(Trinidad Express) Labour Minister Errol McLeod’s intervention in the negotiations between Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL) and its striking workers failed to resolve the dispute yesterday.
McLeod met separately with officials of the company and the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) at the Ministry’s St James Street, San Fernando, office.
He was seeking to bring to an end the almost-month-old strike, where workers have refused to accept anything less than a 12 per cent wage increase, having rejected the company’s offer of 6.5 per cent.
Following the meetings yesterday, McLeod said, “We have just ended after about five hours of very important discussions. We have adjourned to meet again in the next two days. We are talking. I (have) great but guarded optimism.”
President-general of the OWTU Ancel Roget, who is leading negotiations for the striking workers, said “All in all, we are hopeful that negotiations will end in a positive conclusion, but we hold out no such hope at this point in time. But we will continue with the conciliation process. We have been told by the Minister that we should go review our positions, both parties, and should come back on Friday and that is what we are prepared to do.”
Roget said TCL did not want to settle the wage negotiations because there were some who wanted the company to be bought by a foreign interest.
Roget said it is costing the company and country much more than what it would to settle the negotiations. He said, “The union has demonstrated flexibility. We continue to do that on Friday.”
Reminded that the OWTU settled last month for a nine per cent increase on behalf of Petrotrin workers, Roget said “it is not a one-size-fit-all” since TCL made billions in profits.
Roget said recent acts of violence reported by TCL employees are company-orchestrated.
“The company is going to all limits to get public sympathy. The union has nothing to do with any of the incidents that took place.”
He said, “The hardware owners who are price-gouging at this time are the ones who ought to be condemned because they are the ones taking advantage of a just struggle. But you hear no one making pronouncements on those issues.”