(TRINIDAD EXPRESS) Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar says a caring prime minister would not take a decision to shut down the Petrotrin refinery sending home hundreds of workers.
And she called on prime minister Dr Keith Rowley to have a heart.Speaking at the United National Congress (UNC) Monday night forum at the Union Presbyterian School in Claxton Bay, Persad-Bissessar said she supported the call for the government to change its mind on Petrotrin.
Persad-Bissessar said while the Government reported 1,700 workers would be sent home it was in fact over 5,000 workers to be affected, including contractors operations, service industries, support industries and suppliers.
“And this is not taking into account social displacement. The fallout is going to be massive. The fallout from this is going to affect over 100,000 persons. Remember what happened when they closed down Caroni.
They said 8,000 persons would lose their jobs. The reality is that over 250,000 people were affected. We have not fully recovered from that. And it was brutal. This going to be 10 times worse than the Caroni fallout,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar said workers must be prepared to make sacrifices to save their jobs.
She said the UNC was proposing a 24-month plan to deal with the situation.
This plan, she said, would be shared with the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU).
The plan included ways to source cheaper supplies of crude and higher prices for refined products.
Perssd-Bissessar said Petrotrin needed to have direct marketing for our products in order to maximize profits. Also, she said, it was time to negotiate with Samsung to get ULSD plant working.
“My understanding is Samsung has a proposal to sort the issues that is nowhere near the cost the government is quoting. My vision is to train, educate and prepare our citizens for high paying jobs in industry and for the digital economy,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar suggested that Petrotrin curtail overtime for the 24-month period and reduce and renegotiate benefits for the same period.
Vacation leave should also be suspended and a proper assessment and performance targets are set for each employee and updated terms of employment whereby employees have to and must be accountable for poor performance.
“Let’s be real, some of these guys get away with very poor performance and keep their jobs. So, don’t expect me to try to help you keep your job and expect to continue with that behaviour. There is severe price gouging by safety suppliers, service suppliers, goods suppliers for products and services in the refinery,” she said.
The 24-month plan, she said, can lower overheads and operation, maintenance cost, employee cost and turn a healthy profit.
Persad-Bissessar said she intends to meet the OWTU on the issue before revealing the plan.