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‘No OWTU officer fired’
State-owned Petrotrin is holding one man responsible for four separate leaks and thousands of barrels of oil that spilled into the Gulf of Paria, last month. The company claimed it made a “major breakthrough” by terminating a man believed to be involved in the sabotage of its operations, but a series of email exchanges obtained by the Sunday Guardian, painted a different picture.
In one letter dated October 22, 2013, some two months before the first oil spill, Petrotrin wrote to the man to inform him that they received a complaint regarding his conduct “as a navigation/safety supervisior, between October 2012 and December 2012, seeking and accepting a gift or loan in the amount of $100,000 from a contracted supplier of goods and services to the company, without complying with the company’s codes and policies on gifts and conflicts of interest.”
The man was purported to be a senior member of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) but had not held any office since 1996, the union said. By December 6 last year, 11 days before the spill occurred, the company informed him that the investigation into the then one-year-old matter had been completed. While the letters found him to be in contravention of the company’s code of conduct and ethics, it did not state the next course of action that would be taken against him. He continued working, the union said.
President general of the OWTU Ancel Roget yesterday described these latest allegations as “more lies from Petrotrin.” In a media release yesterday, he condemned what he called “false and malicious claims by Petrotrin.”
“The OWTU states categorically that no OWTU officer at the Trinmar branch have been dismissed. We further state categorically that no OWTU officer is currently under any investigation. The only case the OWTU is aware of, is one where a worker received a notice of investigation since October 22, 2013, long before any oil spill. “Further, the complaint made against the worker was in relation to an incident which occurred between October and December 2012 where he is accused of accepting a gift contrary to the company's gift policy,” he said.
“What is even worse is that this worker, to date, has not received any dismissal letter. This case has absolutely nothing to do with any oil spill since the investigations was ongoing long before December 17, 2013,” he said. The man was said to be on the job up to yesterday. Roget said the union was not aware of any investigation in relation to the oil spill as none of the union members or officers have been interviewed.
In a telephone interview subsequently, Roget tied the responsibility for the spill to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. He said her refusal to meet with the union as a major energy stakeholder was tantamount to turning a blind eye to the negligence at Petrotrin. He predicted that the neglect at Petrotrin was so far gone that the Government would have no other alternative than to sell it off. “The Prime Minister is shielding her friends at the expense of the nation,” he charged.