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Former minister: Good sense prevailed

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Good sense has prevailed. That was former Energy Minister Conrad Enill’s reaction to the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) calling off the strike at state-owned Petrotrin. Following 30 hours of conciliation talks at the Labour Ministry yesterday, the union has agreed to a five per cent wage increase for the period 2011 to 2014 .

“The settlement has relieved a lot of tension in the society. What this does is bring stability back into the country which I think is a good thing. The whole question of cost . . . it has, in fact, carried up the cost like any other company. They are going to have an expenditure profile which they are going to manage,” he said

Noting that employees’ cost was just one element of the settlement, Enill said when he weighed the five per cent against the negative effects the strike would have had on the national community and economy, “one can safely say that good sense has prevailed and we are in a better place than we were before this situation.”

Enill said the settlement reflects a reality the country is coming to terms with—that it is not business as usual.

“And to me, that is a more significant signal in what has taken place. We are not where we were before and what is now required is for us to sit down and actually figure out how all of us will get out of this mess together.”

Last week, Enill appealed to Petrotrin’s board, Government and the OWTU, come to an amicable settlement before the union took strike action. He said he agreed with OWTU president-general Ancel Roget that Petrotrin going forward has to become a viable and profitable company.

“He is absolutely correct. But more than that, the problem that Petrotrin has today is really and truly as a result of two things. One is exploration activity which is production and the other is the price of oil, “ he said.

Enill said if the price of oil changes tomorrow, the problem that currently exists in Petrotrin with its negative returns can turn into positives.

“Petrotin is in that situation where it has choices available to it and it can turn around if the prices go up. And we expect that the prices will go up, so this is temporary and short term in a lot of instances.”

Another former Energy Minister, Kevin Ramnarine, told the T&T Guardian he was not surprised that the OWTU and Petrotrin’s management had come to an agreement and averted a strike.

“For the second time in the last couple days, Finance Minister Colm Imbert has caved in. My concern is the impact on the wider national economy and whether this will impact our credit ratings with S&P and Moody’s,” Ramnarine said.


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