PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago, Thursday May 31, 2012 – After five months without resolution, the Ministry of Labour, Small and Micro Enterprise Development has referred the dispute between Trinidad Cement Limited (TCL) and the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) to the Trinidad and Tobago Industrial Court.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Minister Errol McLeod said that he referred the matter to the court based on a request from the OWTU.
McLeod revealed that this move had come about after more than a dozen meetings between the two parties, mediated by his ministry, failed to bring about an end to the ongoing industrial dispute that began in January this year and culminated in strike action at the end of February.
The industrial dispute results from the OWTU’s attempts to force TCL to budge from its wage offer of 6.5 per cent over a retroactive three-year period to the over 600 workers represented by the union in favour of the OWTU’s request for a 12 per cent increase.
During a press conference on the new development, McLeod explained that he referred the matter to the Industrial Court under Section 61 (d) of the Industrial Relations Act. Section 61 (d) says that the minister shall refer an unresolved dispute to the court where a period of three months of continuing industrial action has elapsed and a request is made to the minister by either party to refer to the court for final determination.
He said that, since this section was included in the Act in 1983, the TCL dispute marked the first occasion in which industrial action had actually continued for the full three-month extent.
McLeod said he previously had a meeting with all the stakeholders in the dispute at his Ministry. “The meeting was held to encourage a peaceful and orderly resumption of work by all the workers who had been on strike”.
According to the Minister, the Ministry had first held conciliatory meetings with TCL and the OWTU since January 31, 2012 and five other conciliatory meetings had followed.
The last such meeting was held on February 23 and after that the Union served notice that it was taking strike action. The strike began on February 27.
TCL responded with a lock out and started offering individual employment contracts to workers as of March 5.
“Notwithstanding many efforts following the commencement of industrial action, in holding ten separate meetings with the parties during March 13 to April 19, 2012, their positions remained polarised,” McLeod said.