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Petrotrin unease continues

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The unease within the society in recent months over the situation at state-owned Petrotrin has been made no easier by announcements yesterday from both its board and Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union head Ancel Roget. This is because there appears to have been no middle ground reached between the two entities ahead of the public unveiling of Petrotrin’s future plan by board chairman Wilfred Espinet - if one can call it that. And in the days ahead, there is now no telling what could happen after Roget basically declared war against the Government and Petrotrin over the restructuring plans, noting the union’s recommendations were bypassed in the process.

There will certainly be uneasy days ahead for the 2600 employees who face uncertain futures from the impending shutdown of the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery operations and the transitioning ahead. Indeed, while the effects of this on the economy will be hard to gauge at this stage, the psychological trauma of impending economic hardship will now burden the workers and their families.

That Espinet himself seemed unable to answer some of the critical questions raised immediately by the media yesterday either speaks to his own uncertainty over the process or the fact that a final plan has still not yet been fully worked out. Indeed, Espinet left many issues hanging after his briefing.

Chief among them will be compensation packages for severed workers and whether the company will be able to provide an efficient supply of fuel to the motoring public at affordable prices if, as he suggests, they will now import the product from a source not yet named. Motorists have been forewarned by Finance Minister Colm Imbert that fuel prices could be determined by market behaviour, but this was before the prospect of the country being unable to extract it from our own natural resources.

Espinet has also left hanging the issue of whether Government will sell the refinery should an investor be willing to chance their hand at acquiring an asset which Petrotrin swears is non-profitable.

On the back side of all this is how Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley will now address the matter this Sunday in the wake of Roget’s anger at the high-handed approach of both Government and the company in arriving at what clearly is a blueprint for future operations and of his call for members to boycott Government. Roget admittedly agreed yesterday that the union has always bought into the restructuring process.

However, the proposed three options given by the company - in fact, two since one of them was to remain as is - were clearly not on the union’s radar. This either suggests that the company did not hold previous talks with the union in good faith or was overridden by the Cabinet thereafter.

Either way, the country faces uneasy days ahead as we wait to see exactly how the company’s rolls out its restructuring plan.


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