OWTU to launch anti-government campaign over workers’ safety

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Ozzi Warwick, chief education and research officer at the OWTU alongside political leader of the MSJ David Abdulah speak from the steps of the OWTU’s headquarters at Paramount Building, San Fernando, on Saturday. – Lincoln Holder

OILFIELD Workers Trade Union (OWTU) Pointe-a-Pierre branch president Christopher Jackman says the union will launch a campaign against the PNM, calling on people to vote against them in the August 14 local government elections, if they do not implement policies to protect the safety of workers. He was addressing a small protest held by OWTU members outside of the former Petrotrin bond in Pointe-a-Pierre on Wednesday.

Jackman said, “Until the Government corrects this issue, we will push on the ground, we will push among our workers and we will also push politically, a campaign that identifies all the sins of this government.”

He included amongst those “sins”, the four per cent wage increase offered to public sector workers and the deaths of four divers at Paria Fuel Trading Company last February.

Jackman reiterated the OWTU’s view that the PNM is anti-worker.

He said the union will get its message out through methods such as public protests and social media.

“We know very well that we are in election silly season and we intend to utilise our leverage to the best than we can.”

Jackman warned that if the Government does not treat with workers’ concerns then the OWTU will do what it has to “make sure that (Prime Minister) Rowley is removed from government.”

Asked specifically if the OWTU was asking people to vote against the PNM on August 14, Jackman said, “We will be telling them that the government needs to be removed.”

While the OWTU does not represent Niquan workers, Jackman said the union is speaking on their behalf with respect to the death of Allan Lane Ramkissoon.

Ramkissoon, an employee of Massy Energy Engineered Solutions Ltd (MEES), suffered severe burns to his body during an incident at Niquan’s plant in Pointe-a-Pierre.He was flown to Colombia for treatment but died on June 18. The Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) and the Energy Ministry are investigating the matter.

Jackman said to date, the company has not provided an official report on the circumstances which led to Ramkissoon’s death.

He questioned whether proper procedure was followed when the accident happened and was not confident about the outcome of these investigations.

Jackman said that when accidents happen on the workplace, the OWTU is observing a pattern where workers are afraid to speak out for fear of victimisation or losing their jobs.

He also said the OWTU is concerned about the families of workers who are either injured or killed on the job, not being treated properly by the workers’ employers.

Jackman said in some of these situations, workers’ relatives may take legal action against the employer.

He reiterated the union’s concern about the state of the Petrotrin pension fund.

Jackman said 7,500 former Petrotrin workers are receiving pensions from this fund.

He claimed a report on the fund said it was under threat and needed $216 million annually for the next decade to remain stable.

Speaking on this matter in Parliament last March, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said the fund stood at $7.859 billion.