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BACK TO THE PLANTATION OR BUST? by Rae Samuel

posted 10 Oct 2018, 11:15 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 10 Oct 2018, 11:18 ]
''Even when resolutions were reluctantly
adopted it was of no avail. For as soon
as the time was ripe they tore them up
And started a ruthless war against the people'


"The Chinese people have stood up''
Mao Zedong -1947/People Consultative Conference


Mr. Wilfred Espinet launched a broadside against the Industrial Court of Trinidad and Tobago following its ruling that Petrotrin stay its hand re: the planned retrenchment of its workers. The Oilfields Workers Trade Union had filed an Industrial relations Offence (IRO) against the company.

On April 3rd 2018, via memorandum of agreement, registered in the Industrial Court, the parties agreed to “the establishment of a working committee comprising representatives of both the company and the union that will work over the next eighteen months to address, resolve and agree on the four organizational structures, work processes and skills/competencies and manpower requirements which will make the company internationally competitive…The parties agree to a timetable for these meetings commencing in the month of April 2018…” To not do so constitutes violation of the law.

Petrotrin's transition team:Chairman Wilfred Espinet; Deputy Chairman Reynold Adjodhasingh, with oversight for Finance and Administration; former BP Trinidad and Tobago CEO Robert Riley, with oversight responsibility for Exploration and Production; former Petrotrin Vice President and current director Anthony Chan Tack, with oversight for Refining and Marketing.
Massa Espinet does not seem to think such commitments should be heeded. He launched a verbal assault against the Court questioning its relevance in today's social and economic climate and its ability to hear and adjudicate matters brought before it. Such was his tirade that even his own lawyers were forced to muzzle him. "Whatever you say can and will…”

This is not the first time that the Court has been the subject of such attack. Last year certain employers found themselves in trouble for a similar tirade aimed at the judges. This writer recalls attending a forum hosted by the Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies at the Government campus in Port-of-Spain. There Mr. Espinet said that "Petrotrin was no URP" in reference to proposals to negotiate a way forward. I later suggested to comrades that this was the opening salvo of pitched battle that is being fought now, when I saw who turned up from 'the other side'.

This behaviour should come as no surprise. It is clear that somebody's agenda is in knots. CLR James in his epic of the Haitian Revolution noted that Napoleon, in spite of warnings, had not anticipated the level of resistance. His campaign was bogged down by the yellow fever which decimated his unseasoned troops and the coming of the rains. The Court's ruling has has a similar effect on the Board's plans. Pledges and promises have clearly been made and somewhere in the corridors of hidden power some are being asked hard questions.

What was projected as a Union versus Company battle has been exposed for what it is, a plan to sell out the national patrimony. As the story unfolded honest professionals in finance, technologies, economics, in communications began to pick apart the board's narrative. Their pronouncements about transfer pricing, margins, state of the refinery, market options, true costs of operating the refinery, all these have been under intense scrutiny.

These are people who do not have Party cards nor union affiliation. It is just that they resent being lied to or professionally insulted. They see no need to wreck an economy and pauperise a people further to 'salvage' a perfectly reliable refinery.

But it is said that history teaches in 10 days what otherwise may have taken 10 years. It is clear that the ruling class has no interest in finding a workable solution. It is back to the plantation or bust as far as they are concerned.

They say that oil and water do not mix? Even as the battle opens on other fronts, the latest being TSTT. Let us be conscious of what is has happened/is happening. STEEL...OIL…TSTT...WASA...Who's next?
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