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Sunday 19 May 2019
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Petrotrin workers ask PM: What extra $50,000 are we getting?

OWTU members and supporters listen to an address about the closure of the Petrotrin refinery during a union meeting in Marabella.
OWTU members and supporters listen to an address about the closure of the Petrotrin refinery during a union meeting in Marabella.

PETROTRIN workers say they are uncertain exactly what the Prime Minister meant when he alluded to an extra $50,000 being added to their severance package.

They accused the PM of continuing to give a false impression of what their severance packages would be when they are separated on November 30, saying the offer is in line with their collective agreement and there is no enhancement.

President of the National Petroleum Staff Association (NPSA) Joseph Roberts also said this was never discussed with his union. He said when he first read in the Newsday what the PM had to say, he jumped to the obvious conclusion that workers would benefit from an additional sum.

On further analysis he said he interpreted this to mean that because the untaxed portion of the severance package has been increased from $300,000 to $500,000, people who are eligible to packages exceeding $500,000 would benefit from this.

He said this would apply to people who had worked with the company for over 20-25 years and in senior positions, not junior staff.

Roberts said the reality is that the average worker would have been put on the permanent payroll years after being employed in a temporary position, so the benefit is minimal and temporary workers would receive sums of $7,000, $10,000 and $15,000.

“What we are getting is what we worked for, what we contributed to (the pension plan). There is no enhancement,” Roberts said.

He made the statement on Wednesday night, as the House of Representatives debated a bill to vest Petrotrin’s assets into its successor companies, Heritage Petroleum, Paria Fuel Trading and Guaracara Refining.

One employee, a member of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU), told Newsday, “I am not sure exactly what this means. This was never discussed with us. I don’t know if is an additional saving or if it is included in the package.”

The employee said the termination letters details the exit packages as being based on years of service, plus savings and pensions, in line with the collective agreement. The employee also said although termination letters gave their date of exit as November 30, some workers have been sent home earlier as the company winds up operations.

At Point Fortin only the administration, human resources and finance departments are fully operational as they finalise payment. At Santa Flora the audit and facilities departments have already been shut down and there is little production going on in the field. Refinery operations at Pointe-a-Pierre have also declined.

Roberts said two weeks before the deadline, there is too much secrecy surrounding the closure of the oil company, the rehiring practice and the future of retirees, and their separation has not been done with dignity.

While some temporary workers and members of the OWTU have rejected the termination letters pending the outcome of the union’s Industrial Court matter against the company, Roberts said 100 per cent of his members have accepted and signed off on their termination.

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