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End to NP impasse in sight as officials meet

Published: 
Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An end to the industrial impasse at National Petroleum (NP) was in sight yesterday as management and union officials held marathon talks to arrive at an amicable solution. Up to late yesterday, NP’s acting CEO Rajkapoor Ramlochan and his eight-member team were meeting with Ancel Roget, president general of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) and his executive to end the protest which resulted in a gas shortage throughout the country. NP workers downed tools on Friday in protest over the state of negotiations, as well as health and safety issues, resulting in long lines at gas stations and panic-buying.

NP said, however, that fuel distribution continued yesterday, with almost 80 loads of fuel leaving the Sea Lots compound. Roget confirmed yesterday evening they were close to settling. He said the union wanted a complete and thorough HSE audit of all contractors’ trucks and its employees. He said they must be held to the same stringent standards to which NP employees and their vehicles were being held. “On the issue of health and safety, we have reached the point of hammering out the terms of settlement. Once it conforms to what we require, it will be condensed into writing before we can sign off on that and workers can resume their duties,” he added.

Roget said the health and safety issues were not only confined to the Sea Lots operations but affected workers at Piarco, Tobago and the Pointe-a-Pierre bond. He said their action may inconvenience the motoring public but that was a burden they would have to bear to ensure safe operations at NP. Yesterday, work at the Petrotrin Pointe-a-Pierre bond was suspended while a joint union and management team investigated and corrected several health and safety issues. Unipet trucks were, however, filling from a station outside the bond. This action disrupted the filling of NP tankers with gas and diesel for delivery to gas stations, which resulted in another day of panic-buying and long lines at gas stations. OWTU branch president at Petrotrin Anil Bahgowtie denied reports the bond workers had abandoned their jobs. 

He explained that the HSE issues occurred on Monday morning when workers who last worked on Saturday, turned up for duty and realised the bond was used on Sunday. He said because of the NP impasse, workers came out to work on Saturday to ensure fuel was transported to the gas stations but rested on Sunday, their off day. He added: “There had to be a full investigation by a joint management union team to verify the installations were fit for work. “The workers did not operate it yesterday (Sunday). It seemed as though the contractors operated it themselves. “When they (bond workers) came this morning (Monday), they saw some irregularities and brought it to the attention of the company because if something went wrong, they should not be held accountable.”

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