RADHICA DE SILVA

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They would have preferred to spend Christmas at home with their families but instead, former workers of Lennox Petroleum made good on their promise to picket their workplace in a bid to recover outstanding back pay.

Some of the workers were near tears. Others said they were angry that they could not afford to give their families the usual Christmas gifts and goodies.

For Lennox Perez, the Christmas protest was even more painful. Some 20 years, Perez had to run for his life when the Labrador rig on which he worked, exploded off the north coast on December 25, 2000.

Perez, who has been leading the recent protests, said it was unfair that after so many family sacrifices and risk to their lives, that their employer would turn his back on paying to them what is owed.

“We did so much for this company and we took Lennox to the Industrial Court where we won. He appealed and again we won a case at the Court of Appeal and the company was instructed to pay us forthwith. Yet he has not paid and is playing games with us and our families,” Perez said.

Company officials have denied being in contempt of the Industrial Court Order saying an appeal was scheduled to be heard on the Monday 28th June 2021.

However, Perez said this case was separate and involved the wrongful dismissal of 22 workers.

The company said they had applied to the Industrial Court for an interpretation of the Order dated the 8th July 2020, but Perez said the order was clear and straightforward.

He said there was documentary evidence that Rohan Drilling paid Lennox Petroleum monies for backpay.

With regard to the company’s letter to the Union dated December 8, Perez said the OWTU did not have to respond to any letter sent by Lennox Petroleum.

“Only if it comes from the Court, we will respond. The case is over and we won and he has to pay,”

Perez said. He explained that their actions were not illegal, noting that the authorities should intervene and take action against the company for failing to pay workers their dues.

He said Lennox wanted the OWTU to list the names of workers and say exactly how much is owed but he pointed out that only Lennox would have the means of tabulating that data as it took daily records of workers’ overtime, sick leave and other benefits. He noted that this data would have already been collated and sent to Rohan Drilling for payment, which was meant to have been paid to workers as retroactive payments.

Lennox responds

In a statement, Lennox Petroleum said the workers’ protests were illegal and amounted to harassment.”

The law does not permit “ex-workers”, to picket or protest their “ex-employer”. Further, it is the OWTU’s stance that the trade dispute was concluded by the order dated the 8th July, 2020, and therefore the protests cannot be pursuant to a trade dispute. In addition, the section does not permit protests at the homes of our staff members. The OWTU is playing fast and loose with laws of T&T,” the company said.

Saying that the OWTU must be aware of the commercial realities of operating with a pandemic, Lennox said this was made even more difficult to do business because of the reputational loss to creditors and customers caused by the on-going protests and media attention.

“There are ways and means prescribed by law for recovering monies owed under a judgment, and disrupting operations, and harassing staff members are not included among these means. Notwithstanding our challenges, we remain committed to meeting out properly defined, legal obligations, as we have done for the past 40 years.