Labour minister, OWTU meet on sacked Yara workers


Minister of Labour Stephen McClashie. – Sureash Cholai

LABOUR Minister Stephen McClashie and members of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) met on Saturday to discuss a situation where 15 workers were recently retrenched from Yara Trinidad Ltd.

Sources said the meeting began at the Labour Ministry’s office in San Fernando around 10 am. Officials at the ministry confirmed the meeting was in progress when Sunday Newsday visited the office.

Up to press time the meeting was still in progress.

At a news conference outside of Yara’s Pt Lisas plant on December 30, 2020, OWTU trustee member Ernesto Kesar made an appeal for McClashie to intervene in the matter.

Kesar recalled that on November 18, Yara issued retrenchment notices to 15 workers in the union’s bargaining unit at the company. He said the union responded the following day. He explained the company’s and OWTU’s respective letters were done in accordance with the Retrenchment and Severance Benefit Act.

Kesar said the union has been in negotiations for almost a year and those talks are still ongoing. Those negotiations, he continued, “are for the collective agreement for the period August 1, 2019 to July 31, 2022.”

Kesar said Yara indicated it had some difficulties and the union “extended in an unprecedented manner, a serious hand to assist the company to solve these issues.” But he added, “Lo and behold, in midstream, after we believed that we would have overcome those issues, the company made their decision, as it is their prerogative, to send home some 15 workers in our bargaining unit.”

On December 31, McClashie said the ministry is working on it. “We are progressing. We have taken note of all the issues and, without saying anything much more to prejudice the discussions we would have had, I would say we are on top of it. We have been dealing with it in terms of talking to the parties and steps for that meeting.”

In 2019, Yara announced the closure of its Point Lisas plant.

In a release in 2019, the company said the plant had a lower production capacity, was less energy-efficient and was plagued by low ammonia prices.

The collapse of negotiations between the National Gas Company and Yara also contributed to the company’s inability to maintain that plant, and so it ceased production.

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