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OWTU calls on Opposition: Apply to have IRA changes revoked - Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

President general of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) Ancel Roget has called on the Opposition to file an application to have a recent amendment to the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) annulled, as he accused the Government of “systemically removing” the representation of workers.

Roget also called on independent senators to back the Opposition and accused the Government of campaigning to try to decimate the trade union movement.

At a press conference on Tuesday at Paramount Building at Circular Road, San Fernando, Roget added the union intends to write to the Opposition and independent senators.

“We will meet with them if necessary, so serious we feel this attack is, to discuss with them what contributions that can make to the working class.”

Roget charged that a recent legislative amendment made by the Government could have severe consequences for workers at the National Petroleum Marketing Company Ltd (NP) and the stability of fuel distribution.

He recalled that on April 20, the OWTU applied for recognition at the Liquid Fuel Company. This company was formed to deliver fuel from the Pointe-a-Pierre bond to a Caroni facility to store and distribute it.

Roget said NP workers previously in charge of the bond in Pointe-a-Pierre and the gantry in Sea Lots would be the “natural fit” for that facility.

The OWTU consulted with NP management for the workers to be allowed the first option to run the facility.

He added that on April 24, the union wrote to the company informing them of the application. The letter was copied to the Labour Minister.

Four days later, on April 28, the Registration Recognition and Certification Board (RRCB) issued a notice of application to the new company.

“On May 26, a legal notice was drawn up to amend the IRA to have the liquid petrol pipeline network service deemed an essential service,” he said.

The IRA, Roget said, gives workers the right to join a trade union of their choice. But the same IRA says if a trade union represents a worker in an essential industry, the union cannot represent the worker in another essential industry.

“The Cabinet took a decision to instruct the Attorney General to draw up the legal notice (163) to have the IRA Second Scheduled amended to include liquid-fuel pipeline facilities and network services as an essential service,” Roget said.

This move prevents the workers from getting “the representation they choose to get and deserve.”

Roget also said under the guise of restructuring, the Government intends to privatise the Port of Port of Spain and the Port of Scarborough.

“On the chopping board are T&TEC, WASA, Lake Asphalt, SWMCOL, BIR, Customs and PTSC,” he added.

He charged that stakeholders, including OWTU, made amendments to the IRA that would allow workers the freedom to exercise their right to join a trade union of their choice. The proposals were to be taken to the Cabinet in 2017.

“Since 2017, the union was involved in discussions and meetings with the then Labour Minister, who consulted with stakeholders thro