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Fight to bitter end

Published: 
Tuesday, September 4, 2018
Unions rally behind Petrotrin cause
OWTU president general Ancel Roget, right, presents a letter to OPM protocol officer Kirk Francois to deliver to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley outside the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair yesterday. Looking on from left are, president Sheep and Goat Farmers’ Association Shariz Khan and PSA president Watson Duke. PICTURE ABRAHAM DIAZ

Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) president general Ancel Roget has admitted his union is in no position to buy Petrotrin’s billion-dollar refinery but says this is a ruse as the Government already has a purchaser in mind.

His comments came hours after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, in a televised address to the nation on Sunday, offered the OWTU first chance at acquiring the refinery following Government’s decision last week to shut down its operations.

Yesterday, Roget declared an all-out war on the Government against the treatment meted out to the working class and unions.

“We must be prepared to fight to the bitter end comrades,” Roget told union leaders who walked with him to the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair to deliver a letter to the PM seeking an urgent meeting with him.

If the workers fail to prepare, Roget said the Government will send out their attackers against them.

“A war has been declared against workers in T&T… the workers and its unions must respond. And our position is if you and my enemy is fighting... the only life I have here and about is mine. We don’t care about Dr Rowley’s political life. We care about the survival of the people and workers in this country.”

Roget said Rowley drew first blood and he now has to respond.

Yesterday, the OWTU was joined by several union leaders at the National Union of Government and Federated Workers’ Union headquarters in Port-of-Spain, where they signed a letter dated September 3 addressed to Rowley asking that they meet and discuss the impending closure of the Petrotrin refinery and continuing retrenchment of workers.

“We wish to remind you that these actions are in direct contravention of agreements on August 23, 2017 and September 13, 2017, which included inter alia the following, a moratorium on retrenchment until December 31, 2017 and that any new consideration of retrenchment must be brought to the National Tripartite Advisory Council before any final decision is made by the Government,” Roget said in reading out some of the contents of the letter.

Roget said such a move was untenable and an undemocratic situation, saying it marked the dawn of a different era.

The letter was signed by Roget, Public Services Association president Watson Duke, National Union of Government Federated Workers president general James Lambert, T&T Farmers Union president Shiraz Khan, Amalgamated Workers’ Union president Michael Prentice, Communications Workers’ Union general secretary Clyde Elder, Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union president Michael Annisette, T&T Registered Nurses Association president Idi Stewart, Postal Workers Union president David Forbes, Fire Service Association president Leo Ramkissoon, Inter-Island Truckers’ Association of T&T president Wazir Ali and Banking Insurance General Workers’ Union representative Anton Baron.

The union leaders, under the watchful eye of armed police officers, walked to Rowley’s office from the NUGFW headquarters, where the letter was delivered to Rowley’sprotocol officer Kirk Francois.

Responding to Rowley’s address to the nation on Sunday night, Roget said the country was faced with a lot of deceit.

“I want to say we cannot trust this Government and its Prime Minister. They are simply not credible,” he said.

He said the OWTU had been vindicated because they have maintained “the plan is to sell the people’s assets…the refinery and it came out quite clear last night in this sort of a backhand kind of a roost telling the union that we have the first option to buy the refinery. “

Roget said, “To purchase a refinery that costs billions of dollars, he (Rowley) knows very well we will not do that. His plan is to say if you all can’t buy it we will get somebody to buy it. ... Wait and see T&T who will come forward to purchase this refinery. They have already shortlisted somebody…their friends to purchase this refinery.”

He questioned why the PM went with one consultant’s recommendation on the refinery’s closure and not get a second or third opinion.

In going forward, Roget said a debate on the refinery should take place in Parliament and for a public inquiry into the operations of Petrotrin.

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