Lights out at Petrotrin yesterday - and a new beginning for restructured companies starting work on Monday.
That was the picture as the life of the embattled state company flickered out on Government's planned deadline yesterday, with restructured energy geared to kick off on Monday when 42 employees (so far) at its new companies begin work.
Energy Minister Franklin confirmed the number in the new companies as he replied in Parliament to Opposition queries on the closure of Petrotrin operations and what would take place ahead.
Yesterday's closure of Petrotrin operations, making way for the Trinidad Petroleum Holding Company and its three subsidiaries, capped off Government's "whirlwind" three-month restructuring thrust announced in August. The plan, which involved job cuts of all 3,500 permanent workers and approximately 1,400 temporary/casual workers, was fought all the way by the Oilfields Workers' Trade Union.
Speaking to reporters before yesterday's sitting, however, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said: "Today will go down as a very dark day as the Petrotrin (catcracker) flare and other lighting systems have all gone out and with that light, thousands of workers are jobless and their families are facing Christmas with little in their pockets."
Accusing Government of pressuring the Opposition on the Income Tax Amendment Bill to distract from yesterday's closure of Petrotrin operations, Persad-Bissessar added: "The reason for this big 'drama' on the bill is because they've shut down Petrotrin today.
"I travel the Pointe-a-Pierre route very often, the refinery flame was a landmark, the refinery built in 1917 was there for 101 years. It was the economy's mainstay. So the Prime Minister knows the economic catastrophe facing us isn't this bill, it's because Petrotrin's closure will have far-reaching repercussions on T&T."
In Parliament, Energy Minister Khan in Parliament, said, "As we speak, all (Petrotrin) plants and processing plants have been safely shut down in accordance with environmental practices. The refinery has been closed and steam plants are down.
"All hydrocarbons have been removed and the entire plant has been placed under a nitrogen atmosphere which is an inert atmosphere to save corrosion, fires and ignitions - and we're now going out for a Request For Proposals (RFP) for somebody to run the refinery."
Khan said the shutting down processes are routine operations that didn't require any Certificate of Environmental Clearance, but noted that all activities were undertaken in consultation and under supervision of the Environmental Management Agency.
Since there are no workers at the refinery now, he said a third-party service contract has been awarded to Damus Ltd (via public tender) to have staff monitoring the refinery, providing supervision and doing maintenance work.
"That's on as we speak," Khan added.
He didn't give the price of the Damus contract.
Going forward from Monday, staff at the Heritage Petroleum company at Santa Flora and Point Fortin and Paria Fuel Trading Company at Pointe-a-Pierre will be on the job, Petrotrin executive officials told the T&T Guardian yesterday. They said Heritage CEO Mike Wiley has been "on the ground" since August.
Khan in Parliament said, "As of today we've hired 39 senior and middle management managers. Of this, 16 are former Petrotrin employees and 23 others (didn't work) at Petrotrin.
"At Paria Fuel Trading company, we've employed three senior managers. Two are former Petrotrin employees and one is a non-employee of Petrotrin."
Khan said nobody has been hired for the Guaracara Refining Company Ltd, as that company will be the custodian for refinery assets.
"There'll be very little employment there as there'll just be a custodian and that employment will take place very shortly," he said.
Khan said individual statements were issued to all employees prior to closure. He couldn't say if they were audited, but assured the plan is in effect and retirees are "all receiving their benefits."