Despite being faced with pre-action protocol letters for defamation and trespassing, former workers of Lennox Petroleum continued their protests for outstanding backpay on New Year’s Eve.
From around 9:30 am, the workers gathered outside the home of Wayne Persad, the managing director of Lennox Petroleum where they protested for over two hours.
The company has been mandated by the Industrial Court and the Court of Appeal to pay retroactive pay to the workers but the Oilfield Workers Trade Union says despite the court order, the company has not issued any payments.
Under the watchful eyes of the police, the former workers marched in a circle outside the house at Sumadh Gardens, as they called on their employer to pay what is due.
They followed COVID-19 protocols and did not attempt to enter Persad’s home.
Sgt Dino from the Marabella police arrived with a team and advised the workers that they will face charges if they broke health regulations or any other law.
But chief labour relations officer at the OWTU Lindon Mendoza assured that they had no intention of breaking the law. He provided copies of the court document to the senior officer as proof that they had won judgements against the company for outstanding back pay.
Mendoza said they intended to continue peaceful picketing until the company paid the workers.
He also denied claims by the company that they had appealed the matter and had sought clarification from the court about the details of the judgement.
“We have all documents and evidence. They can produce no documents. If there is doubt about this, I challenge you to fact check with the courts. These are real documents we are presenting,” Mendoza said.
He added, “They are not speaking the truth and they are playing for time. Justice delayed is justice denied. Every day these workers are disenfranchised is a day lost in possession of their property. Their monies are subjected to depreciate because of inflation and the company benefits from interest earned on that money.”
He also said that the company has been attempting to intimidate individual workers by issuing pre-action protocol letters.
“These pre-action protocol letters are being treated as red herrings. It is meant to intimidate workers and to instil fear in workers so they won’t pursue what is rightfully theirs. The company is saying they made defamatory statements and trespassing but no such things occurred and there is no basis,” Mendoza said.
He added, “The union will assist all workers and seek cost and damages for the malicious persecution of any worker.”
The company, in its latest media release, denied being in contempt of the Industrial Court Order.
The company said its appeal is scheduled to be heard on Monday, June 28, 2021, in the Court of Appeal.
The company said it applied to the Industrial Court for an interpretation of the Order dated July 8, 2020. The company said the law does not permit ex-workers to picket in front of an employer’s home.
Saying it has “time and again indicated its willingness to pay,” the company said, “The OWTU must be aware of the commercial realities of operating with a pandemic, which is made even more difficult to do business because of the reputational loss to creditors and customers caused by the ongoing protests and media attention.