Caribbean L BQ ife, October 4 - 10, 2019 11
Like almost everybody else, I was
floored by the news that Trinidad and
Tobago government has sold its oil
refinery (formerly Petrotrin) to the Oilfields
Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU).
While I am pleased that the refinery
will remain in the hands of nationals, as
a Trinbagonian, I have some questions
because I believe this transaction is a
smokescreen. The deal (pun intended)
is all the more suspect with the 3-year
moratorium on all payments of principal
and interest towards the purchase
of the refinery and an additional 10-year
grace to complete the pay-off.
I was shocked because in October
last year, OWTU refused government’s
offer to purchase that Pointe-a-Pierre
refinery. OWTU’s leader Ancel Roget
said his union never wanted to own the
He has been quoted in the media on
Sept. 3, 2018 as saying: “We are patriots
and we know that the refinery belongs
to the people. It does not belong in the
hands of a private owner, even if that
owner is the union.”
Then OWTU changed its mind and
submitted a proposal with partners from
Suriname and another with operations
in the US, UK and UAE.
The questions are: Does OWTU have
the capacity to pay US$700 million for
the refinery’s assets? And another US1.4
billion to get it up and running? If not,
who are its local and foreign financiers?
Is Mak England one of them?
Is there something to hide in having a
Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) with
the government? As tax-payers, we have
a right to know about the sale of this
Does OWTU have the managerial
expertise to operate the refinery successfully?
Is there a model to follow? Where in
the world has a trade union owned an
Not even the Oil, Chemical and Atomic
Workers Union (OCAW) in the USA.
Not even the FUTPV trade union in
Venezuela. Would OWTU set a world
Would OWTU give preferential treatment
to its former members for employment?
Who would be the recognised trade
union in this new dispensation? Would
an aggrieved OWTU employee take his
or her complaint to the OWTU-controlled
Would OWTU rehire all of the 1700
workers who were retrenched in the
wake of the gross overstaffing in Petrotrin?
Is OWTU prepared to continue to
spend about 47 percent of Petrotin’s
recurrent expenditure in labour?
Finally, would OWTU continue chanting
its coded mantra of more pay, less
Dr. Kumar Mahabir
San Juan, Trinidad and Tobago
Questions on that oil refinery deal with OWTU
In this Sept. 5, 2005 fi le photo, the refi nery of the state-owned Petroleum
Company of Trinidad and Tobago Ltd., PETROTRIN, is shown in Pointe-a-
Pierre, on the Gulf of Paria, Trinidad & Tobago.
Associated Press / Shirley Bahadur, File
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