OWTU Executive Member, Ernesto Kesar, speaks with the media outside YARA Trinidad Limited in Point Lisas, on Wednesday 30 December 2020. (Image: SHASTRI BOODAN)

The Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) is seeking an urgent meeting with Minister of Labour Stephen Mc Clashie and the management team at YARA Trinidad Limited.  The union wants the minister to prevent the impending retrenchment of 15 of YARA’s employees, carded for January 2, 2021.

The OWTU held a news conference outside YARA’s Point Lisas plant, today, Wednesday 30 December 2020.

OWTU executive member Ernesto Kesar, said the union needs Government to get involved in the issue.

“The union is seeking an urgent intervention by the Minister of Labour to avoid tremendous job losses and hardship to the company, and the workers and their families.  The union is ready to meet at any time,” Kesar said.

Retrenchment notices were issued to 15 employees on November 18th; notices also were sent to the union, in accordance with the law.  The Union responded on November 19th seeking a meeting with YARA.  It also objected to reasons stated by YARA for retrenching the workers.

He said YARA indicated that they had difficulties that include a fixed gas supply with NGC at a fixed price.  Gas is purchased on a month-to-month basis.

OWTU members outside YARA’s compound in Point Lisas, on Wednesday 30 December 2020. (Image: SHASTRI BOODAN)

Kesar said the union has been in negotiations with YARA for almost a year, for the bargaining period 1 August 2019 to 31 July 2022.  

“We at the OWTU indicated to YARA that we are willing to work with them to address the company’s issues,” Kesar said.  “We gave YARA a list of proposals on December 3rd that illustrated how the employees could be re-deployed into vacant jobs and vacant bargaining unit jobs.”

According to the OWTU official, those jobs were either made vacant because of natural attrition, or were held by contract workers who are not supposed to hold bargaining unit jobs. These included clerks, draughtsmen, mechanical technicians, procurement officers and engineers.

Kesar told Guardian Media that the OWTU sent a request to the labour minister asking him to intervene in the matter, since he can, as indicated since under Section 11, Sub-sections 1 and 2 of the Retrenchment and Benefits Act.

An email was sent to Minister Mc Clashie on Tuesday 22 December, followed by a hardcopy on Wednesday 23 December 2020, requesting a meeting as well as his assistance.  Receipt of the email was acknowledged by the Ministry of Labour; however, Minister Mc Clashie is yet to respond to the union’s meeting request.