Despite assurances by Petrotrin, Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) president general Ancel Roget has warned the public to expect gas shortages, since Petrotrin operations are at a standstill. At a press conference at the OWTU’s headquarters in San Fernando yesterday, Roget said all Petrotrin operations were down. He said: “The producing fields at Santa Flora, Penal, Barrackpore, Forest Reserve, Point Fortin Central, Trinmar and the base Point Fortin and offshore Soldado and of course Pointe-a-Pierre, the marine operations and also the entire refinery—all the plant at the refinery is down—and therefore the refinery is non-functional as we speak.” Roget said the management wanted the public to believe it had a contingency plan to distribute gas and that drivers would not be inconvenienced but added: “There can be nothing further from the truth. Contrary to what the company’s management is saying, the facility in the first instance to produce the fuel, those plants are down. And secondly, the bond is impacted severely by the action taken by the workers.”
He said there were long lines at gas stations in South and “as the time wears on, this situation will be further compounded.” Checks with various gas stations in South revealed there had been a steady flow of vehicles and no problem with gas supplies. Stations in Port-of-Spain also had a normal flow of customers. Roget said workers downed tools over the weekend because Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine had announced at a post-Cabinet briefing that Cabinet had decided to grant a licence to a local operative, a subsidiary of Bunkering International, to run a major bunkering facility in T&T waters. He said the workers also were angry that the company had reneged on a promise in February to pay them their variable pay and also to fill 500 vacancies.
Roget called on Ramnarine to tell the public who were the owners of the company. Accusing the Government of having a hidden agenda, he said: “We have been doing some research and we can find no local ownership, no names of this company they have granted the licence to.” He said they were concerned the bunkering company would take billions of dollars in profits away from Petrotrin.
Saying Petrotrin had the expertise and resources, he said the union had done joint studies with management on the feasibility of bunkering for Petrotrin. “Nobody else produces the fuel but Petrotrin and it is our belief if Petrotrin goes aggressively into the bunkering market, Petrotrin will increase its profitability almost immediately.” He said Petrotrin would be selling wholesale to the bunkering facility but the company would retail it at a very high cost—no less than US$4. He said the union would meet with the minister at his office tomorrow to discuss the issues but today it would meet with workers to decide their next step. He added: “Whether workers go back to work or not, we cannot guarantee the type of stability that is required for the level of productivity to take the company forward. “The onus is on the management part, on the part of board of directors and part of Cabinet and Government to procure a particular climate to ensure that stability and industrial peace are maintained.” He said the company had two choices, either to run a safe enterprise and treat workers with respect and pay them well or not to run any Petrotrin at all. The communications officer at Petrotrin, George Commission, could not be reached for comment.