Trinidad Cement Ltd withdraws wage offer

(Trinidad Express) Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL) has withdrawn its offer of a seven per cent wage increase to striking workers and has refused to continue negotiations with the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU), blaming the union for acts of violence and terror tactics against the company.

TCL general manager Satnarine Bachew said yesterday the company would not be attending the conciliation meeting at the Ministry of Labour in Port of Spain today.

Bachew wrote to Labour Minister Errol McLeod yesterday, stating: “Following the meeting (Wednesday), we have seen a dramatic escalation in the illegal acts, violence and terrorism emanating from the OWTU’s strike camp. Overnight, cars were parked across the entrance of the company’s access way, tyres were burnt and the union called a “mob” to intimidate anyone who tried to enter the compound. Under these circumstances, TCL wishes to advise that we can no longer participate in the scheduled meeting (today) as we will not negotiate with terrorists.”

McLeod mediated in separate meetings with both parties at the ministry’s San Fernando offices on Wednesday where TCL made the seven per cent offer.

However, the union refused the company’s proposal and demanded a 12 per cent increase. Five hours later, the meeting ended unresolved.

The workers intensified their strike action on Wednesday night, burning tyres and blocking the company’s entrance with vehicles. Company officials said a shuttle transporting employees out of the company was blocked. The bus returned to the compound and waited for police escort to leave the compound, the Express learned.

Bachew stated the company has made every effort to deal with the OWTU in a “constructive manner”, but this was met with aggression towards management and employees, who accepted the company’s individual contracts.

“We wish to further advise that we are withdrawing the settlement position communicated to parties at (Wednesday’s) meeting and will revert to our position prior to the breakdown on February 23, 2012. To remind you, our position at that time was a 6.5 per cent increase in wages, with an additional two per cent on gain-sharing and the removal of the guarantee in the final year and the reconfiguration of the qualifying criteria to one per cent for every $15 million,” Bachew stated.

Bachew stated the company was willing to meet with McLeod but will not agree to have any meetings with the executive of the OWTU “unless they actively demonstrate an ability to control their militant members”.

The company accused the OWTU of only paying “lip-service” to the acts of violence being perpetrated by the local branch, which has endangered the lives of employees, their property and company assets.

“It is clear that the campaign of violence is being orchestrated by the OWTU because they are fearful that the strike is crumbling due to lack of support from TCL employees. In today’s environment, this type of behaviour is intolerable and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms,” the letter stated.

OWTU president general Ancel Roget and branch president Lawrence Renaud could not be reached last evening. Both have denied striking workers were involved in the attacks.

McLeod declined comment on the latest TCL position last night.


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