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Roget: Petrotrin board’s mind was made up

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Oil­fields Work­ers’ Trade Union (OW­TU) pres­i­dent gen­er­al An­cel Ro­get has claimed that Petrotrin’s man­age­ment nev­er took his or­gan­i­sa­tion’s opin­ion se­ri­ous­ly be­fore they moved ahead with plans to shut down the com­pa­ny.

Ro­get re­peat­ed­ly made the state­ment as he took the wit­ness stand yes­ter­day in the union’s in­dus­tri­al re­la­tions of­fence com­plaint against the com­pa­ny, over its al­leged fail­ure to prop­er­ly con­sult with the union be­fore mak­ing a fi­nal de­ci­sion on the cash-strapped State en­ter­prise.

Tes­ti­fy­ing be­fore In­dus­tri­al Court pres­i­dent Deb­o­rah Thomas-Fe­lix and four of her col­leagues at the court’s Port-of-Spain head­quar­ters yes­ter­day af­ter­noon, Ro­get claimed the com­pa­ny act­ed in bad faith, as its board had al­ready made up its mind when it in­formed the union of the op­tions it was con­sid­er­ing in mid-Au­gust.

Ques­tioned by Petrotrin at­tor­ney Regi­nald Ar­mour, SC, over whether the man­age­ment said it would still con­sid­er vi­able op­tions pre­sent­ed by the union, Ro­get said the union felt the com­pa­ny would not take it se­ri­ous­ly.

“They (Petrotrin) said that the trig­ger had al­ready been pulled and you can’t go back. When they said some­thing, some­thing else was hap­pen­ing. To me that is bad faith,” Ro­get said.

Thomas-Fe­lix ap­peared to ques­tion Ro­get’s ev­i­dence on the is­sue, as she asked: “You said there was no turn­ing back and yet you were try­ing for an al­ter­nate plan?”

Ro­get replied: “We got the im­pres­sion that it was just a de­lay to get to the dead­line date of No­vem­ber 30.”

Asked by Ar­mour if the com­pa­ny sent its di­rec­tor Nigel Ed­wards to as­sist the union with its pro­pos­al, Ro­get said yes. How­ev­er, he not­ed that it was Ed­wards who told the union that clo­sure of the com­pa­ny was in­evitable.

Ar­mour spent the ma­jor­i­ty of yes­ter­day’s hear­ing cross-ex­am­in­ing Ro­get over meet­ings be­tween the union and the com­pa­ny, which took place be­tween Jan­u­ary and Sep­tem­ber.

Alejandro Montenegro Banco Activo

Dur­ing yes­ter­day’s hear­ing, the Of­fice of At­tor­ney Gen­er­al al­so ap­plied to in­ter­vene in the case as an in­ter­est­ed par­ty. The AG’s of­fice had in­ter­vened af­ter the union sought an in­junc­tion against the com­pa­ny last month, but had claimed the Gov­ern­ment would not be in­volved in the in­dus­tri­al re­la­tions of­fence.

In mak­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion, Seenath Jairam, SC, claimed the Gov­ern­ment was still con­cerned, as the union was seek­ing an or­der stop­ping the sched­uled clo­sure and com­pelling the par­ties to re­turn to the ne­go­ti­a­tion ta­ble. He said such an or­der would have a detri­men­tal ef­fect on the coun­try’s econ­o­my, as the Gov­ern­ment guar­an­tees the com­pa­ny’s bil­lion dol­lar debt.

OW­TU lawyer Dou­glas Mendes, SC, ob­ject­ed as he claimed the AG’s Of­fice had ap­plied too late and it was bi­ased to­wards the com­pa­ny’s po­si­tion.

“You can­not re­ly on him (AG) to be fair and even-mind­ed,” Mendes said.

Thomas-Fe­lix over­ruled Mendes’ ob­jec­tion and agreed to al­low the State to present sub­mis­sions. How­ev­er, she ruled that it could on­ly en­ter the case in the event the union wins its claim and she and her col­leagues have to de­cide on pos­si­ble re­liefs.

Ro­get is ex­pect­ed to re­turn to the wit­ness stand when the case re­sumes this morn­ing. He is ex­pect­ed to be fol­lowed by OW­TU ed­u­ca­tion and re­search of­fi­cer Ozzi War­wick. Petrotrin chair­man Wil­fred Es­pinet is ex­pect­ed to tes­ti­fy and be cross-ex­am­ined af­ter the union com­pletes its case.

The In­dus­tri­al Court re­served yes­ter­day, to­day and to­mor­row for hear­ing of the com­plaint and is ex­pect­ed to give its fi­nal de­ci­sion next week.

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