(Trinidad Guardian) State-owned Petrotrin will retrench all its workers and not just those in the refinery as was previously announced. It means that all its 3,500 permanent staff will lose their jobs.
This was confirmed yesterday by Petrotrin’s chairman Wilfred Espinet, who in an interview with the Sunday Guardian admitted that the retrenchment was double the 1,700 that was previously announced.
He also raised the possibility that the new Exploration and Production Company could have a strategic partner as it tries to go after the existing oil and make profits.
Espinet said the decision was taken to “wipe the slate clean” and ensure that the new E and P Company was not “saddled with the baggage of the old Petrotrin”.
“We want to wipe the slate clean. We want a new company that will have no baggage and will be in a position to generate cash flows to pay its debt and make a return to the shareholder. In sending home all the employees we avoid contention on why one person was allowed to stay on and another let go. Plus we will need people with certain types of knowledge and skill sets that may not now exist in the organisation, so we felt we should terminate everyone,” Espinet told the Sunday Guardian.
Asked if this meant that the Oilfield’s Workers Trade Union would no longer be the recognised trade union in this new company, Espinet said, “You will have to ask them that yourself.”
Last month, the decision to shut down the refinery was announced and at that time it was revealed that the 1,700 workers in the refinery would be retrenched.
Espinet said finding a private partner for the new E and P was a distinct possibility, “You know this business much better than me and people tell us that we could significantly increase crude production, and that is great, but to do that, I know it will cost a lot of money which we do not have. So I am thinking we can have a partner in the company, we may have a partner to do specific things in specific areas. What I am saying is that there are many possibilities.”
The OWTU has accused the Government of shutting down Petrotrin in an effort to sell it to the private sector.
The chairman also tried to defend the decision to shut down the refinery despite both the Lashley and Solomon reports never calling for it to be closed.
Espinet had previously relied on both reports as studies the Petrotrin Board used in its decision to close the refinery.
He said, “Yes, we relied on both those reports to help come to a decision and yes, neither called for the refinery to be closed. The Lashley report called for a change to the governance process at Petrotrin to ensure that there was no governmental interference, and to make it profitable. While the Soloman report benchmarked the refinery and looked at manpower needs.
“I did not bring in Soloman, they were there before me and that report would have seen a reduction in the staffing at the refinery by close to 50 per cent and E and P by 60 per cent. It would have required the workers to perhaps take a reduction in pay and benefits and a change in their productivity levels. Did you see the OWTU agreeing to that? And even after all of that, we needed billions just to make the refinery break even.”
The Petrotrin chairman said the Soloman report did not have the numbers in terms of the debt and the cost of a smaller workforce and when the numbers were added the company and the country simply could not finance it and it was then the decision was made to shut down the refinery.
Espinet insisted he was not brought in to “lick up the OWTU” and that the situation had caused him significant personal distress, but that he was doing what he felt was in the best interest of the company.
“I have no agenda, I did not come here to lick up the OWTU!” he added.