President of the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM), Ancel Roget, says Government has raised an ant’s nest in the trade union movement and they will deal with the Government in a “different way” in the future because of its lack of trust in the Government and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
Speaking with Newsday on Tuesday following the formal opening of the law term of the Industrial Court on St Vincent Street, Port of Spain, Roget blasted Rowley and the Government as “deceitful and deceptive” and reeking of “dishonesty and deception”. Roget was upset that the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) had issued a statement denying his claim that a meeting between JTUM and Rowley on September 13, 2017, succeeded in averting further mass retrenchment which the Government had planned. The OPM statement said the Government had repeatedly assured the trade union movement it had no plans for any massive retrenchment of public sector workers, but the trade unions continued to insist that this was the case, asking for a moratorium on retrenchment which the Government had no plans to carry out. The statement added that Government was “very disappointed that its efforts at engagement with labour, intending to build trust and cooperation in the national interest, can be so easily undermined by self-serving and misleading representation of the facts.”
Roget said that Government had “raised a proverbial ant’s nest and we are going to deal with them in a different way going forward because of the lack of trust and so on.” He said “if anyone had breached trust it was the Prime Minister.”
He said the OPM statement was intended as a distraction from the scandal at the State oil company, Petrotrin, in which a contractor, A & V Drilling, is alleged to have defrauded the company of some $100 million by overstating the amount of oil the company delivered to the company. Roget said the people involved are known friends of senior members of the Government and accused Rowley of acting just like the previous government – making use of distraction. He said Rowley’s talk about letting the guilty face justice and that neither the party nor the Government will protect the guilty was an attempt to distance the Government from the scandal. “Everybody else guilty but they are so pious and sanctimonious, push everything away from them.”
He claimed Government recently appointed to the Petrotrin board someone who had worked as a manager at Petrotrin and left to go work with a lease operator. Roget declined to name the manager involved but said the union stoutly objected and the person was eventually removed. “We had to raise hell to get him off because we were saying ‘how could you put someone who worked with a lease operator on the board of Petrotrin?’ And now you’re playing pious and sanctimonious and you want to push everything away.” According to Roget, “ When Petrotrin finish with a well, nobody must be able to activate that, but you have corrupt people in the Petrotrin management who write off lucrative wells, give them to the lease operator and then his is a success story the next day going forward.”
He said while the Prime Minister had said he was not in Cabinet at the time the lease operatorship was awarded to A & V Drilling, the Minister of Energy, Franklin Khan, in the Senate, recently praised A & V Drilling for its oil production at a time when the union was calling for an end to the lease and farmout system because it provided an opportunity for corruption. At a recent news conference, Khan said he praised the company based on the information given to him by Petrotrin.