The Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) is proposing private investments into the 101-year-old Pointe-a-Pierre refinery in its attempt to save the livelihoods of over 3,500 workers.
However, the union’s enthusiasm to present their proposal document, titled Saving Petrotrin —OWTU’s Alternative Plan, quickly descended into anger and disappointment when Petrotrin’s board of directors did not show for yesterday’s scheduled meeting.
When OWTU executives went to the Pointe-a-Pierre Staff Club for the 10 am meeting, they were met by the company’s senior management, who informed them that they could not enter into any discussion on the union’s proposal.
However, Petrotrin told a different story yesterday evening, saying in a press release that company officials met with the union in a cordial meeting that lasted for 90 minutes. The release added that Petrotrin would continue to meet union representatives a part of the Memorandum of Agreement signed on April 4.
The release did not state who would represent the company in future, but quoted Petrotrin chairman Wilfred Espinet as saying, “We are open to any solution that will result in a self-sustainable, commercially viable company. This is a business and its purpose is to provide a return to its owners, the people of Trinidad and Tobago.”
Speaking to the journalists at Beaumont Hill, Pointe-a-Pierre, after yesterday’s meeting, Roget recalled Espinet’s willingness to listen to options on the company’s future. Given that he was absent from yesterday’s meeting, Roget said he believes it was part of the board and Government’s ruse to get the public to believe that they cared.
Roget said the union has communicated with several major, local and foreign oil companies who own or have access to sizable volumes of crude oil that are in dire need of refining.
He said arrangements with these operators should be explored as they will provide a chance for Petrotrin to remain the property of citizens. He said this proposal will address the issues of Petrotrin’s US$850 million bullet payment due in 2019, the much-needed capital injection for refinery upgrade, crude oil supply, job security and the social fallout from the impending refinery closure.
Despite saying that the refinery “had reached the end of its commercially viable days,” Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, in a national address on September 2, said the refining assets of Petrotrin could be put into a separate company for opportunity attention. He said the OWTU would be given the “first option to own and operate it on the most favourable terms.”
While the OWTU has rejected the offer, Roget said yesterday there are many reputable investors internationally that have expressed an interest. He said the union found it strange that the Government did not consider this as an option. He said he believes Rowley was victimising the OWTU for its performance appraisal of the People’s National Movement tenure in office, in which it gave Government a failing grade. He said the PM believes the OWTU can be destroyed by sending workers home.
“We think that is grossly unfortunate for Trinidad and Tobago, that it is disrespectful, that it is the highest level of contempt for the union and for the people that in the face of any alternative, they are not willing to sit down and discuss the alternative,” Roget said.
“What the Prime Minister would have said was just a ruse. I made the point then that he is just trying to point the country in a particular direction where he really does not mean what he says.”
Roget said it the PM really cares he should instruct Petrotrin’s board to engage in an earnest discussion on their proposal. So far, the proposal has been presented to Rowley, President Paula-Mae Weekes and Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Copies were expected to be delivered to Independent senators yesterday. The union intends to make the plan known publicly as it continues its awareness campaign.