Tuesday 20 November, 2018

MSJ: Privatisation of Petrotrin would be a 'nightmare'

Members of the Oilfield Workers' Trade Union (OWTU) meet outside the Office of the Prime Minister on Tuesday August 21, 2018. Photo courtesy the OWTU.

Members of the Oilfield Workers' Trade Union (OWTU) meet outside the Office of the Prime Minister on Tuesday August 21, 2018. Photo courtesy the OWTU.

Leader of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ), David Abdulah, said any decision to privatise state-owned Petrotrin would be a nightmare. 

Abdulah said to LoopTT that if the results of Tuesday's meeting between the board of Petrotrin and the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) results in the privatisation of the company, the result would be disastrous. 

OWTU head Ancel Roget said on Tuesday that 2,500 workers would be on the breadline after Petrotrin announced that it would be shutting down the refinery and axing 1,700 jobs. 800 workers would need to reapply for jobs and the company would instead import fuel products.

“That is a very serious error on the part of the Petrotrin board to have that discussion without the union. That is wrong because that goes against the agreement for ongoing discussions between the OWTU and the company," he said. 

He added that any decision taken by Petrotrin without input from other stakeholders is wrong, adding that any sale of the company would not erase its $13 billion debt. 

“This won’t erase the debt, which is the result of previous decisions from many years ago, those debts will not be cleared just because it is sold and no private company is going to come in and take on that debt. Closing the refinery means you’re just shutting down the flow of cash."


“We have to take into consideration the affiliated industries which will be affected, there are many impacts to this. And, we’ll still have the debt to pay, so it solves nothing and creates a humongous problem,” he said.

“What we need is a vision for Petrotrin and our country because actions without vision is a nightmare and that is what this state is doing. We need a plan as to what we are going to do moving forward instead of this knee-jerk reaction.”

“There is a loss of our national patrimony. Petrotrin has one of the largest pension plans in the country, there are hundreds of people who will be affected; current retirees as well as future retirees, there are so many implications from this,” he said.

Abdulah added via a Twitter update that Petrotrin's debt, which stands at $13 billion, is less than CLICO's, which was $23 billion

"Petrotrin's debt is much smaller than CLICO. We bailed out CLICO to avoid $ sector collapse, we need a national plan to make Petrotrin viable," he said. 

The OWTU was invited to a meeting with Petrotrin on Tuesday amidst rumours of privatisation and job cuts. 

Viral messages have been circulated urging the public to stockpile fuel ahead of possible action by workers, however both Energy Minister Franklin Khan and NP assured that there was no impending shortage of fuel.

Khan said during a media briefing on Sunday that Petrotrin's debt could bankrupt Trinidad and Tobago as it faces serious financial challenges, systemic, operational and structural issues.

He added that Petrotrin also has respective payments of US$850 million and US$750 million due in August 2019 and in 2022.

He said, however, with the right intervention Petrotrin can serve the country well in the future.


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