Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 15th 2017 Contents news A5
Wednesday, March 15, 2017 guardian.co.tt
Nineteen men, all unionised employ-
ees of Oilbelt Services Limited with in
excess of ten years' service each, stood
with letters of redundancy in their hands
yesterday evening, contemplating how
they were going to break the newsto their
Daniel Hernandez, a gathering station at-
tendant for the past 14 years with the Grand
Ravine company, a subsidiary of Trinity Ex-
ploration and Production, said the time frame
in which they were told of plans to separate
them was so short they did not have time to
think, much less plan ahead.
"I have over 14 years' service with this
company and after today I will no longer be
employed as a gathering station attendant. I
am told that my job has become redundant,
but there will be somebody else to fill it, a
person with two or less years service.
"How is that possible? We want justice.
We need to take this matter further, " Her-
nandez, who is also a shop steward with the
Oilfield Workers' Trade Union (OWTU),
which represents the workers, said.
"On March 9 they told us they would re-
trench and gave us seven days to respond.
They said within that seven days' time re-
dundancy notices will be served. Workers
did not have to time to think, make plans for
the future and today we don't know what to
tell our families when we get home."
Another OWTU shop steward and em-
ployee, Brian Khadoo, explained that at 2.30
pm yesterday, Gerard Pinard, head of the
company's legal firm, Zapotech Solutions,
met with employees and announced plans
to make their jobs redundant.
Under the watchful eyes of armed police
officers and private security, the workers
were subsequently handed the notices in
sealed brown envelopes bearing their names,
as they made their way out the Grand Ra-
vine compound where Khadoo and others
Khadoo said a total of 33 employees, 19
from of Oilbelt and 14 more from the wid-
er Trinity pool, were served with redun-
dancy notices, as the apparent continuing
slowdown in the energy sector continues
to affect energy-based companies and the
"They changed the heading from re-
trenchment to redundancy and they told
us that from today (yesterday) they would
no longer require us on the compound."
Khadoo shared a copy of his letter, which
advised that upon a review of the compa-
ny's organisation structure, his position as a
welder was now redundant. It alsoproposed
an enhanced separation package.
Khadoo said there were talks with the un-
ion, "but the company still went ahead with
their plans to cut the labour force."
Efforts to contact management of the
companies were unsuccessful yesterday.
can apply for jobs
in new entities
Labour MinisterJennifer Baptiste-Primus says
Tourism Development Company employees will
have the opportunity to apply for the new jobs
emerging from the new organisation and struc-
ture being proposed for tourism.
She made the comment in response to Opposition
queries in the Senate yesterday, saying hard decisions
had to be taken at times.
"But the workers will be treated fairly... all will be
done to ensure TDC workers receive all they are en-
titled," she said.
Baptiste-Primus said workers will also have an op-
portunity for jobs with the establishment of the new
T&T Regulatory and Licensing Authority, which will be
responsible for product quality and service standards
in the tourism and hospitality industry.
She said TDC workers will also have recourse to
the Labour Ministry's National Employment Regis-
ter, where workers' skills are job-matched with that
Baptiste-Primus said Tourism Minister Shamfa
Cudjoe, who is out of T&T "has all intentions" of
speaking with the Communications Workers Union
on her return.
Meanwhile, Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon, in
response to another question, said bout 190 tonnes of
rice paddy which had accumulated at National Flour
Mills' Carlsen Field complex recently,due to breakdown
of machinery, will be processed very soon.
An exclusive Sunday Guardian report highlighted
that tonnes of rice had accumulated at the Carlsen Field
NFM station, with birds and other vermin feeding on
the mounds of rice stored under a galvanise shed on
Gopee-Scoon said,"There is in fact no longer an is-
sue. When paddy is delivered, it is usually put into an
open storage shed, which is the first part of the drying
process, with some amount of moisture reduction while
it's spread there."
She said the recent issue involved storage of about
190 metric tonnes of paddy.
"What had happened is on the Friday before, there
was a delay,in fact there was a breakdown in operations
for processing because the conveyor belt was not work-
ing. I can assure that conveyor belt is now functioning.
"I have been in touch with NFM and it is working as
of yesterday (Monday); so there's no longer an issue
and within the next 10 days all of the paddy which is
there (at the mill) will in fact be processed."
She said this is the height of the paddy season and
there was "substantial paddy coming in on a daily basis,
but noted it was a very old operation.
"The machinery and equipment is about 25 years
old and we'd want to see rice production increase and
see T&T rice on supermarket shelves to cut down on
importation of foreign/parboiled rice. That's the rea-
son we're engaging in divestment of the mill,"she said.
On whether there would be alternative processing
facilities for the paddy, she said the request for proposals
in the divestment closed on Monday and the process
should be completed by June.
"There would be some time before this new process
takes over. There would be vigilance by NFM and the
Trade Ministry to ensure these breakdowns and time
lost are at a minimum," she said.
Chote defends trial by jury system
Independent Senator and Senior
Counsel Sophia Chote has defended
the jury system, saying most problems
which choke the local courts are not due
to the existing method.
She made the comments while contributing
in the Senate to the Trial by Judge Alone Bill
2017, through which Government is seeking
to remove the jury system from the process
of dispensing justice.
In outlining her view on why juries ought
to stay, Chote quoted Director of Public Pros-
ecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard, who recently
also gave his support for the retention of the
jury system and defended this avenue as a
means of keeping a connection between jus-
tice and the man in the street.
For those familiar with the problems fac-
ing the justice system, Chote said they would
also know there was no better person than
Gaspard in such a matter.
Using her own experience as an attorney,
Chote gave an example from the High Court,
where one court could not be filled as the
particular judge was on study leave abroad.
Chote said as a result, "a lucky seven" out
of eight courts were operating, adding that
those seven courts must continue to deal with
hundreds of cases, indictments and trials.
On if removing a jury would make it easier
for the court system to be more efficient and
to cope with the load, Chote said this was
something she could not tell, adding that she
doubted whether anyone present would be
able to either.
She conceded that jury tampering exist-
ed, but said there were few examples and the
problem with the legislation was that the cas-
es referenced "make it clear how difficult it is
to have it work, if it can work at all"
Evidence of tampering, Chote said, is usu-
ally brought to the attention of the judge.
"There is then an exercise to ensure not only
the security of the person involved, but also
the integrity of the trial process," she said.
But this process, she said, could pose a
problem in a judge only trial, given that the
judge was the one receiving the information
and issuing the necessary orders.
Addressing concerns that juries resulted
in a loss of manpower and productivity in
the workforce, Chote said the jury would
normally be sent back to the workplace if
the judge was hearing legal arguments and
jurors would be told when to return.
"So you do not have this massive loss of
manpower hours that you are talking about,"
Chote said in reference to statements by At-
torney General Faris Al-Rawi.
Earlier, in piloting the bill, Al-Rawi said
trial by juries were expensive. He estimated
that including the sequestration process,
such trials could all run into hundreds of
millions a year. As an example, he noted re-
ported newspaper reports that the Vindra
Naipaul-Coolman case could have cost as
much as $60 million.
He also cited expert opinion on trial by
judges, including statements by the Chief Jus-
tice Ivor Archie during the previous opening
of new law terms.
The AG also gave statistics concerning re-
mand yard prisoners and the judicial system's
annual case load to portray the burden the
system has to bear.
However, opposition Senator Gerald Ram-
deen soundly criticised the AG's statement.
He pointed out that the right to a fair trial
by jury exists and this had been enshrined
almost as far back as 500BC.
Independent Senator Ian Roach meanwhile
described this country's crime situation as
"run away," adding that there was merit for
having another option to improve the system.
He said a number of issues needed to be ad-
dressed, including examining the efficiency
of the Police Service.
---With reporting by Gail Alexander
Oilbelt Services, Trinity restructured
Oilbelt Services Limited employees shortly after receiving their retrenchment letters at the
company's base in Grand Ravine, South Trinidad, yesterday. PHOTO: (Tony Howell)
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