Employees of Brazilian firm, Construtora OAS, who were working on the ill-fated highway to Point Fortin, are demanding $23 million in outstanding wages.
President General of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU), Ancel Roget, on Friday demanded that the Government pay 1,000 retrenched Construtora OAS workers the $23 million owed to them for work undertaken for the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway project.
Failure to pay, Roget vowed that, “all hell would break loose” since the Government was going back on its commitments in dealing with issues.
Roget added, “If the Government continues to turn a blind eye on the national work force who turns the wheels of the economy, if they continue to go back on their commitment we will be mobilising the likes of which happened not too long ago, but the effect of which they are going to feel.”
He said should Government refuse to take heed and walk the path of injustice, unfairness, inequality and corruption, the OWTU and the Joint Trade Union Movement are prepared “to shake the blasted place down.”
In early 2016, Roget said OAS was fired by National Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (Nidco).
The workers, who were laid off last December, are still owed wages and severance benefits.
His comments came after workers joined by OWTU members staged a noisy protest outside the Ministry of Works and Transport Head Office, Port-of-Spain, demanding that the Government settle the outstanding million-dollar debt.
Their cries, however, attracted the attention of Minister of Works, Rohan Sinanan, who came downstairs to speak with Roget.
Following 45-minutes of discussion, Roget said, “The Minister says he agrees that all of the workers should receive their pay and that it has been outstanding for far too long and that he is working on a plan to bring closure. The Minister also informed us that the performance bond that was held by Nidco it has not been totally cleared because there has been some challenge from OAS, and that they won the first round in the court but OAS is still challenging so that they don’t have immediate access to that money.”
The bond is worth over $1 billion, Roget said.
He said Sinanan asked for one week to take the matter to Cabinet.
“We came here expecting the payment today. But we want to be reasonable. If the Minister says….he did not guarantee any day for payment, If he says that he wants one week to take this issue to where it is suppose to go.”
Roget said OWTU was keeping its fingers crossed that the Government will treat with the matter urgently.
He said while Sinanan promised to restart construction of the highway in February, the workers must be paid first, since they were out of pocket, had mounting bills and were suffering.
ANCEL ROGET AND ROHAN SINANAN