OPPOSITION MP Rudranath Indarsingh on Friday accused the government of being against trade unions after it added all workers involved in fuel transport to the essential list of workers. Being added to the list means the workers are legally forbidden from taking strike action.
In a motion on the adjournment of the House of Representatives on Friday, the Couva South MP said Legal Notice 163, passed on May 29 by Cabinet approval, listed liquid fuel pipeline facilities and network services workers to the list of essential workers.
Indarsingh sought to annul the legal notice, saying it was an attempt by government to stop workers from joining trade unions. The amendment to the Industrial Relations Act, he said, came “like a thief in the night.”
He accused the government of being hypocrites as the law now made it illegal for some 100 workers to take industrial action and called on the Labour Minister to explain the need to include the workers.
Indarsingh said the Labour Ministry was aware that the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) applied to be considered the registered union for the workers in April and have since not been given the courtesy of an acknowledgement letter.
In response, Labour Minister Stephen Mc Clashie said those workers were responsible for transporting 75 per cent of the country’s fuel, which should be considered essential since the workers transport gas and aviation fuel.
Mc Clashie assured that, should the need arise, government would settle disputes expeditiously, adding that it was not reasonable to annul the amendment.
“It is not about union busting, this is about the national good and protecting the country from shutdown and making good sense of natural resources.”
In the end, Indarsingh lost the motion with him and ten of his colleagues voting to have it dismissed and 17 government members voting that the law remain in place.
The law now means that there are 11 categories of workers prevented from stopping services owing to industrial action, they are: electricity services, water and sewerage services, internal telephone service, external communications (telephone, telegraph, wireless), fire services, health services, hospital services, sanitation services, public school bus services and civil aviation services.