PORT OF SPAIN – Prime minister Dr Keith Rowley has warned civil aviation workers against shutting down this country’s air space on Friday.
Rowley said any civil aviation worker who heeds the call by the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) to stay away from work would face legal action.
Speaking at the People’s National Movement (PNM) public meeting at the Marabella community centre on Tuesday night, Rowley said the civil aviation workers would have to pay the price for putting people’s lives at risk.
He said, “I see Watson Duke on television telling civil aviation workers to abandon their post. I want to say to the civil aviation workers do not take any advice from Watson Duke and shut down our air space. Trinidad and Tobago is not only responsible for the airspace in this territory, we are responsible for the air space up the eastern Caribbean. People’s lives are at risk, do not take advice from Watson Duke.”
Rowley said legal action would be taken against any civil aviation worker who takes industrial action on Friday.
“I want no fight with anybody but we are going to enforce the law. If civil aviation workers take that irresponsible advice and shut down our airspace I will instruct the attorney general to sue every one of them personally,” he said.
The government, he said, would also go after those leaders who encourage workers to break the law and put lives at risk.
Rowley said he understood that it was not easy for the State-owned Petrotrin workers but it was not reason to break the law.
Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) president general, Ancel Roget has called for a day of rest and reflection on September 7.
But Rowley warned that the government would not be subjected to threats and insults.
He said the government had taken a decision to shut down Petrotrin’s Pointe-a-Pierre refinery operations.
And the only thing to change that decision, he said, would be a better plan for the company’s future.
Rowley said, “The threats and insults are not going to change it. The only thing that is going to change it is a better idea and if they can come up with a better idea we are open to a better idea.”
About 30 Petrotrin workers attempted to enter the meeting which was held to discuss the end of oil refining at Petrotrin.
But the workers were prevented from entering the building.
A large contingent of police officers, including the police riot squad, manned the doorway during the meeting.
The OWTU members said they were seeking a hearing with the prime minister on the future of Petrotrin.
An OWTU spokesperson said the group of Petrotrin workers attended the meeting to ask questions on government’s decision to shut down the refinery.
The workers claimed that they were stopped at the door and asked to clear the passageway. “The riot police were called out and we were boxed into a corner. We came here to meet the prime minister in person. But this is an infringement of our democratic right, “ a worker said.
The workers were not acknowledged during the meeting.
Following the meeting Rowley exited the building flanked by heavy security personnel. (Trinidad Express)