Friday 21 September, 2018

OWTU rejects Petrotrin’s proposal: Gov’t to send home 2500 workers

Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) head Ancel Roget says Government plans to send home 2500 workers, following the announcement of plans to close Petrotrin’s refinery.

Roget made the revelation as he addressed workers at Pointe-a-Pierre on Tuesday, following a meeting between members of the OWTU and the Petrotrin board.

The OWTU President General said they were given three options: for the company to remain as is, to have a ‘scaled-down operation’ where 1,500 workers would be sent home, or a third option where the refinery would be closed down, with workers having to re-apply for 800 positions in exploration and production and 200 positions within a new terminalling operation. 

“They propose to send everybody home and hire back 800 persons for exploration and production, and hire 200 persons for the (proposed) terminalling operation in Pointe-a-Pierre."

The proposal they have for Petrotrin is madness...we disagree with that and we reject that outright,” Roget said.

The OWTU head added Government plans to send home 2500 plus workers.

But comrades the long and short of the story is that Dr Rowley plans to send home 2500 workers from Petrotrin, get that in your heads,” the OWTU President General said.

However, the OWTU leader is calling on Government and the Board of Petrotrin to consider the union’s proposals for restructuring of the state-owned oil company.

He warned that the union will not sit idly by and allow Government to send home workers.

“All of us gathered here who are prepared to fight to the bitter end for your jobs, show by the raise of your hands. All of us here who are prepared, ready, willing and able to use whatever influence we have, whatever God-given strength we have in our bodies to ensure that those who are taking away our jobs, (we will) take away the jobs of the PNM government, because they are taking away our jobs, show by a raise of hands. And that is not a threat old man, that is a promise,” Roget said, to a thunderous response by workers.

The OWTU head also warned of extreme hardships at the pumps.

This, as he said that the effects of the closure of Petrotrin’s refinery will extend across the country and will have economic and political ramifications.

Roget said the move to privatise Petrotrin will bring Trinidad and Tobago back to 'plantation days'.

"If you're importing fuel, gasoline, kerosene, diesel, jet fuel, all of those things to supply the local and regional market, if the country from where you're importing that has any natural disasters or political unrest, you are at the mercy of the delivery of that product to run your own economy. So how on earth...somebody could tell me that somebody could tell the PM that we will be more self-sufficient if we close down our own refinery that makes our own fuel for our own people?"

"People like (Petrotrin chairman Wilfred) Espinet who don't live here...their proposal will take us back to the plantation days when we only produce the raw material, export it and somebody brings the added value to the finished product which we have to pay for...remember the sugar, the cocoa days....that is where they want to take Trinidad and Tobago back to."

"We are going back to the days where we will depend on the multinational (companies)," he said. 

On Tuesday, the Petrotrin board at a media conference announced plans to close down the company’s refinery.

Re-structuring to take place from October 1

Petrotrin said in a release issued Tuesday that the layoffs are necessary due to the company's accrued losses of $8 billion in the last five years and $12 billion debt. 

The company added that Petrotrin owes the government over $3 billion in taxes and royalties and requires an injection of TT$25 billion 'to stay alive' and repay its debt. 

Chairman Wilfred Espinet said the company is only producing 40,000 barrels of oil per day and the refinery operates at a capacity of $140,000 barrels per day, resulting in a net loss in foreign exchange.

Petrotrin said the refining of oil will be phased out and the company will import the refined products (gasoline, diesel, aviation fuels etc.) - approximately 25,000 barrels of oil per day - while all of the company's oil will be exported. 

The company said the transition will begin from October 1, 2018, adding that it is taking steps to facilitate a 'smooth and efficient period of transition with safety and security'. 

The company added that it wil be meeting with stakeholders in the coming weeks to discuss the changes. 

 

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