Government maintains position on oil refinery as union hold talks with oppostion

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The Trinidad and Tobago government Wednesday maintained its position to shut down the oil refinery at the state-owned oil company, PETROTRIN, even as the main opposition United National Congress (UNC) held talks with the union representing workers on plans to keep it functioning.
Speaking in Parliament, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley said while he is not aware that the company had received any other proposal, apart from the one from the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) to keep the refinery operational, he was nonetheless “aware that there are other persons who might have been indicating that they would have an interest in the event that the refinery becomes available for consideration.
“A refinery can attract attention from any person from anywhere and what we are saying we are open to see what is available once the asset has become separated from the business of PETROTRIN as a separate entity.
“So any discussion on this matter is a discussion about the refinery as a stand-alone item,” Rowley told legislators.
He described as “mischievous” an attempt by the Leader of the Opposition Business Dr. David Lee that the government may be re-thinking its original position to shut down the loss making refinery
“Mr. Deputy Speaker my colleague is being deliberately mischievous. I have been very clear. I speak about a stand-alone item. I speak about only dealing with this aspect of it when the refinery is separated from the rest of PETROTRIN business,” he said, noting that the question from the Opposition legislator was “mischievous and meant to mislead”.
Meanwhile, a statement issued by the UNC following the talks between the OWTU and an opposition delegation headed by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar, noted that the discussions had centered on the union’s “Alternative Plan to Save Petrotrin.”
The statement described the meeting as “cordial and productive” with Persad Bissessar reiterating “that the Opposition shares the view that the company can be turned around, the jobs of thousands of workers saved and the shutdown of the refinery is not in the best interest of the company and the country”.
Persad Bissessar said that the country is awaiting the budget presentation on October 1 by Finance Minister Colm Imbert and that she hopes “the country will hear some concrete plans regarding the company’s future, given its critical importance to our nation’s energy sector”.
But she said “we do not expect to hear of any viable plans to secure our nation’s assets”.
Last week, the OWTU said it had been able to attract an international investor who has expressed an interest in entering into a joint venture to lease the refinery.
“This is a win-win situation,” OWTU president general Ancel Roget said after the union met with the board of directors of the oil company last Thursday.
As he emerged from the meeting with the opposition on Wednesday, Roget expressed confidence that his union’s proposals would turn around the refinery that Rowley said was losing billions of dolars (One TT dollar=US$0.16 cents) annually.
Last Tuesday, PETROTRIN chairman, Wilfred spinet said that all employees would be put on the breadline when the company shuts down its loss making oil refinery.
Espinet said that there’s a 3,400 permanent workforce in PETROTRIN (but) “if you ask me today how many employees we have in PETROTRIN I could not tell you because….that’s a number that keeps moving in the temporary workforce all the time on a daily basis.
“In fact it could operate twice or three times a day given that you have three different shifts,” he added.

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