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.