All 3,500 Petrotrin workers to be sent home- Espinet

(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”.

Wil­fred Es­pinet

“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.

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