Union accuses Rowley of politicising Lake Asphalt

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley as he spoke during a PNM public meeting at the Diego Martin South Community Centre on Tuesday. - SUREASH CHOLAI
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley as he spoke during a PNM public meeting at the Diego Martin South Community Centre on Tuesday. - SUREASH CHOLAI

CONDEMNATION for the Prime Minister and accusations of politicising Lake Asphalt and shifting from one ministry to another, have come from the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM).

The Contractors and General Workers’ Trade Union (CGWTU), which represents the workers, is calling on the relevant minister with responsibility for the company to immediately speak with the union about the status of the company, job security, payment of ongoing salaries, and plans for its future viability and sustainability.

The response stems from statements Dr Rowley made on a political platform in Diego Martin on Tuesday night, of Government’s plans to revitalise the company.

He spoke in the context of a shortage of bitumen to fix potholes, pointing to the difficulties the La Brea-based company suffered after the restructuring of Petrotrin, which was the major consumer of Lake Asphalt’s bitumen.

The supply of bitumen to Petrotrin accounted for approximately 80 per cent of Lake Asphalt’s revenue.

With the market being opened up for the import of bitumen since, and the guaranteed market the company had now eroded, the company has been in a financial slump.

On Tuesday night, Rowley said Cabinet has removed Lake Asphalt from the Ministry of Energy to the Ministry of Works and Transport.

A committee has also been set up with NIDCO, as the operating agency, to create a new business model.

That statement is not sitting well with the CGWTU which condemned the use of a public meeting of the People’s National Movement (PNM) for Rowley to make public a Cabinet decision on the company’s future.

JTUM, in a statement, said it views this as an act of disrespect for the workers’ representative which has been in communication, by letter, with its former line minister Stuart Young as late as March 8.

The union said Young’s response, dated March 22, made no mention of this Cabinet decision.

“Further, Minister Young, whilst indicating he looked forward to communicating with the union in the not-too-distant future, did not commit himself to any timeline to meet with the union to discuss, as requested, amongst other things, the job security of our members and the future viability of LATT (1978) Ltd,” the statement read.

“Based on the pronouncement at the public meeting, we are unfortunately left to conclude that Minister Young’s response to the union was less than candid, clothed in deception and a clever use of words to play smart with foolishness.

“Further, the union is very concerned that as a key stakeholder in the company, decisions are being made about the future of the company without any consultation with the CGWTU, which is the recognised majority union for senior staff, junior staff and hourly/ weekly paid workers of the company.”

The union said the severe trauma workers have been undergoing with job security has left their lives in disarray.

While this is happening, the union said, Government by its actions is showing utter disregard for all the basic principles of industrial relations, and good and proper governance and employment practices, as it relates to treating with workers’ issues and engagement with the union.

“Imagine workers and the union having to hear about the company being placed under another ministry at a PNM public meeting whilst the company’s leadership, via the board of directors and the CEO, are unable to shed any light on these pronouncements when questioned by the workers.”


"Union accuses Rowley of politicising Lake Asphalt"

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