OWTU hopes Gonzales can help T&TEC workers

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Ancel Roget, president general of the Oil Field Workers Trade Union (OWTU), along with other members of the OWTU and members of various T&TEC branches, personally hand- deliver a letter to the Minister of Public Utilities building, pertaining to T&TEC employee issues, at One Alexandra Street, St Clair, Port of Spain, on April 23. – Venessa Mohammed

“All is not well at the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC).”

These were the words of Ancel Roget president general of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) after he hand-delivered a letter to the Ministry of Public Utilities building at One Alexandra Place, St Clair, Port of Spain, on April 23.

The letter was received by a customer service representative for the ministry, as Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales was not in office.

Roget was accompanied by officers of the various districts of T&TEC and members of OWTU.

The letter highlighted issues T&TEC employees have had for the collective bargaining period 2018-2020. It requested Gonzales’ intervention.

Roget’s main point was the lack of non-cost items.

Ancel Roget, president general of the Oilfield Workers Trade union (OWTU), along with his members and various T&TEC district officials stand outside the public utilities building at One Alexandra Place, St Clair, Port of Spain. – Venessa Mohammed

In the letter, Roget said T&TEC indicated that both parties would sign off on all agreed non-cost items at the next negotiation meeting.

He added in the letter, “The union is still awaiting a date to be set to deal with these items, which are of no cost to T&TEC.”

In response, T&TEC’s general manager Curvis Francois said, “In November 2023, T&TEC adjourned negotiations for the 2018-2020 collective bargaining period after coming to an agreement on most of the non-cost items. Negotiations will be resumed in the very near future to conclude the non-cost items.”

According to Roget, these non-cost items include T&TEC providing readily available personal protective equipment, proper health and safety for employees as well as fixing the issue of giving private contractors jobs that employees of T&TEC can do.

Roget added, “San Fernando, Arima, Central, Tobago, and Port of Spain didn’t have (PPE), but you can find ways and means to give some of those materials to the contractors. Something has to be wrong with that.”

Ancel Roget president general of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union speaks with the media after hand-delivering a letter to the Public Utilities building at One Alexandra Place, St Clair, Port of Spain. – Venessa Mohammed

Francois said, “Contractors are not provided with PPE from T&TEC. They make arrangements for their workers to be outfitted with the relevant PPE.

“PPE is readily available for T&TEC employees as required.”

While Roget said he did not want to make this issue about finances, he said T&TEC workers have not received a salary increase since 2014.

The letter stated, “T&TEC workers were awarded 0,0,0 by the Industrial Court for the period 2015-2017, which has since been appealed by the union. This fully emphasises the hardship of these workers.”

Francois said, “In terms of the cost items (salaries, wages and allowances), T&TEC is currently waiting on the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) office to provide the limits for negotiating these items. Immediately thereafter, we will engage the union with a view to concluding negotiations in the shortest possible time.”

While this was conveyed to the OWTU in a letter by Francois, dated December 21, 2023, the OWTU replied four months later on April 16 with a letter saying, “You (general manager) appear to have comfortably passed off your responsibility of general manager, related to treating with negotiations to a third party.”

The letter, given to Gonzales on April 23, states, “The union does not negotiate with a third party and therefore was compelled to write to the general manager reminding him of the same.”

Roget said that this refusal of T&TEC’s management to conclude these negotiations is unfair and unjust and seriously violates the principle of collective bargaining, written in the Industrial Relations Act.

Roget wants to get back to the negotiation table as soon as possible.

Roget said, “We are calling on the line minister (Gonzales) to take the necessary steps to ensure that T&TEC returns to the bargaining table with a mandate to sign off on all the agreed non-cost items and also with a mandate to conclude these negotiations in its entirety.

“All we call for is fairness in dealing with those workers and for the eradication of corruption.”

Newsday tried to contact Gonzales but was unsuccessful in multiple attempts.