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Answer is not to put company further in debt

Published: 
Sunday, January 8, 2017

The OWTU is currently doing their due diligence prior to engaging in protest actions with oil workers. Among their complaints, these workers have already concluded an unresolved period of negotiations and have entered another. They say that while Petrotrin employees may not have got any salary increases, management of the company appears to have almost unfettered access to the company’s accounts, to enrich themselves with salary increases and other benefits.

In conversation with a vocal friend who works with Trinmar, the current situation with the losses of the company over the last few years is a matter which was constantly raised, but somehow never caught the public’s ear. He asserts that neither the media nor the public have ever taken it seriously.

I have also heard about the argument that the Petrotrin workers are the ones who earn the major income for the country, and as such they feel they should be rewarded for their work.

As a result, the union has chosen to engage a protest, vowing the shut operations down, if their members, the workers, are not offered a satisfactory increase in pay.

These arguments may not have garnered such public attention, had our country’s economic outlook not been as it is. We are seeing a significant loss in income due to the drop in oil and gas prices, the decrease in production levels at the relevant companies and a severe shortage of foreign exchange.

Companies which have high import bills for products for sale have begun to raise the prices as they are unable to maintain income levels due to the shortage of US currency to purchase stock.

Even in the midst of government having decreased the rate of Value Added Tax, prices have remained the same and in most cases increased, as the companies have sought to protect their enterprises.

The regular level of pay for public servants is generally low, and the same carries for employees of most state agencies. With the government being the largest employer through its ministries and other state bodies and state companies, it means that most employed persons in T&T know that they are not highly paid.

It is in this context that the OWTU has drawn the ire of the public. While everyone loves to know that their friends and family members at Petrotrin are well paid, it is difficult to listen to an argument from the best paid employees complain that their salaries are too small. Truly we understand the nature of your job requires constant vigilance and that you work in a very high-risk environment.

Similar arguments, however, can be made for several other industries. The risks may not be the same, but if there was some matrix comparing risk to remuneration, I am certain that the pay levels for these workers are far from comparable.

The situation then presents itself as though the man with one hand is complaining, and asking everyone with no hands to empathise with him. It just won’t happen.

Even in the face of this, the time is definitely not right for labour organisations to attempt to strike for increased pay.

If your argument is that a pay raise is due, then understand that just like the rest of us, these hard times may not be the right time to complain for more.

If your strongest argument is that the company’s money was mismanaged, and that management enriched themselves and placed the company in a bad position, the answer is definitely not to put it further in debt. What is therefore required is a change of company direction, possibly a change of leadership and an inquiry into the practices that put the company there.

If we all took similar action, saying that “if he get I could get too” then I can safely say that we don’t have long before the entire country goes bankrupt.

It’s akin to employing a policy of “an eye for an eye,” which makes me reminisce on the quote from Gandhi which says that “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

Right now, many of us wonder if the OWTU is blind to the impact of its current actions. Maybe, their eyes are just closed.

 

Maurice Burke, San Juan

If your strongest argument is that the company’s money was mismanaged, and that management enriched themselves and placed the company in a bad position, the answer is definitely not to put it further in debt. What is therefore required is a change of company direction, possibly a change of leadership and an inquiry into the practices that put the company there.