PRESIDENT GENERAL of the Contractors and General Workers Union Joseph Phillip has written to the Prime Minister asking for a meeting to discuss the future of Lake Asphalt (LATT).
Phillip said the company is in a slump and workers are very concerned that it could either shut down or be privatised. He said he and members of the union went to Point Fortin last week, when Dr Rowley had a conversation with the public on energy, hoping to get answers. The trade unionist said he was expecting the conversation to be two-way, affording members of the audience an opportunity to ask questions.
“But we were not given an opportunity to ask questions. We only had to listen,” Phillip said.
“As the only state-owned company in La Brea, we thought Rowley or the Energy Minister, Franklin Khan, would have spoken about LATT and what the future holds for this company, but the name was only mentioned.”
He said the 200-plus workers are fearful that the asphalt company will end up like the former state-owned Petrotrin, and all the workers will be put on the breadline, because of a slump in sales.
Phillip explained that 80 per cent of LATT’s revenues came from bitumen when it was the exclusive company selling this product to road pavers. However, he said since the suspension of the Common External Tariff (CET), reducing import duties on products such as bitumen, the company is now competing with road-paving companies for its survival.
“Road-paving companies, like Jusamco and others, are now importing their own bitumen, leaving LATT hanging.”
He said for this year the company has sold approximately 10,000 tons of bitumen, less than half of what it would have normally sold for this period to date.
“What Government has done is to cut off our feet and asking us to run. We were surviving handsomely on the sale of bitumen, but that has been taken away, leaving us vulnerable.”
Philip, who is a retiree of the company, said, “LATT has never been a burden on the treasury, but if we are not given the priority to sell the bitumen, somewhere along the line we will have to start depending on subventions and when that happen eventually, somebody will want to privatise.
“We don’t want that. We want a meeting with the PM to discuss the future of this company. We have a jewel here, and if we are given the chance we will be able to manage it beautifully. But we need the help.”
Philip said in conversation, members of the LATT board felt “they were given a raw deal, but said they had no control over that.”
Last month, LATT signed a licence agreement with the University of the West Indies St Augustine campus to commercialise two asphalt-based products developed by UWI. They are the UWI plastic cement and UWI primer.