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Minister summons Petrotrin’s boss
The President of the Petroleum Company of T&T (Petrotrin) Fitzroy Harewood failed to attend yesterday’s crucial meeting with officials of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) and the Minister of Labour, Jennifer Baptiste-Primus forcing the meeting to be adjourned to this morning.
When the meeting was called to order after 2 pm, officials from Petrotrin and OWTU representatives led by Ancel Roget were present, however, Baptiste-Primus, the T&T Guardian understands, noticed Harewood’s absence and gave instructions to contact him.
He was subsequently summoned to attend today’s meeting, which is scheduled for 8 am by the Labour Minister.
The Labour Minister’s meeting was called “as a matter of priority” in an effort to stave off the proposed strike action.
Asked if a pertinent reason was given as to why Harewood was absent, Roget, speaking with members of the media after, said at least no excuse was given to the OWTU.
“We are not too sure what they communicated to the minister as to why he was absent but some communication was made as to why. We have our own view about that,” Roget said.
He said he expected Harewood to attend this morning’s meeting after being summoned by the Minister.
“It was a bit disrespectful not to have him respond to the meeting this afternoon (yesterday) given the gravity of the matter. The Minister felt very strongly about that and said that he (Harewood) should be part of the process and I am hopeful that he appears in the morning (today) at which time we are going to get into the cut and thrust of all of these discussions in a bid to bring about a resolution.”
At 5.52 pm an email was issued on behalf of Petrotrin’s Manager Corporate Communications, Gillian Friday which stated that all parties have agreed to reconvene tomorrow (today) at the Ministry of Labour from 8 am to continue discussions on the matter.
However, no explanation was given as to why Harewood was absent at the meeting and no confirmation was given as to whether he will be attending today’s meeting.
The statement went on to state, “Petrotrin remains committed to working with its stakeholders in the best interest of all parties concerned as we continue to strive to build a sustainable business and provide returns to the national economy.”
The OWTU’s planned strike has not been averted, according to Roget, but assured that the union and workers continue to hold out hope.
“We are very hopeful that at some point, not too long from now, these matters ought to be resolved but we continue to insist that we need to treat the workers who provide this invaluable service to the nation with some level of respect.”
“We will examine all of the possibilities as they are presented to us tomorrow (today),” he said.
Roget mentioned that he would also like to see the acting Minister of Energy, Colm Imbert in attendance. Energy Minister Franklin Khan is scheduled to undergo major heart surgery on Sunday.
“It is expected if we are talking about affairs for which the line minister is responsible that line minister, be him acting or substantial, that he ought to be in the meeting discussing issues because it has to do with the efficiency of Petrotrin.”
“We need to have dialogue. A line has been opened through the Minister of Labour for those discussions. We are hopeful that the Government will respond in a responsible manner and that will be met with a responsible response coming from the union,” Roget said.
On Wednesday, the union served strike notice on Petrotrin after failing to reach an agreement to settle negotiations for the 2014-2017 period. The company has offered 0/0/0 per cent for the three years. The OWTU is seeking a 10 per cent wage increase for the three year period.
A separate trade dispute relating to the negotiating period of 2011-2014 is before the Industrial Court where the company again offered no wage increase for the three year period.
The company has stated that its current wage bill stands at $2 b for its 5,000 employees. The company has recorded a significant decline in revenue from, $37b in 2012 to $16b in 2016.
The strike which could cripple the delivery of fuel across the country and affect one of the major revenue earners is set to become effective on Monday and could last as long as 90 days.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, on Wednesday, said the Government is ready to respond to ensure there was minimum inconvenience to the public. He said it was only reasonable for the Government to await the outcome of the matter before the Industrial Court before it could make any offer for the current negotiating period.