Energy workers: We’re being fired over illegal covid19 policy

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Executive trustee of the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) Ernesto Kesar speaks with member of the media outside Kenson Group on Lady Hailes Avenue, San Fernando. – Marvin Hamilton

ALTHOUGH Government discontinued its proposal for a covid19 vaccination policy in the public sector, workers in the private sector are claiming this is being enforced in the energy industry to constructively and illegally dismiss them.

Some workers who claim to have been affected by this policy gathered outside their workplace at the Kenson Group of Companies, Lady Hailes Avenue, San Fernando, on Tuesday morning to demonstrate their dissatisfaction.

Workers joined the demonstration from Kenson’s clients Paria, Heritage, EOG and BHP. Police kept watch over the demonstrators and the company, owned by former San Fernando mayor Ken Ferguson.

Labour relations officer of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) Ernesto Kesar, acting on behalf of the affected workers, tried to deliver a letter to HR manager Tyrone Rodulfo seeking an urgent meeting on the claimed denial of workers’ right to work or to continued employment owing to their vaccination status.

Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union joined the First Wave Movement as employees of the Kenson Group protested on Lady Hailes Avenue, San Fernando. – Marvin Hamilton

Kenson’s armed private security guards accepted the letter on behalf of Rodulfo.

Blair Ferguson, Kenson’s CEO, told the Newsday the company would issue an official statement, as some of the claims being made were not true.

Rylon Baptiste, who has worked with Kenson for the past 14 years, and was last assigned to BHP, said he has been off the job since December 27 and received an official termination notice on March 18.

His termination was said to have arisen from his non-adherence to BHP’s covid19 policy. Baptiste said to date he has not received a copy of this policy which caused him to be out of a job.

“If you are dismissing me, there must be some justifiable grounds, but the company has not revealed the policy.”

He said this has happened to other employees who are engaged with numerous companies in the industry.

“We are income-generators for Kenson. The company does not rent equipment or do anything other than send skilled men to do physical work. We supply skilled labour to EOG, Shell, BHP, BP, Paria and Heritage. We provide technical labour, mechanical, electrical, instrument maintenance or operations.”

Executive trustee of the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) Ernesto Kesar speaks a security officer on Wednesday at the gate of the Kenson Group on Lady Hailes Avenue, San Fernando. – Marvin Hamilton

Baptiste said receiving or refusing to take the vaccine is his personal choice and should not deny him the right to work and earn an income for his family.

In a company memo dated October 2021, Rodulfo told employees that from December 1, 2021 (subject to change) only fully vaccinated contract personnel would be allowed to mobilise to a BHP TT operational site.

It also said non-vaccinated contract personnel would not be permitted site access unless approved by BHP’s company doctor and operations manager.

“To protect the health and wellbeing of all persons at our sites, Kenson Group of Companies and BHP expects and requires full co-operation with the requirements described herein. Any deliberate attempt to bypass these requirements will be considered a serious breach of Kenson/BHP’s HSE Procedures and Guidelines,” the memo said.

Activist Umar Abdullah of the First Wave Movement told the media he was there to intervene on behalf of workers against companies which have been using covert methods to fire workers who refuse to take the covid19 vaccination.

Employees of the Kenson Group protested on Lady Hailes Avenue, San Fernando on Wednesday morning. – Marvin Hamilton

“Your vaccination status and your medical status is your business,” he said.

He asked the police officers present what would happen to national security if they were told they could not report for duty or get paid if they exercised their right not to be vaccinated.