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Petrotrin’s retrenchment numbers unravelled

Published: 
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
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Petrotrin employees listens to OWTU President General Ancel Roget's announcement of the planned shutdown of the company's refinery at the company's Beaumont Hill facility in Pointe-a-Pierre, last month. Photo by:RISHI RAGONATH

The narrative about the number of employees to be sent home at state-owned Petrotrin since the announcement of the closure of the refinery on August 28 has been inconsistent.

Yesterday when he addressed the media and was grilled on the different numbers being bandied about by all the key players Petrotrin chairman Wilfred Espinet grudgingly took full responsibility.

“Will you feel comfortable if I take full responsibility? I do, if the number has been stated and anybody here say the wrong number I take responsibility, but the numbers we are giving are the numbers we know,” Espinet said.

He made it clear, however, that he could not answer for numbers given by either the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union or the Prime Minister, although he admitted it is the company that provides the state with the numbers.

He said the fact of the matter is that from day one, Petrotrin has said all 3,400 permanent workers will be sent home..

When he met with the OWTU and other stakeholder unions on August 28, Espinet presented three options, but it was the third option, which spoke to the exit of all staff, that he made it clear the board had agreed upon and which had been approved by Government. Under that plan, all 3,400 workers were to be sent home.

Espinet reiterated this position when he spoke to the media at a news conference yesterday.

He said, “On the day we presented to the unions it was identified that everyone will go home and the company will rehire the people that will fit the skills and the conditions for the work to be done under the new E&Por terminalling operation.”

Today, the T&T Guardian takes look back at how the number count has unfolded since the announcement of the shutdown of the refinery:

August 28: Espinet tells the OWTU at a meeting at Petrotrin that a decision had been made to exit the refinery business and all 3,400 workers will be sent home, 1,700 workers from upstream that is Exploration and Production and 1,700 workers from refinery and marketing. On the upstream side, he said 45 per cent of workers or just about 800 workers would be rehired. A mere 10 per cent of the workers (about 200) from Refinery and Marketing would be rehired.

A Petrotrin release which followed that meeting said the company was exiting the refinery business and approximately 2,600 permanent jobs will be affected. The release spoke to a “redesigned Exploration and Production business” which will have “approximately 800 workers and all 1,700 jobs in refining will be terminated.”

Following the meeting with the Petrotrin board OWTU president general Ancel Roget told the media “they propose to send everybody home and hire back 800 persons for exploration and production and 200 persons for the proposed terminalling operation in Pointe-a-Pierre.” Roget described the proposal as “madness, we disagree with that and we reject that outright.”

“But comrades the long and short of the story is that Dr Rowley plans to send home 2,500 workers from Petrotrin, get that in your heads,” Roget said. At that point, Roget himself said he understood that all the company’s permanent workers were being sent home and with 1,000 to be rehired, the number of people to be left on the breadline would be 2,500.

August 29: Espinet, in an interview with the T&T Guardian, confirmed that exit packages for the more than 3,000 employees at Petrotrin are being worked out. He could not say how much those packages would cost, what exactly would be offered or how soon payments would be made. He did indicate that the company would have to borrow money to make the payments.

August 30: Energy Minister Franklin Khan, in an interview on the CNCs Morning Brew, said they were aware that 2-3,000 workers would be “directly affected,” as he assured that they will get “very attractive packages.”

September 2: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley addressed the nation on Petrotrin. The PM told the country “In refining and marketing, approximately 1,700 permanent workers will be affected. In exploration and production, employment levels are to be reduced from 1,700 workers to approximately 800 persons.” By that calculation, 2,600 workers were to be sent home.

September 16: Espinet again confirms that all 3,400 workers will be sent home.

The OWTU says the real number of workers to be sent home is 9,000. The union broke it down as 3,500 permanent workers, 2,000 casual and temporary workers and about 3,500 workers who are employed by various contractors.

The United National Congress says the real number of workers to be sent home when Petrotrin is closed down is 5,322. The UNC’s breakdown of the figure is 3,841 permanent and 1,481 temporary workers, which include upstream (Trinmar, refining and Marketing administration. The UNC-based its figure on the report done by a committee headed by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy Selwyn Lashley, which stated Petrotrin employs 5,322 workers - 3,841 permanent and 1,481 temporary.

September 17: Energy Minister Franklin Khan announces in Parliament that the real number of Petrotrin workers to be sent home is 4,700. The breakdown given by Khan was 3,500 permanent employees and 1,200 non-permanent.

September 18: Petrotrin board member Reynold Adjodhasingh tells the media that when Petrotrin is closed down 4,817 workers will be sent home. Adjodhasingh said Petrotrin has 3,400 permanent employees and 1,417 casual and temporary workers. This number represented the number of employees provided in the monthly report from the company and was the number as at August 31, he said.

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