Minister Franklin Khan has spoken of plans to revitalise Lake Asphalt (LATT) even as workers and their union called on government to state its position on the La Brea company.
As the jobs of some 300 asphalt employees hang in the balance, the head of their union wants to know, “What did the workers do wrong to have this death sentence hanging over their heads?”
Joseph Phillip, president general of the Contractors and General Workers Trade Union (CGWTU), said the research and development department has remained dormant, as the board and managers have failed to engage in any innovative exercises. He said the market has been in a slump because there are no new products to sell.
“The board has made some bad investments, without consulting us, and now we are hearing about retrenchment and voluntary separation and things like that.
“What we do wrong to have such a sentence over our heads? That is wrong.” Phillip said on Wednesday.
Opposition Senator Wade Mark raised the worrying situation during the sitting of the Senate on Tuesday evening.
Mark said he understood the jobs of some 300 casual, temporary and permanent workers were in limbo because of the company’s financial difficulties.
He called on government to come clean and tell the workers and the population whether the intention was to privatise the company and put the Chinese in charge.
“Let the workers know the truth. Stop the secrecy. Stop the lack of transparency. This is a matter that involves literally life and death,” Mark said.
In response Khan said the issue at LATT is of such importance that the Prime Minister had appointed an interministerial committee to assess the situation and make recommendations.
Khan sat on the committee with Public Administration and Digital Transformation Minister Allyson West and La Brea MP and Labour Minister Stephen Mc Clashie.
He said the plan is almost complete, but was not in a position to make any disclosures, as it first has to be submitted to the Cabinet and Dr Rowley.
Once this is done and Cabinet accepts the recommendations, Khan said it will implement a “revitalisation for LATT.”
He said as far as possible every effort would be made to protect jobs, but with a clause.
“It has to be a profitable business,” Khan said, pointing out one of the problems this country faces is inertia. He advised businesses to look at the changing markets which are operating under a different paradigm and adapt business to suit, rather than lie in a state of inertia.
Phillip said he was saddened the union's input on behalf of the workers would not be incorporated in these recommendations. He said the union did meet with West and McClashie, with West being the dominant figure in the meeting.
The CGWTU wanted to meet with Khan too, he said, but all efforts to do so failed.
“You know how some people only want to talk to engineers and managers, but the workers, the man below – we felt we could help. We are not technocrats, but we have a contribution to make.
"But we never got that chance to do so.
“The University of the West Indies has been dying to partner with LATT, the Rz&D department needs to be put to use. We have indicated to the board we are committed to making LATT viable and sustainable, and that commitment remains,” Phillip pledged.