Petrotrin appeals OWTU injunction

Petrotrin has filed its ap­peal against the Oil­fields Work­ers' Trade Union's in­junc­tion stop­ping it from ter­mi­nat­ing work­ers as it moves to re­struc­ture its op­er­a­tions.

In a tele­phone in­ter­view with CNC3, Se­nior Coun­sel Regi­nald Ar­mour, who is lead­ing the com­pa­ny's le­gal team, con­firmed the ur­gent ap­peal was filed in the Court of Ap­peal's reg­istry this evening.

How­ev­er, the T&T Guardian un­der­stands that up to 6 pm the com­pa­ny had not re­ceived a date and time for the hear­ing of the ap­peal against the In­dus­tri­al Court's de­ci­sion to grant the in­junc­tion.

At the even­tu­al hear­ing, the com­pa­ny is ex­pect­ed to ask the Ap­peal Court for a stay of the in­junc­tion pend­ing the de­ter­mi­na­tion of the ap­peal, as the re­quest was de­nied by the In­dus­tri­al Court af­ter the in­junc­tion was grant­ed on Mon­day.

In the event the com­pa­ny is un­able to over­turn the in­junc­tion on ap­peal, it will stand pend­ing the de­ter­mi­na­tion of the OW­TU's com­plaint of an in­dus­tri­al re­la­tions of­fence al­leged­ly com­mit­ted by the com­pa­ny in its on­go­ing move to close its op­er­a­tions.

Ter­mi­na­tion let­ters is­sued to groups of work­ers be­tween last Fri­day and Mon­day af­ter­noon will not be bind­ing un­til the in­junc­tion is lift­ed.

De­liv­er­ing a 16-page judge­ment at the In­dus­tri­al Court's head­quar­ters in Port-of-Spain on Mon­day af­ter­noon, the court's Pres­i­dent Deb­o­rah Thomas-Fe­lix and four of her col­leagues ruled the in­junc­tion was re­quired to pro­tect against the po­ten­tial risk of in­jus­tice while the union's in­dus­tri­al re­la­tions com­plaint against the com­pa­ny is pend­ing.

"It is our view that there would be a greater in­jus­tice if the is­sues af­fect­ing the loss of em­ploy­ment of 5,500 work­ers are not prop­er­ly ven­ti­lat­ed be­fore the clo­sure of the com­pa­ny," Thomas-Fe­lix said.

In the com­plaint, the OW­TU is al­leg­ing that Petrotrin com­mit­ted the of­fence by fail­ing to con­sult with it be­fore tak­ing the de­ci­sion to close the com­pa­ny and send home al­most 5,000 work­ers. It claims the com­pa­ny breached a mem­o­ran­dum of agree­ment signed be­tween the par­ties in April, as the com­pa­ny on­ly in­formed the union of the de­ci­sion af­ter mak­ing it in con­junc­tion with Cab­i­net in Ju­ly.

The of­fence car­ries a $4,000 fine, but the union may ask the court to or­der that the par­ties restart dis­cus­sions on the is­sue.

- by Derek Achong

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