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Former energy minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan yesterday called for a restructuring of Petrotrin to make the company efficient and effective.
And in doing so, Seepersad-Bachan said Petrotrin has to ensure that it is not used as a political tool in making those decisions.
Seepersad-Bachan was weighing in on the five per cent wage increase the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) had accepted on Monday from Petrotrin for its workers.
After 30 hours of conciliation talks at the Ministry of Labour the OWTU called off a planned 90-day strike and signed an interim settlement with the State-owned energy company covering the period 2011 to 2014.
The settlement does not cover backpay, however. Starting from the company’s next pay roll cycle at February, the workers will receive their five per cent. The company and the union will negotiate for a final settlement by February 28.
Seepersad-Bachan said the Government had no right to intervene in the negotiations, while Petrotrin was wrong to offer 0/0/0 which only provoked and angered the OWTU.
“This was a matter between management and the union. The Government steps in only when it has to give guidelines to the board of directors to ensure it does not become a burden on the State.”
Seepersad-Bachan said Petrotrin and other State companies are not dependent on the treasury.
In going forward Seepersad-Bachan said Petrotrin now has to boost the morale of its workers to get them to be more productive and co-operative with the company.
Stating that retroactive payments to workers will only be based on affordability and productivity levels, Seepersad-Bachan said this was a step in the right direction.
While many people criticised the OWTU for the actions taken, Seepersad-Bachan said they raised a lot of pertinent issues.
“You cannot ask the workers to take the burden only for the inefficiences at Petrotrin. It is unfair. You hear people talk about Petrotrin not being productive. But where does this come from? To be productive you need leadership. That is the responsibility of management,” Seepersad-Bachan said.
During her stewardship as energy minister under the then People’s Partnership government, Seepersad-Bachan said she brought the OWTU to the table to come up with ideas to restructure Petrotrin.
Seepersad-Bachan she hoped that Petrotrin works with the union as a partner.
“If you want to make Petrotrin more effective and efficient there has to be a restructuring. That is clear. The board has to pay close attention to some of the expenditure of that company. I hope these issues are addressed. Nothing irritates workers more or lower their morale when there are so many missteps by management. And these missteps are not being addressed.”
Seepersad-Bachan said the board also has to be careful that “Petrotrin does not continue to be used for political purposes.”
Under successive administrations, Seepersad-Bachan said there were “too many missteps from management” while the company was not performing.
Those missteps she said involved the Gas To Liquids project, the Gas Optimisation Project project, the unapproved salaries paid to managers and the huge overtime bill.
“You have issues where they are duplicating capital expenditure in plant and machinery that is not required because it is already there.”
She said Petrotrin’s capital and human resources must be managed properly, while a strategic plan is imperative. “I don’t think they have a choice. They have a lot of work to do to turn around the company...to be able to support its own debt obligations. That is what is required now. Effective management means getting rid of the square pegs in round holes.”