Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago - Thursday 07 May 2020
Below is the Oral Reply by Senator the Honourable Jennifer Baptiste Primus and Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development to Question No. 74 raised in the Senate of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Fifth Session (2019/2020) of the Eleventh Parliament by Opposition Senator Wade Mark on Tuesday 05 May 2020.
Question No. 74
In light of reports that Unilever Caribbean Limited proposes to retrench approximately two hundred and eighty-six (286) workers in a restructuring exercise, can the Minister indicate whether the Government intends to intervene to prevent the loss of said jobs?
The Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development seeks at all times to establish and preserve a peaceful industrial relations climate. The current matter concerns the decision by Unilever Caribbean Limited (UCL) to cease all manufacturing operations locally and partially restructure its operations.
Unilever Caribbean Limited by letter dated December 3, 2019 gave formal notice to the Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development of its intention to terminate the employment of one hundred and ninety-one (191) workers on the grounds of redundancy. These one hundred and ninety-one (191) workers formed part of the monthly paid and hourly rated employees of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU).
Unilever Caribbean Limited also advised the Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development that in the first instance one hundred and eighty-four (184) workers consisting of casual workers, warehouse workers, sanitation workers, customs workers, quality control department, field specialist, imports planners, inter alia were terminated by retrenchment on January 17, 2020. Additionally, four (4) warehouse managers were retrenched on January 31, 2020 and three (3) other workers were retrenched on 31, March 2020.
Furthermore, by letter dated March 25, 2020 the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union reported eight (8) disputes to the Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development pursuant to Section 51(1)(b) and Section 23 of the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act.
The Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union, in their report to the Minister also claimed that the action of the Employer was contrary to the provisions of Article 4 (iv) of the respective collective agreements of the monthly paid and hourly rated workers.
These disputes are presently before the Minister in Conciliation. The Ministry continues to monitor the environment and is very mindful at all times of the economic impact this dispute is having and will have on the manufacturing sector and on the national economy and will continue to do all that it can towards resolving this issue. The Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development remains committed to continue working with all parties involved to find an amicable agreement on this matter.
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