So now that the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) has rejected an offer to run the Petrotrin Refinery, what will the Government do?
Word on the ground and within Government is that a buyer has been sourced to take over the refinery.
In an address to the nation on Sunday night, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said the OWTU will be given the first option to buy the Petrotrin refinery, which he described as non-viable.
But in an immediate reaction, President General of the OWTU, Ancel Roget, rejected that plan.
Roget played straight into Rowley’s hands. Rowley, according to sources, never wanted the OTWU to run the refinery. The Government, sources, say, has a local company with deep pockets interested in the assets of Petrotrin.
This plan, sources say, will roll out shortly.
Hear Rowley in his address, “The refining assets of Petrotrin can now be put in a separate company for opportunity attention. The OWTU will be given the first option to own and operate it on the most favourable terms.
“Our Pointe- a-Pierre refinery is 101 years old and has reached the end of its commercially viable days. It is now at a stage where it is haemorrhaging cash, and the cost of rehabilitating it is way more than its potential to ever be profitable, competitive or sustainable.”
He said Petrotrin will move from a state of chronic money-losing to turning a tidy profit for taxpayers, by closing the refinery, boosting the exploration and export of crude oil, and importing the 25,000 barrels per day of refined products consumed locally.
Rowley said the decision to close the refinery was taken after detailed analysis and deep introspection. “This is not a decision that was made lightly or easily. Options were explored and reviewed. We sent the board back on a number of occasions to consider different scenarios and possibilities. At every step the effect on workers and their families and the communities that rely on refinery operations was considered.”
He said the changes will let Petrotrin finance its debt and become sustainable, while easing the burden on the Ministry of Finance. He said changes like this are always difficult and traumatic, but is a chance to save the country from financial disaster and provide new opportunities for entrepreneurship and two significant industrial projects for south west Trinidad.
He added, “But let us not be naive, there are elements in our society who do not view this change the same way, but see it as an opportunity to further their own ends in mischief-making.
“We appeal for the understanding and support of all contractors and employees (permanent, temporary or casual) at this critical time in the company’s history.
“Unnecessary work stoppages and other contrived industrial actions are not in the nation’s best interest. This will only obstruct the already embattled company, and delay this irreversible and unavoidable process geared towards converting a money losing company into a profitable enterprise for the benefit of the entire nation.”
He hoped the implications of such action would be recognised.
Rowley continued, “Let us all work together to make the Petrotrin the success it can be. I am confident all persons will place national interest at the forefront and that the re-invented Petrotrin will assume its rightful place in the oil and gas sector of Trinidad and Tobago.”
He said Petrotrin is this country’s largest state enterprise, in the industry that is the country’s lifeblood and possessing some of Trinidad and Tobago’s most prized oil and gas acreage.
He said, “This is a company that is supposed to be one of the major contributors to the national economy. When such an enterprise is losing money to the point where it can’t comply with the law, we have a major problem.”
“Not only has Petrotrin not been paying its taxes and royalties to the Government, but it has been collecting sums from companies supposedly to be forwarded to the Ministry of Finance but has ended up retaining them to fund its own operations, illegally.”
Rowley said the closure may seem drastic but Petrotrin needs drastic action.
The Prime Minister stated, “In short, the Petrotrin fix was always seen to be bad for politics and even one’s political survival but we have arrived at a place now where its ongoing failure threatens the national survival.
“Such is my lot.
“To those whose knee jerk reaction to this very real crisis is to threaten chaos, to burn down the country, to spew invectives, to demonize and toss insults, none of this assists in addressing the issue in any meaningful way.”
DR KEITH ROWLEY