Monday 14 October, 2019

OWTU questions upgrades at Petrotrin refinery

The Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union is questioning a series of repairs and upgrades being done to the Petrotrin refinery, which government said would be shut down by the end of the year.

In a statement issued Thursday, the OWTU said upgrades to the refinery have been seen, including new air conditioning units, patching of holes and paving of roads.

“It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! The scent of asphalt, paint and freshly cut grass fill the air. Many parts of the refinery are being spruced up like never before. I have never seen so many contractors behave like diligent worker-ants making a place look so beautiful. In some areas, air conditioning units are being installed. The refinery east gate that has been on the ground since the days of Columbus and the fence along the east area car park have finally been repaired. Fences and pedestrian walkways have been painted. There has been the continuous patching of holes and paving of roads,” the union said.

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The OWTU questioned why these refurbishments were being done at this time when workers were allegedly subjected to poor facilities before the announcement.

For years refinery workers have been clamouring for their workplace to be properly maintained. But of course, their cries fell on deaf ears.”

“Workers had to be in an environment that was falling apart before their very eyes due to the lack of maintenance. Many employees have damaged rims and tyres due to the huge potholes that were never repaired - roads and carparks dilapidated. Employees have to work in offices without air conditioning for months before it is repaired. It took nearly 9 months for the north area canteen to get a/c, while the heavy oils craft shed has been a sweatbox for months.”

“Leaking roofs plague the compound. There are still buildings with tarpaulin for rooftops because leaks have not been repaired. Numerous buildings have huge cracks...some so bad that employees had to be evacuated. Some buildings look like they could be in a horror movie with the paint peeling off. Why have there been so many employees complaining of feeling unwell? Have you ever heard of sick building syndrome? In some areas, the grass was allowed to grow knee-high harbouring mosquitos. I wonder why there were many cases of employees getting dengue and chikungunya?”

“Why was the refinery left in a state of disrepair? Was Management given a directive to keep Production Units running until failure regardless, of repairs and/or asset needs?”

“The fact that repairs have not been done also leads one to believe that this was a systematic and purposeful attempt to run down the refinery so that it can be quickly and cheaply sold off in a fire sale.”

“Why the sudden urgency to do all these repairs? Well now is the time to show it off to their friends and financiers of course! Time to make the place look a little decent,” the union said.

The union referred to the Board’s decision to shut down the refinery as a ‘heist’.

“It is plain to see that the heist of this refinery was well thought out. Do note that even though the refinery was purposely being neglected, those highly skilled Petrotrin workers kept on performing in spite of the conditions. And they continue to much so that they can tell you that some of the newly purchased refined products have been failing lab tests left right and centre because they do not meet our specifications.”

The company also said it was told that the first shipment of imported fuel products from the refinery were sub-standard.

So imagine that.....there is a rush to close down and sell off the refinery.....a rush to beautify it NOT for the workers but for potential buyers.....while they still have not been able to procure quality refined product. This thing is just a shame,” the union said.

On October 27, 2018, Petrotrin received its first shipment of refined fuel, one of 16 cargoes that will be delivered during the next four months under an agreement with BP’s Latin America Integrated Sales and Trading group.

On October 30, 2018, the Company loaded approximately 500,000 barrels of Molo (medium octane low octane) crude oil onto the tanker Hellspoint Progress, its first shipment of oil for export. The crude was purchased by Trafigura Oil Traders Limited.


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