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Petrotrin’s fate sealed
Today marks the end of an era for state-owned refinery Petrotrin with the decision by the company’s board of directors not to appoint a new president to replace Fitzroy Harewood, who left yesterday, and a final decision to break Petrotrin into two entities.
This has been confirmed by the chairman of the company Wilfred Espinet who, in a wide ranging interview on Tuesday, told Business and Money, “The board has decided not to hire a new president and to break the company into two entities. I want to be careful because there are certain legal implications but there will not be a new president of Petrotrin.”
Yesterday was the last working day for Harewood who tendered his resignation from the company on December 1 2017, but became effective February 28, 2018.
In addition, the company’s entire leadership team including: vice president exploration & production Stephen Awah; vice president, refining and marketing Astor Harris; vice president, human resources and corporate services Neil Derrick, and senior adviser to the president Imtiaz Ali were all instructed to resign effective yesterday.
Quizzed on this development, Espinet initially suggested that no one was fired.
However, when he was told that Business and Money was aware that not only were they asked to resign, but that industrial relations consultant Shafeek Sultan-Khan had given the vice presidents less than a week to clear their desk because they were not to be part of the future of the company and up until Tuesday were still in negotiations with the four in determining the compensation to be paid to them by Petrotrin,
Espinet said, “Well Sultan-Khan has been hired by the board to deal with the HR and IR issues.”
He further acknowledged that the new entity did not have a need for the vice presidents and, therefore, it made sense for the company to move on without them.
Petrotrin was incorporated on January 21, 1993 to consolidate and operate the petroleum producing, refining and marketing assets of state-owned enterprises: T&T Oil Company Ltd (Trintoc) and Petroleum Company Ltd (Trintopec).
In 2000, these assets were further extended with the acquisition of Trinmar Operations.
According to the company’s website, Petrotrin is T&T’s largest crude oil producers.
It also has an interest in some natural gas production.
Petrotrin also operates T&T’s only petroleum refinery.
The refinery has a full conversion capacity of up to 168,000 bpd and average throughput of approximately 112, 974 bpd.
Its petroleum products are sold locally and as well as to customers across the Caribbean, Latin America and the eastern seaboard of the United States.
Espinet again stated his position that the company would have to cut jobs, saying it has received reports from consultants that show the company to be over-staffed and noted that the board has to engage with the representative Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) to chart a way forward.
“Petrotrin will not survive unless there is a fundamental change in the way in which people operate in the company. We have to get culture change. You are also talking about change management and therefore we need a new approach. We need to sit with the union and explain to them that this is our plan to save the company. They may agree or not agree and in that case we will invite the experts to show how they came up with the number and so on,” said Espinet.
He explained that the board and the union were expected to meet yesterday to start the process.
Asked what would be the timeline for retrenchment and how many people were likely to be sent home, Espinet said he could not discuss numbers until some agreement with the union had been reached.
Espinet however said that he hoped that by the end of next month there would be an agreement between the union and the board on a way forward.
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