The Keith Rowley-led PNM Administration continues to have both the High Court and Industrial Court pronounce on an extraordinary record of legal defeats in many matters where the Government is the Defendant; but more so in matters involving Labour disputes, according to Member of Parliament for Couva South the Honourable Rudranath Indarsingh.
Indarsingh said that in case after case, Judges of both Courts have to continually rebuke the Government for failing to follow the very simple rules, guidelines and procedures for retrenching and firing workers. The Government is responsible for protecting worker’s rights and ensuring that the country’s Employment and Labour Laws are upheld and followed.
This Administration has been the most Anti-Worker/Anti-Union Government that this Country has ever had post-Independence and has undermined the principles of good Industrial Relations Practices and Labour laws since it came into office in September 2015.
Its modus-operandi has been to fan the flames of instability in the workplace through its pronouncements from Members of the Cabinet with their vile threats as they all continue to blame the former People’s Partnership Administration for their constant mismanagement, failures and shortcomings. He cited the September 2018 pronouncements of former Minister Public Administration Marlene McDonald that Workers can be fined and jailed if they stayed away from work on the “Day of Rest and Reflection”… sentiments which were also echoed by Education Minister Anthony Garcia, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and Energy Minister Franklyn Khan
Indarsingh said he is totally against State Agencies committing serious violations, including arbitrary political decisions to terminate the employment of workers without any reflection on the implications of simply “sending home” workers.
From September 2015, it is estimated that over 55,000 workers have been retrenched after a number of Companies in both the State and Private Sectors have closed.
Indarsingh identified four State Enterprises and Agencies as an example to what he is alluding to.
Firstly Petrotrin, the crown jewel of Trinidad and Tobago, which had contributed in excess of $20B to the National Treasury since 2012 and had recorded an after-tax profit of $85.6M for the quarter ended June 30, 2018.
Despite repeated assurances in September 2018 from Prime Minister Keith Rowley that Petrotrin was not closing down, lo and behold one month after his pronouncements, the Chairman of Petrotrin announced with literal enthusiasm, excitement and zeal that “all, all, all employees” numbering in excess of 5,000 were being retrenched.
On October 8, 2018 the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) was granted an injunction by the Industrial Court halting the issuing of Severance packages to Petrotrin Staff which the Company immediately appealed.
Secondly, TSTT, less than a year after TSTT acquired Massy Communications for $255M in May 2017, the State Telecommunications Company suddenly closed nine of its retail stores and sent home over 500 workers. The workers union-the Communications Workers Union (CWU) has initiated legal action on their behalf at the Industrial Court.
Thirdly, the University of Trinidad and Tobago, soon after UTT’s Chairman took the unilateral decision to transfer over $120M of UTT’s operating funds to another State Enterprise – eTeck (where he is Chairman), the University began a series of retrenchment of its senior and other Staff. At present, is the case of 455 Workers on Fixed-term Contracts who have brought their matter before the Industrial Court.
UTT’s former Provost and Acting President Dr. Fazal Ali has also filed lawsuit against the University for wrongful dismissal, seeking Compensation amounting close to $1M for loss of earnings as well as other benefits.
And 11 Former Lecturers from Centre for Education Programmes have filed a lawsuit against UTT for Wrongful Dismissal and plans are afoot to sue the Accreditation Council of T&T.
While the retrenchment of senior staff was taking place, the Ken Julien-led Board proceeded to recruit a new President for the University whose total compensation package is reportedly in excess of $1M per annum.
And fourthly, the Strategic Services Agency of the Ministry of National Security.
Information which has just surfaced in the public domain reveals the Agency retrenched 35 senior employees as “part of its restructuring”. Three former senior staffers (according to information in the public domain) initiated legal action against the Government for wrongful termination and it is now being revealed that in January 2019, the High Court made an order for all of the three Claimants, based on a Consent Order signed by the Attorneys for both the Claimant and Defendant (the Attorney General) to be paid over $363K for wrongful dismissal.
Indarsingh said that the Rowley regime continues to pursue a campaign of destabilizing the Trade Unions and displacing workers and has emerged as the worst nightmare for the working masses of Trinidad and Tobago.