Trinidad Energy Minister: 4,700 workers in total to lose jobs

(Trinidad Guardian) En­er­gy Min­is­ter Franklin Khan yes­ter­day told Par­lia­ment that 3,500 per­ma­nent work­ers plus 1,200 non-per­ma­nent work­ers will be af­fect­ed by the Gov­ern­ment’s planned clo­sure of the re­fin­ery in two weeks.

Khan gave the over­all to­tal in re­sponse to ques­tions by UNC MP Rudy In­dars­ingh. Khan’s fig­ures are the lat­est to­tal tal­ly of work­ers to be af­fect­ed by the plan.

In an Au­gust 28 state­ment on the clo­sure, Petrotrin stat­ed, “Ap­prox­i­mate­ly 2,600 per­ma­nent jobs will be af­fect­ed—the re­designed Ex­plo­ration and Pro­duc­tion busi­ness will have ap­prox­i­mate­ly 800 work­ers and all 1,700 jobs in re­fin­ing will be ter­mi­nat­ed.”

Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley, in a Sep­tem­ber 2 ad­dress to the na­tion, had said, “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.”

Com­pa­ny chair­man Wil­fred Es­pinet re­cent­ly re­port­ed­ly in­di­cat­ed a to­tal of 3,500 per­ma­nent work­ers would be af­fect­ed.

Franklin Khan

Yes­ter­day, how­ev­er, Khan ap­peared to give a more com­plete pic­ture af­ter In­dars­ingh sought an up­date on the cal­cu­la­tion of the ter­mi­na­tion ben­e­fit pack­ages for all cat­e­gories of Petrotrin re­fin­ery work­ers and the num­ber of em­ploy­ees to be af­fect­ed.

Khan replied, “As to the num­ber of em­ploy­ees that will be im­pact­ed: the to­tal num­ber of per­ma­nent em­ploy­ees im­pact­ed from the Petrotrin re­struc­tur­ing and re­mod­el­ling is ap­prox­i­mate­ly 3,500 per­ma­nent work­ers and ap­prox­i­mate­ly 1,200 non-per­ma­nent work­ers.”

On ben­e­fits, Khan said, “The ter­mi­na­tion pack­ages and ben­e­fits there­in are cur­rent­ly be­ing ne­go­ti­at­ed by the com­pa­ny and OW­TU. … I wouldn’t want to pre­judge what pack­age they’ll come up with. They have a base and col­lec­tive agree­ment and they’ll prob­a­bly be work­ing on en­hance­ment.”

In­dars­ingh asked if sev­er­ance pay­ments would be made for 5,322 work­ers, which he said was the num­ber of work­ers in the com­pa­ny giv­en in the Lash­ley re­port on Petrotrin. Khan said that re­port didn’t speak to such ac­tiv­i­ties or sev­er­ance pay­ments.

UNC’s Roodal Mooni­lal asked about ear­li­er state­ments by the PM and Gov­ern­ment mem­bers which he said put the pack­age around $ 2-3 bil­lion.

Khan said that he’d said the pack­age would be up­ward of $1 bil­lion.

“If you do ba­sic cal­cu­la­tion on the col­lec­tive agree­ment, this is ob­vi­ous­ly more than $1 bil­lion. But the state, board and Gov­ern­ment is will­ing to sit with the union and go through all the num­bers and pos­si­bly of­fer some en­hance­ment to that pack­age.”

PM Row­ley twice at­tempt­ed to com­ment on the mat­ter but was halt­ed by the pro­ce­dur­al rules.

Khan was al­so quizzed on how re­cent changes to bid rounds is­sues might af­fect Petrotrin’s pro­ject­ed Ex­plo­ration and Pro­duc­tion thrust, which is ex­pect­ed to be the re­struc­tured com­pa­ny’s mon­ey spin­ner.

Af­ter Khan gave the lat­est fig­ure con­cern­ing work­ers to be af­fect­ed, In­dars­ingh told re­porters, “A ques­tion of trust and cred­i­bil­i­ty has emerged here. When the Prime Minis­ter ad­dressed the na­tion, the fig­ure giv­en was 1,700 work­ers, the En­er­gy Min­is­ter gave the same ini­tial­ly. Then Petrotrin’s chair­man said it was 3,500.
“They need to get their act to­geth­er. They’re sup­posed to im­ple­ment their plan by Oc­to­ber 1 but I can’t see all the is­sues be­ing ham­mered out. The fig­ures seem to be con­flict­ing.”

In­dars­ingh said Khan’s be­come known as a bear­er of “fake news” on the is­sue, since Khan had de­nied it when word of the re­fin­ery ‘s clo­sure first cir­cu­lat­ed. He called for more in­for­ma­tion on how many peo­ple would be re­hired and the cri­te­ria for this. Petrotrin’s board speaks at the Hy­att this morn­ing to clar­i­fy is­sues.

So­cial plan for re­trenched work­ers – Crichlow-Cock­burn

With the im­pend­ing clo­sure of the Petrotrin re­fin­ery, Gov­ern­ment is mov­ing to

ac­tivate a na­tion­al so­cial mit­i­ga­tion plan which tar­gets re­trenched/ter­mi­nat­ed

work­ers.

So­cial De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Cher­rie Ann Crichlow-Cock­burn de­tailed the plan yesterday, say­ing it was ap­proved by Cab­i­net in Au­gust 2017 and is meant to cush­ion po­ten­tial psy­cho­log­i­cal, so­cial and eco­nom­ic ef­fects as­so­ci­at­ed with the eco­nom­ic down­turn.

“It tar­gets cit­i­zens in vul­ner­a­ble so­cial-eco­nom­ic po­si­tions such as re­trenched/ter­mi­nat­ed work­ers, un­em­ployed/ low-in­come cit­i­zens at-risk youth, peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, poor/sin­gle house­hold fam­i­lies/in­di­vid­u­als and oth­er mar­gin­alised groups,” she said.

Its main pur­pose is to equip peo­ple with re­sources and tools to cope with short-term con­se­quences.

Phase One in­volves short-term mea­sures:

• Tem­po­rary “pro­gram­ming” mea­sures for re­trenched work­ers – food sup­port, pub­lic as­sis­tance, gen­er­al as­sis­tance grant.

• Ex­ten­sion of the elec­tric­i­ty sub­sidy to in­clude vul­ner­a­ble re­trenched work­ers.

• Pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tral Bank cam­paign on fi­nan­cial se­cu­ri­ty.

• Health/Well­ness cen­tres.

• Fi­nan­cial/tech­ni­cal sup­port to NGOs pro­vid­ing food and oth­er ser­vices to the vul­ner­a­ble – soup kitchens, tem­po­rary shel­ters.

• Walk-in one-stop fa­cil­i­ty for peo­ple seek­ing gov­ern­ment ser­vices.

• Toll-free call cen­tre to dis­sem­i­nate in­for­ma­tion to those seek­ing gov­ern­ment help.

• Stan­dard­ised means test to iden­ti­fy the vul­ner­a­ble sec­tor.

• Phase 2-3 ex­pands pro­vi­sion of train­ing/en­tre­pre­neur­ial op­por­tu­ni­ties.

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