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Petrotrin board to meet OWTU Tuesday

Saturday, September 8, 2018
Petrotrin chairman Wilfred Espinet. Photo by:ANISTO ALVES

Petrotrin chairman Wilfred Espinet says the board is willing to consider any alternative plan that would make the company competitive, get it on a path to sustainable profitability and enable it to refinance its debt.

As such, Espinet said yesterday that the board of the state oil company will meet on Tuesday with the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union, led by its president general Ancel Roget, as it continues consultation as part of the Memorandum of Agreement signed on April 4, 2018.

In late August the board announced plans to exit the oil refining business and establish a new Exploration and Production company as part of its plan to make the business viable.

On Thursday, the union met with Government and presented what it said were counter-proposals to the closure. But the Government said nothing new was put on the table and held fast to its position that the Petrotrin refinery will be shut down, with Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis telling the media both parties “agreed to disagree” after almost three hours of talks.

The OWTU has indicated that it will be tabling a counter-proposal for consideration by the Petrotrin board.

Yesterday, however, Espinet told the T&T Guardian the board is “open to any solution that will result in a self-sustainable, commercially viable company. This is a business and its purpose is to provide a return for its owners, the people of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Once Petrotrin moves out of the refining business it will import gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel and other products for markets within the region and all of the oil which the company produces will be exported, he pointed out.

Espinet dismissed suggestions that the decision to exit the refining business would cause the price of fuel to increase on the local market.

He said, “Petrotrin currently sells fuels to NP and its other customers at prevailing world market prices; that is not going to change.”

According to Espinet, the Government “determines the price of fuel at the pump. One is a market-driven number and the other is a policy decision. So there is absolutely no correlation between the two.”

He accused unidentified people of “trying to instil fear in the population to achieve their own ends.”

In presentations made to Government, unions and the management in August, Espinet said if Petrotrin were to remain an integrated company it would require TT$25 billion to stay alive, to refresh its infrastructure and repay its debt. Even when that is done he said it will continue losing about TT$2 billion a year.

Figures from the company and the Government indicate that Petrotrin lost more than $8 billion in the last five years; is $12 billion in debt and owes the Government more than $3 billion in taxes and royalties.

Espinet said, “Our goal is to make the business internationally competitive; a sustainably profitable leader in the local energy sector; and an employer of choice, that is a source of national pride.”

In a memo to employees this week, Espinet informed them that while October first marks the start of the transition “it is not the last day of work for every Petrotrin employee.”


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