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PETROTRIN: THE CLEANERS’ TALE By Tony Bedassie

posted 9 Jan 2017, 02:14 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 9 Jan 2017, 02:16 ]
Tony Bedassie is a Trinmar worker
I remember all too well the problems faced by janitorial workers at Petrotrin/Trinmar. These services like many others are performed by contractors and are neither permanent nor casual jobs within the company.

The Collective Agreement, a negotiated and legally binding document between the Company and the Union, is the rule book which governs workers’ and company rights. Contract workers in most cases are not unionised and are offered only one protection under this agreement. Under Article 4 (a) all contract workers are to be paid the minimum rates applicable to company employees for any particular job function. Most contract workers are even denied severance pay, their legal entitlement, upon exit from their company for whatever reason.

For many years the union fought to enforce Article 4 (a). In the late 90's and early 2000's, as an officer of the union, I met with numerous reports of abuse of these workers by their employers - from deduction of NIS payments which were not being remitted to sexual harassment and verbal abuse.

Eventually the pressure exerted by the union on behalf of these workers bore fruit and their employers agreed to begin paying them properly. It was a victory for the workers which was short lived. The contractor agreed to pay; however, he cut their hours of work to a bare minimum. Four (4) hours on land and six (6) hours offshore. Even though these workers spend eight (8) to ten (10) hours within the same dangerous environment within which we, the Trinmar workers, operate. Still envy them?

Contractors when tendering for jobs within Petrotrin quote Article 4 (a) as justification for charging particular rates for their contracts. They therefore get paid according to the minimum rates but pocket it without passing it on. This is the reason behind events such as the IOCL strike. Contractors were paid retroactive payments based upon the minimum rates due to an agreement between the union and the company. Yet to date, none of that money has reached their hands.

It is the Private Sector, the Contractors, who really benefit the most from Petrotrin. They lick the cream off the top while denying their workers their just dues and entitlements. It is amazing to see that the one set of workers who were actually being paid according to the agreement have been used to negatively affect the public's perception of what goes on.

IOCL workers fought long and hard for their rates to be adjusted. The union finally declared victory for them through the signing of an MOU with the company who agreed to pay the contractor retroactively, according to the minimum rates. They were shown receipts thereafter which proved that the company had paid the contractors. Yet not one red cent was passed on to them. Today they remain on strike, while it is reported that their employer is folding up the company and transferring the assets to another one he owns under a different name.

What of these workers? He will fire those of IOCL and rehire all those who are willing to work for this next company at the old slave wages. That is the issue the public should be focusing on: the rampant abuse of these workers and the subsequent posturing by their employer simply to deny them their just dues.

The working class, and more so, the contract workers of this country continue to be handed the "shitty end of the stick." All the while we are misdirected by news reports sensationalising the issues simply to please and keep viewers in their ignoran
ce.
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