TRINIDAD Y TOBAGO: 68 NP workers get back jobs - EntornoInteligente

Trinidad Express / Dozens of emotional workers celebrated outside the Industrial Court in Port of Spain yesterday after the court ruled the 68 workers fired by National Petroleum (NP) are to be reinstated with full benefits, in addition to $40,000 each in damages. In an immediate response, NP said it was committed to defending its actions since it believes it has acted in the best interests of the company and of the country. “NP is also convinced that it has acted at all times in accordance with professional industrial relations practices and extremely sound legal advice, principles and precedents,” the company said in a release. The 68 workers were fired by NP for engaging in an “illegal work stoppage” in August 2013. The workers were part of 86 the company had initially suspen­ded. NP said it held individual disciplinary hearings with the workers following the stoppage, and the employees had been asked to address what it des­cribed as refusal to perform their job functions, participation in illegal work stoppage and unauthorised absence from work stations. The workers went on strike, supported by the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU), from August 13 to 15 after complaining of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act violations, as well as alleged corruption and outsourcing to private contractors when workers were capable of doing the jobs. A panel of judges led by Industrial Court president Debo­rah Thomas-Felix yesterday ruled the workers’ actions did not amount to an industrial relations offence as claimed by NP. The court upheld the no-case submissions made by attorneys for OWTU and dismissed the claim. The court ordered the 68 workers be reinstated immediately to their respective positions, without any loss of seniority or benefits. Thomas-Felix ruled the sala­ries of each worker from the date of their dismissal be paid on or before January 30, 2015, as well as an additional $40,000 each in damages, which must be paid by December 18, 2014. “The dismissal of the 68 employees by the company was harsh, oppressive and contrary to the principles and practices of good industrial relations,” Thomas-Felix said. Workers could not contain their joy, applauding and cheering before the judgment could be fully read. The OWTU was represented by a team of attorneys, including lead counsel Douglas Mendes SC, Michael Quamina, Anthony Bullock and Imran Ali. Mendes and Quamina were absent for yesterday’s ruling. NP was represented by Senior Counsel Seenath Jairam, along with attorneys Derek Ali and Courtney McNish. It was an emotional scene following the ruling as workers hugged and shook each other’s hands. Shouts of “justice has been served” echoed all around. Speaking with the Express following the judgment, OWTU president Ancel Roget expressed satisfaction with the ruling. “It was a judgment for justice and a judgment on behalf of all the workers. The ruling of the court proves that despite a wicked and vindictive management, justice will be served. The workers did absolutely nothing to deserve their dismissal. The NP management dismissed the workers because of instructions by the Cabinet of Trinidad and Tobago, which tried to exact some sort of political revenge against the OWTU. Roget called for the dismis­sal of the management of NP who made the decision to fire the workers. NP responds The full statement from NP: Today, November 19, 2014, the Industrial Court of Trinidad and Tobago ruled that the 68 workers who were dismissed in 2013 for taking part in illegal work stoppages and illegal industrial action are to return to work. NP does not believe that the rationale for the decision takes into account all the facts and factors that constitute good industrial relations, especially those advanced on its behalf by its attorneys. As such, NP is committed to defending its actions since it believes it has acted in the best interests of the company and of the country. NP is also convinced that it has acted at all times in accordance with professional industrial relations practices and extremely sound legal advice, principles and precedents. Previous Article RAPE CHARGE

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