THE EDITOR: The Petrotrin issue and the need to address it before it bankrupts the country was the subject of an address to the nation by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley in January 2017.
The Prime Minister has declared a genuine interest in fixing the troubles at Petrotrin once and for all but Ancel Roget, president general of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU), seems to be primarily concerned about salary increases and strike action while massive losses continue to accrue at State-owned Petrotrin.
The troubles of Petrotrin are well known in the public domain. What makes things worst is a union leader who continues to demonstrate his willingness to be a part of the problem at Petrotrin instead of working on a meaningful solution.
The last demand with the threat of nationwide strike action by Roget was in 2017. The union wanted a ten per cent salary increase for workers and this was during a time when the country was struggling with the economy to even cover recurrent expenditure.
The public is aware of the already high salaries that Petrotrin workers enjoy as a result of the energy sector. All things being considered, the OWTU can act in the best interest of its workers by working with the Government to establish a reasonable common ground which will also redound to the public benefit.
A very experienced and competent board was put in with a mandate to get to the bottom of the issues and restructure the company. It is because the Government knows that unless this company is fixed urgently it poses a threat to the entire country by straining the Ministry of Finance for support constantly and by building up debt that will affect the country’s credit rating, resulting in downgrading by the rating agencies. These are the issues that this Government is dealing with.
The billion-dollar debt and the continuous losses at Petrotrin are known facts. So is the overstaffing, waste, corruption and unreasonableness of the union. These are the challenges that must be confronted by any government which puts the national interest first. The Rowley-led Government is doing what other governments sidestepped or were unwilling to do.
It was also Roget who issued a false statement telling the public that the Government is engaging in mass layoffs in the public sector. Time has proven that nothing could be further from the truth. There is a responsibility which comes with leadership and those who occupy such significant positions should not make irresponsible statements which can cause unwarranted public panic.
As we celebrate Labour Day and the critical contribution our people make as our national labour resources towards national development, we must continue to work together. The Government’s engagement with labour, intending to build trust and cooperation in the national interest, can be easily undermined by self-serving and misleading representation of the facts.
Citizens are looking towards a better future in the energy sector and the wider economy and therefore there is a need for a collective effort for sustainable development. Let the national interest be our first priority as we are all in this together.
, PNM senator