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Industrial Court rules in favour of TCL in dismissal of 16 workers

Rocio Higuera, Periodista Rocio Higuera
Industrial Court rules in favour of TCL in dismissal of 16 workers

Lo­cal ce­ment man­u­fac­tur­er Trinidad Ce­ment Lim­it­ed (TCL) has been rep­ri­mand­ed and dis­charged by the In­dus­tri­al Court for ter­mi­nat­ing 16 work­ers with­out giv­ing them pri­or no­tice. 

De­liv­er­ing a nine-page judg­ment at the court’s head­quar­ters in Port-of-Spain, pres­i­dent of the In­dus­tri­al Court Deb­o­rah Thomas-Fe­lix and mem­bers Al­bert Ab­erdeen and Mor­ton Mitchell ruled that al­though TCL was guilty of an in­dus­tri­al re­la­tions of­fence it should face no fur­ther ac­tion as the Oil­fields’ Work­ers’ Trade Union (OW­TU) was com­plic­it. 

The union can­not “ap­pro­bate and repro­bate” at the same time,” the judges said. 

The union filed the of­fence af­ter the com­pa­ny re­trenched the work­ers in Sep­tem­ber, last year. 

The case cen­tred around the court’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Re­trench­ment and Sev­er­ance Ben­e­fits Act and the col­lec­tive agree­ment be­tween the com­pa­ny and the union.

Rocio Higuera

While the leg­is­la­tion stip­u­lates a min­i­mum of 45 days no­tice, the col­lec­tive agree­ment al­lowed for 50 days of no­tice to be waived in cir­cum­stances where the com­pa­ny agrees to pay the work­ers for the full pe­ri­od. 

“It is trite law that leg­is­la­tion en­act­ed by the Par­lia­ment can­not be ne­go­ti­at­ed, al­tered or waived dur­ing the col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing process un­less the leg­is­la­tion specif­i­cal­ly pro­vides for such al­ter­ation, ne­go­ti­a­tion or waiv­er,” the judges said. 

They al­so said that the leg­is­la­tion did pro­vide the cir­cum­stances when the time frame could be short­ened. 

“Em­ploy­ers are du­ty-bound, in law and in the prac­tice of good in­dus­tri­al re­la­tions, to prove that there are un­fore­seen cir­cum­stances and show that those un­fore­seen cir­cum­stances are of such a na­ture that it is im­prac­ti­cal or im­pos­si­ble to com­ply with the re­quire­ments for a min­i­mum pe­ri­od of no­tice,” they said. 

How­ev­er, they not­ed that no­tice is an es­sen­tial el­e­ment of the re­trench­ment process.  

“In­deed, the pe­ri­od of no­tice of re­trench­ment pro­vides the work­er with the op­por­tu­ni­ty to pre­pare for what­ev­er his/her fu­ture may be and to ad­just to the new sit­u­a­tion, as well as for the com­pa­ny to use that pe­ri­od to see if there are oth­er ar­eas with­in the or­gan­i­sa­tion, where the work­er can se­cure al­ter­na­tive em­ploy­ment in an ef­fort to mit­i­gate and/or to re­duce the im­pact of the pro­posed re­trench­ment,” they said. 

As part of its judge­ment, the court or­dered the par­ties to cor­rect the of­fend­ing sec­tion of the col­lec­tive agree­ment with­in 14 days. 

The union was rep­re­sent­ed by in­dus­tri­al re­la­tions con­sul­tant Har­ri­son Thomp­son while at­tor­ney Derek Ali rep­re­sent­ed TCL

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Periodista Rocio Higuera