State-owned National Gas Company, which ordered a freeze on wage hikes and bonuses last month, is remaining mum on whether cutbacks at the company will negatively affect contract employees.
GML Enterprise Desk understands that contract employees whose contracts expire at the end of 2015 have been told that in some cases contracts will be renewed for one month and in other cases for three months.
Questions emailed to NGC's spokesperson, Christine Punnett, on whether cutbacks at the state company would affect contract employment remained unanswered up to press time.
But she was more forthcoming when asked about the company's sponsorship of steelabnds. NGC currently sponsors the NGC Nightingales, NGC Couva Joylanders and NGC Street Explosion. The company also sponsors a fourth band Gonzales Sheikers, a single pan steel Orchestra from Belmont.
Punnett said the terms of the agreement for sponsorship are governed by a three-year agreement dating from October 2013 to 2016. That agreement, announced by former NGC President Indar Maharaj, was valued at $4.5 million. Maharaj was dismissed from the company earlier this week.
Asked whether the budget for sponsorship would be cut, Punnett said: "NGC is very mindful of the economic situation and would make adjustments as required, taking into consideration its social commitments, discussions with stake holders and financial position."
Asked whether the company considers the pan sponsorships to be financially sound, in light of falling gas prices and the wage freeze at the company, Punnett described the sponsorships as a "corporate social investment and therefore a sound financial decision that impacts the company's sustainability of operations and also the national community as a whole."
She refused to divulge details of the sponsorship agreements between NGC and the steel orchestras saying the details are confidential, "so to disclose this information would place undue price pressure upon the band's management from suppliers, service providers and other stake holders. It could be a security risk to disclose such information."
The NGC did not respond to a question on whether it would undertake cutbacks in other areas like community projects and any other discretionary spending.
However, spokesperson for state-owned Petrotrin, Gillian Friday, told the GML Enterprise desk that in light of the current economic scenario with falling oil prices the company has to take a close look at discretionary spending which involves things like donations and sponsorships.
She said: "Our operating costs are high so discretionary spending would have to be looked at." Friday said this would require a review "and where we can we will reduce. We need to manage it a lot closer."
Only this week Phase II Pan Groove, which the company sponsored since 1999, ended its relationship with Petrotrin. Friday said this decision was made by the steelband management and had nothing to do with a cut in allocation.
She said just days before the decision by Phase II to move on, the Petrotrin Board met on the sponsorship issue and agreed to a figure for 2016 which was similar to that allocated in 2015. She would not divulge details of the amount but said "it was no where close to a million dollars." But there was no breach of contract since she said the one-year contract the company had with the band had come to an end in any event.
While the partnership between Petrotrin and Phase II Pan Groove has ended, the company continues its support for the national instrument through the sponsorship of Petrotrin Hatters, Petrotrin Siparia Deltones and Petrotrin Katzenjammers.
The company will also maintain its support for 13 other unsponsored bands.
Miss Friday explained that those sponsorships are part of the company's Corporate Social Investment which impacts communities and they are not to be taken lightly, "communities depend on us."
President of Pan Trinbago Keith Diaz told the GML Enterprise Desk that he has received no word from any band as yet about problems with sponsorships in light of the current economic situation. He said bands would write privately to companies and try to get various levels of sponsorship. For example, Diaz said, "a band may write to TSTT and say this is what we need. TSTT may give them money and jerseys. We would not know the details as that is a private arrangement."
Diaz said Panorama begins on January 8th and he will meet with his finance team tomorrow. Culture Minister Minister Nyan Gadsby Dolly is currently waiting on the steelband organisation to get back to her on their needs for 2016 to take a note to Cabinet. But she has already signalled to Carnival stakeholders that the government is hardpressed at this time.
Diaz lamented that under the former Peoples Partnership government the steelband movement suffered a shortfall in funding. He said they are owed $3 million from 2014 and $2 million for 2015. Already as they plan ahead he said they have a shortfall of $4.768M for 2016.
He said the steelband movement had not received any increase in prize money for the past 10 years, but they have seen many other cultural groups benefit financially. He lamented "we in pan always have to bite the bullet."
Only on Thursday, Government spokesman Maxie Cuffy told the post-Cabinet news conference that the State allocation for the International Soca Monarch and the Chutney Soca Monarch shows had been reduced by 56 per cent and 40 per cent respectively.