(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) – Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) president general Ancel Roget is rejecting Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s offer of the sale of Petrotrin refinery to the union, as well as the attractive severance and early retirement packages for workers over 50 who will be affected by the impending shutdown.
In an immediate response to Rowley’s address to the nation last evening, Roget said the union felt “vindicated” by the PM’s words.
“We are vindicated because we knew that the plan was to sell the refinery,” Roget said.
However, he said the union never wanted to own the refinery.
“We are patriots and we know that the refinery belongs to the people. It does not belong in the hands of a private owner, even if that owner is the union,” he said.
The union, with support from almost 20 other trade unions, is expected to deliver a letter to Rowley today offering an alternative plan of action for the refinery.
In a television interview last evening as well, Roget also questioned some of the figures quoted by Rowley and promised that he will be challenging it in the upcoming days. He also said claims by Rowley that the union refused to meet with Government were untrue and insisted that there should be public consultations on Petrotrin’s future, specifically on the decision to shut down the refinery.
Also commenting last evening was former energy minister Kevin Ramnarine, who said he strongly believes nothing is wrong with considering a public-private partnership approach to the refinery going forward.
Saying the refinery remains a strategic asset, Ramnarine said a number of the plants that were built as part of the Gasoline Optimization Programme are still relatively new and were completed in 2013. He added that the Cat Cracker was upgraded and that work was completed in 2014 and certified by Lloyd’s, so Government could find a company willing to take over the refinery.
“I think it is possible to find reputable companies with the requisite capital and expertise who will be willing to partner with the Government to make the refinery viable,” Ramnarine said.
“Also, as I have indicated there will be an impact on the contractors and the energy service companies that depended on the expenditure of the refinery to support their business.”
Ramnarine speculated that more will be heard on the issue in the coming weeks and in the upcoming budget debate.