The Oilfields Workers' Trade Union (OWTU) served an official strike notice on Petrotrin yesterday morning and in a surprising twist, it was Government Senator David Abdulah who signed the notice, heralding "90 days of war." Hundreds of workers accompanied president general Ancel Roget as he delivered the strike notice yesterday morning to Petrotrin's president, Kenneth Allum, at the company's administrative offices in Pointe-a-Pierre. If the strike proceeds as planned from Saturday, all of Petrotrin's exploration and production, refinery and marine operations will be shut down, possibly affecting fuel supplies locally and abroad.
Last night, Government finalised plans to use members of the T&T Defence Force to drive fuel-distribution wagons, as well as to continue importation of fuel from abroad. Labour Minister Errol McLeod was expected to meet Roget late yesterday evening to discuss concerns. Roget said, "out of respect," union officials agreed to meet with McLeod but "the time for talk is over." He advised Petrotrin workers to prepare for the long haul.
Roget said: "This is war! A strike is meant to hurt. The employer is hurting you by not giving a decent wage. Prepare yourself and forget about wasting money on Carnival. "Prepare to play mas long after Ash Wednesday," he told a large gathering of workers. Roget urged them to be disciplined and act within the law. He also advised that "the OWTU will not be held responsible for the safety of those people who decide to break the picket line."
Roget also warned security personnel not to suppress striking workers, as "it was the OWTU who had organised gratuity and pension benefits for security staff." He contended that the workers were being deprived of a fair wage and reiterated that the OWTU would never accept a five per cent wage increase offer. He said: "We are asking for not one cent more than we deserve and we will accept not one cent less than we deserve.
"We have had 55 bilateral sessions and the time for talk done." Roget also warned that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar would pay the ultimate political price. He also accused the Government of being deceptive by issuing news releases that the union wanted a 75 per cent wage increase. Roget admitted that the union's negotiations started at 75 per cent but said that demand had been reduced significantly.