http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/No_ ... 53775.html
No ease in tension
TCL opens gates to former strikers, but...
By Carolyn Kissoon and Dexter Philip
Story Created: May 29, 2012 at 10:58 PM ECT
Story Updated: May 29, 2012 at 10:58 PM ECT
FOR the first time in 92 days, the gates were opened to allow Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL) workers onto the compound.
But the tension between the company's management and the Oilfields Workers' Trade Union (OWTU) continued, as workers refused to be screened before entering the Claxton Bay plant.
A desk was placed at the entrance, with workers expected to fill out registration forms, before entering the compound.
But the workers, led by OWTU president general Ancel Roget, marched past the booth and into a canteen, where company officials had to conduct the registration.
Roget yesterday said the company was using the approach to further "victimise" workers and was scheduling re-orientation sessions in two weeks' time.
"They are using tactics to stretch out the time before workers return to work and they are using the re-orientation to do that," he told the Express by phone.
Roget questioned why workers, who were properly certified three months ago, now had to be retrained.
"We complied with the Minister of Labour and once again the company has not," he said.
Roget said the union would forward this new complaint to Labour Minister Errol McLeod because the company's action will affect the price of cement for another two to three weeks.
The workers are expected to return tomorrow for "re-orientation".
They will be scheduled to return to work on Friday.
TCL general manager Satnarine Bachew said yesterday workers were required to undergo re-orientation exercises since they were away from the plant for 90 days, according to Health, Safety and the Environment Quality regulations.
He said the company intended for workers to re-enter the compound in a structured way, but the union objected.
Bachew said it was unfortunate the impasse had to go the full 90 days before being referred to the Industrial Court.
"It was as close as the second week in the strike when TCL agreed to refer this matter to the Industrial Court but the OWTU adamantly said no," he said.
The first hearing is scheduled for June 1.
Bachew said workers had lost more than $24 million in wages during the strike.
He said the plant would now undergo an organisational restructuring where manpower would be analysed. He said the exercise would be discussed with the OWTU and expected to be completed in six months.
Bachew said TCL's 365 permanent employees and its casual staff had returned to the plant.
However, OWTU branch president Lawrence Renaud said, "We usually go to a training room and have one session for orientation. So I cannot understand why they cannot do that now. We believe it is a trap to have us in small groups and then begin to eliminate people."
The workers gathered outside the compound to begin work early yesterday, as the strike/lockout action ended on Monday. TCL management and the OWTU met Labour Minister McLeod on Monday evening, after the union requested that the matter be referred to the Industrial Court for final determination.
The union served strike notice on February 27, following a breakdown in wage negotiations. And despite several attempts to settle the matter during the 90-day period, no agreement was reached.
TCL human resources manager Keith Johnson advised workers to conform to the rules of the company and refrain from wearing unsuitable clothing.
Several workers were yesterday dressed in T-shirts which read, "Proud Not to be a Scab" and the OWTU's logo.
Speaking to workers before going into the compound, Roget said: "We fought the good fight. Keep united. We came out together, let us go back together. Each worker is no better that the other worker. We respect all positions workers hold in the company. Attempts would be made to have workers violate the collective agreement, but...don't give them any chances," he said.
Roget said workers should be happy, despite the 90-day sacrifice of no pay.
"Keep your shoulders high, we have landed the target. We said 90 (days) and we accepted not one second less. As we go back, we go back in peace, right in law and moral victory. Take good notes of all of the unsafe conditions and practices and then we will deal with that going forward," he said.