Petrotrin appeals OWTU injunction

Trinidad Guardian:  

Petrotrin has filed its ap­peal against an in­junc­tion tem­porar­i­ly bar­ring it from con­tin­u­ing to ter­mi­nate work­ers.

In a tele­phone in­ter­view with CNC3 last evening, Se­nior Coun­sel Regi­nald Ar­mour, who is lead­ing the com­pa­ny’s le­gal team, con­firmed the ur­gent ap­peal was filed in the Court of Ap­peal’s reg­istry yes­ter­day evening.

How­ev­er, the T&T Guardian un­der­stands that up to 6 pm the com­pa­ny had not re­ceived a date and time for the hear­ing of the ap­peal of the In­dus­tri­al Court’s de­ci­sion to grant the in­junc­tion to the Oil­fields Work­ers’ Trade Union (OW­TU).

At the even­tu­al hear­ing, the com­pa­ny is ex­pect­ed to ask the Ap­peal Court for a stay of the in­junc­tion pend­ing the de­ter­mi­na­tion of the ap­peal, as the ini­tial re­quest was de­nied by the In­dus­tri­al Court af­ter the in­junc­tion was grant­ed to the OW­TU on Mon­day.

In its no­tice of ap­peal, Petrotrin is rais­ing 15 grounds as it chal­lenges sev­en le­gal find­ings made by the In­dus­tri­al Court. How­ev­er, the com­pa­ny is not rais­ing any com­plaint about the facts on the is­sue that were con­sid­ered by the court.

The com­pa­ny’s at­tor­neys are claim­ing the In­dus­tri­al Court had no ju­ris­dic­tion to act, as the in­dus­tri­al re­la­tions of­fence com­plaint filed by the union is a crim­i­nal of­fence that does not lend it­self to in­junc­tive re­lief. It is al­so claim­ing the court erred when it ruled the com­pa­ny had a du­ty to con­sult with the union.

“Hav­ing found that an em­ploy­er has a right to close down its busi­ness/op­er­a­tions, the In­dus­tri­al Court erred in law and/or ex­ceed­ed its ju­ris­dic­tion in find­ing that an em­ploy­er is ob­lig­at­ed to con­sult with the recog­nised ma­jor­i­ty union be­fore de­cid­ing to close down its busi­ness/op­er­a­tions,” the no­tice states.

The com­pa­ny is al­so con­tend­ing the court failed to ful­ly con­sid­er its and the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al’s ev­i­dence over the im­pact of Petrotrin con­tin­ued op­er­a­tion on the na­tion­al econ­o­my.

In the event the com­pa­ny is un­able to over­turn the in­junc­tion on ap­peal, it will stand pend­ing the de­ter­mi­na­tion of the OW­TU’s com­plaint on an in­dus­tri­al re­la­tions of­fence al­leged­ly com­mit­ted by the com­pa­ny in its on­go­ing move to close its op­er­a­tions.

Ter­mi­na­tion let­ters is­sued to groups of work­ers be­tween last Fri­day and Mon­day af­ter­noon will al­so not be bind­ing un­til the in­junc­tion is lift­ed.

De­liv­er­ing a 16-page judge­ment at the In­dus­tri­al Court’s head­quar­ters in Port-of-Spain on Mon­day af­ter­noon, the court’s Pres­i­dent Deb­o­rah Thomas-Fe­lix and four of her col­leagues ruled the in­junc­tion was re­quired to pro­tect against the po­ten­tial risk of in­jus­tice.

“It is our view that there would be a greater in­jus­tice if the is­sues af­fect­ing the loss of em­ploy­ment of 5,500 work­ers are not prop­er­ly ven­ti­lat­ed be­fore the clo­sure of the com­pa­ny,” Thomas-Fe­lix said.

In the com­plaint, the OW­TU is al­leg­ing that Petrotrin com­mit­ted the of­fence by fail­ing to con­sult with it be­fore tak­ing the de­ci­sion to close the com­pa­ny and send home over 5,000 work­ers. It claims the com­pa­ny breached a mem­o­ran­dum of agree­ment signed be­tween the par­ties in April, as the com­pa­ny on­ly in­formed the union of the de­ci­sion af­ter mak­ing it in con­junc­tion with Cab­i­net in Ju­ly. The of­fence car­ries a $4,000 fine but the union may ask the court to or­der that the par­ties restart dis­cus­sions on the is­sue.

As part of its de­ci­sion, Thomas-Fe­lix and her col­leagues al­so set dates for both par­ties to file ev­i­dence in the sub­stan­tive com­plaint, which is sched­uled to be heard on Oc­to­ber 30.