Last update: 10-Dec-2013 1:42 am
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Minister behind NP firings, says Roget
Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) president general Ancel Roget yesterday blamed a high-ranking Cabinet minister for the firing of 68 employees at the state-owned fuel distributor, National Petroleum Marketing Company (NP). Speaking at a press conference yesterday at the OWTU’s office, Henry Street, Port-of-Spain, Roget said the move could spell trouble at NP. “NP is responsible for delivering fuel to the motoring public in the country and this is fuel for a lot of confusion and bacchanal going forward,” he said.
The workers were fired on Monday for what NP described was an “illegal work stoppage” in August at the company’s Sea Lots, Port-of-Spain. Roget yesterday claimed the union had good information that an unnamed “high-ranking official in Cabinet instructed the board (of NP) to take the type of action that we are seeing playing out here.”
He said the official told the board to go ahead with the action, since the Government was ready to pay up even if the employees go to the Industrial Court with the matters and win. He said workers who were off-duty were also caught up in the “broad brush approach” because NP wanted to “manners” workers in accordance with political instructions. The union’s attorneys, Roget added, have already been consulted and efforts were being made to have the workers reinstated with full compensation.
Describing the firing as a frontal attack on the OWTU, Roget said the majority of fired workers were People’s National Movement (PNM) supporters. “NP,” he charged, “used political victimisation and identified the majority of NP workers as PNM supporters and took this action against the workers.” The timing of the sacking also was questioned, as he charged it was no coincidence it took place after the local government elections.
On the issue of privatisation, Roget claimed NP was contracting out positions which the fired workers once held. This decision, he added, also was supported by the People’s Partnership Government. He added: “We hold Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her Cabinet responsible for the onslaught that was unleashed on these workers and in due course they will be made to pay for that... rest assured. “And, in fact, the payment for all the attacks on workers. It has already started.”
He also showed a report, purportedly produced by the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Agency, dated September 23, in which an inspection was done at NP. “The inspection was done on August 28, 29 and September 3, 11 and 12 this year. That report cited some 19 (incidents of) non-compliance on the part of NP,” Roget said. In a release on Monday, however, NP claimed it had passed the OSH inspections.
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