March 20, 2013 / 6:53 PM / 5 years ago

Trinidad refinery workers are back on job under court order

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, March 20 (Reuters) - Protesting oil workers at Trinidad and Tobago’s state-owned oil company Petrotrin went back to their jobs on Wednesday under a late-night court order.

Petrotrin, which has been losing an estimated US$16 million daily since workers walked off their jobs a week ago, claimed the Oilfields Workers Trade Union was in breach of the law and was granted an injunction against the union on Tuesday night.

“We had said before if the courts ordered the workers back to work we would comply with all the court’s instructions,” said union President Ancel Roget.

While the workers returned, Roget said the issues are unresolved, workers are de-motivated and angry.

Workers walked out to protest outstanding payments they said they were owed, and the company’s hiring and promotion practices. Production ground to a halt at Trinidad and Tobago’s lone refinery and production wells.

Petrotrin said the action was unjustified and undermined its reputation as a reliable supplier of oil and oil products to the Caribbean and Central America. The company said it did not owe the workers any additional pay because it lost money last year.

“Petrotrin maintains its position that, based on the audited financial statements, there was a loss for that year and, based on the collective bargaining agreement, there was no variable pay due,” the company said.

Prior to the work stoppage, Petrotrin had been operating at improving performance levels, with refinery capacity of 160,000 barrels oil per day and total daily production of 36,000 barrels of oil. (Editing by Jane Sutton and Bob Burgdorfer)

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