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Sunday 23 September 2018
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Caricom fuel contracts with Petrotrin in trouble

File Photo: Dark clouds hang over the Petrotrin refinery at Pointe-a-Pierre on August 28, the day the board announced its closure affecting thousands of workers. PHOTO BY ANIL RAMPERSAD
File Photo: Dark clouds hang over the Petrotrin refinery at Pointe-a-Pierre on August 28, the day the board announced its closure affecting thousands of workers. PHOTO BY ANIL RAMPERSAD

THE ripple effect of the pending closure of Petrotrin’s refinery is being felt in the Caricom region.

President general of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) Ancel Roget said his union has had discussions with some prime ministers in the region and with the source of their supply uncertain, they are all nervous about what is taking place at the refinery.

Petrotrin supplies refined products such as gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel to countries in the region and beyond, including Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada and St Lucia.

Records indicate that its exports to countries in the region amount to 25,000 barrels per day, 38,000 to extra-regional countries and 6,000 to other regional countries.

“Our Caricom partners who are today recipients of our fuel, who depend on this fuel to power their own economies, are claiming they have no information. They say nobody is talking to them about what seems to be a knee-jerk decision to close the source of supply of fuels to these countries.

“They (regional prime ministers) are very nervous,” Roget said Wednesday at a joint news conference at Palms Club, San Fernando to discuss Friday’s planned nationwide strike in solidarity with the oil workers who are to be retrenched when the refinery closes.

“The prime ministers are claiming our government had no discussions with them with respect to alternative means of ensuring they would be provided with the supply of fuel. There are contracts signed with Petrotrin and these countries, for Petrotrin to supply fuel to them.

The economy of these countries depend on this supply. That is how far-reaching the effects of this decision has gone and continues to go.”

Roget said penalties could be incurred if the contracts are breached.

Neither Petrotrin chairman Wilfred Espinet nor Energy Minister Franklin Khan could be reached for clarification.

An industry source said any decision on an alternative source outside Caricom would incur a cost, namely the Common External Tariff (CET).

Nirvan Maharaj, president of the All Trinidad Sugar Workers Trade Union, who joined Roget, president of the Public Services Association Watson Duke and Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union president Michael Anisette at the conference, said the planned closure has brought back memories of 2003, when the sugar industry was closed.

“I feel a sense of pain, of hurt when I remember 2003 when the People’s National Movement (PNM) government also destroyed the sugar industry. They are attempting to destroy the oil industry in TT.

The PNM has the unique distinction of being the organisation that would have destroyed the national patrimony.” Describing the Dr Keith Rowley-led administration as the most anti-labour government, Maharaj said it is an opportune time for citizens to stand with the trade unions and take their fight to the PNM. Maharaj warned Rowley that people no matter how docile, passive or humble, when they are pushed too far, may very well rise up and react in ways never anticipated. He said one glimmer of hope is that the pending action at Petrotrin has united the once divided trade union movement, andcalled on the workers at the 25 companies his union represents to support Friday’s rest and reflection.

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