Panic fuel buying amid Petrotrin shutdown rumour

(Trinidad Guardian) Amid increased uncertainty and fear about the future of Petrotrin and job security, the state-owned company is assuring the public that there has been no change in its operations.

Social media was abuzz yesterday with warnings of an impending shutdown at the company, army personnel being trained to run the refinery, particularly the bond, a private entity taking over operations, mass retrenchment and Petrotrin Estate officers providing security for board members.

The public was also warned about a fuel shortage and advised to fill up their tanks. This caused panic buying of fuel at several stations across the country.

The T&T Guardian was also bombarded with calls and messages by concerned citizens, including workers and contractors, about the information being circulated yesterday.

However, around 4 pm yesterday Petrotrin sent out a release in response to the plethora of rumours. The release said Petrotrin has invited the executive of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) to a meeting at 10.30 am on Tuesday (August 28) for a presentation by the board on the way forward for the company.

It further stated, “The company wishes to advise the public and all concerned that Petrotrin continues to operate normally and that there has been no change to routine activity. Petrotrin will advise the public of any change as necessary.”

However, a company source said they knew something big was going to happen but no one knew exactly what was being planned.

Calls to the cell phone of OWTU president general Ancel Roget went unanswered yesterday, but research and education officer Ozzi Warwick said the union had received no confirmation of the information being circulated yesterday.

“We are not aware of any of that happening. As far as we are concerned, nothing is going to deter the union and workers from coming out on Sunday, when we will converge at the official residence of the Prime Minister,” he said.

Former labour minister Rudranath Indarsingh, meanwhile, said Petrotrin workers were in a state of stress and anxiety. He called on the Government to come clean on what was agreed to in Cabinet about Petrotrin two weeks ago.

“The UNC is calling upon the Prime Dr Keith Rowley and the chairman of the board of directors of Petrotrin Wilfred Espinet to clear the air on whether the refinery has been sold and what is the future of the 3,000 employees and also how the closure of the refinery will impact on the economy of Gasparillo, Pointe-a-Pierre, Marabella, Vistabella and San Fernando.”

He warned that any closure of the refinery would decimate small and medium contractors.

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