A workman at the TCL plant in Claxton Bay. (Image: RISHI RAGOONATH)

Twelve permanent workers from Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL) reportedly have been retrenched by management, the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) has revealed.

During a press conference this morning at the TCL car park in Claxton Bay, OWTU chief labour relations officer, Lindon Mendoza, said the company claimed the move was necessary due to surplus labour, but he accused the company of sinister motives.

Mendoza claimed the company is on a drive to retrench permanent workers and hire contract workers. He claims that although the company enjoys favourable treatment in the market, the management’s attitude was callous towards the laws of T&T.

“I mean that Trinidad Cement Ltd, although it is a local company, it has foreign management and foreign ownership in control of the assets and operation of TCL,” he pointed out.  “What they are doing is that they are disrespecting the laws of Trinidad and Tobago, and the workers—and by extension, the union, OWTU.” 

The OWTU official raised several issues, mainly the retrenchment of the permanent workers——some 56 since 2018. He said retrenchment is an exercise that a company could engage in if there is surplus labour. However, he maintains it was clear from the meetings with the company that management cannot substantiate a claim of surplus labour, given that there are several vacancies.

“Notwithstanding this clear and obvious fact, the company has still engaged in an exercise of retrenchment, which the union can only term as union-busting,” he alleges, “where the company is on a campaign to terminate permanent workers in favour of hiring contractors and contract workers within the organisation.”

Mendoza added: “We are saying this morning that that is wrong, it is morally wrong, and it is unlawful to do so, because the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act clearly states that the only reason or the only criteria a company can use to initiate a retrenchment exercise is surplus labour.  We are saying that the company does not have surplus labour at this time and therefore, they cannot institute a retrenchment exercise.”

Mendoza said information reaching him just before the press conference today, was that TCL intends to shut down the packing section of the company, a move which will affect 28 permanent workers and 17 casual workers. He said the work of that section would then be contracted to an external company.

Concerning the 12 workers released today, the OWTU was served with a notice on January 6th and has since written to the company requesting a meeting on Friday but so far, the company has not responded.

The trade unionist said the letter was also copied to Labour minister Steven Mc Clashie.

If there is no resolution, he said, the union intends to file trade disputes with the minister.

“We will progress those trade disputes to the level of the Industrial Court for resolution,” Mendoza promised.