THE PEOPLE’s National Movement (PNM) is denying any conspiracy between its party and the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) over the union’s bid to run the former Petrotrin refinery.
The Prime Minister dismissed as “rubbish” the theory of a conspiracy between the OWTU and the PNM when he spoke on a local government campaign platform in Siparia, one of the constituencies in the former oil belt, on Thursday night.
Seven candidates are contesting for the PNM in its quest to take control of the Siparia Regional Corporation.
Dr Rowley said the process through which OWTU’s wholly-owned company Patriotric Energies and Technologies Ltd (PET) secured the bid “was transparent, deliberate and very extensive.”
Of all the expressions of interest, Rowley said, the OWTU had the best proposal, “and I make no apology for that.”
He said while the union and his government did not always see eye to eye, there was mutual respect and he could work with the union.
“I could argue with Roget (OWTU’s president Ancel Roget). I could argue with any one of them there.
"But, having argued with them, I respect them, and I could work with them. That is what it is all about, because they have their interest and I have my responsibility.”
He said when he first offered the union the opportunity to run the refinery, he told them to ensure their proposal was robust and could stand scrutiny, and he maintained that position.
“If workers, through unions, are interested in going into the business of refinin,g and the refinery is available, give them the first opportunity, because we are building a new society in TT. If the union wants to get involved in business, then count on the PNM.”
Rowley told the audience, which included his Cabinet colleagues Franklin Khan and Robert Le Hunte, who both lived in Fyzabad, “From day one we said we would love to have the refinery restarted, but not as a taxpayer entity, because the taxpayer is not in a position to buy oil, bring it here to refine and lose between US$3 to $7 (on a barrel of oil per day).
“I want to tell the OWTU, as long as your proposal is robust, as long as your proposal can stand business scrutiny, you can count on the government of TT to work alongside you to get it done. Because in these battles, in this fight for nationalism, in this fight for survival and sustainability, we are all in this together.”
Rowley said he could visualise the OWTU leadership "moving from pounding pavements and shouting across the streets to being in the boardroom and taking serious decisions about serious investments that could make their members seriously rich.”
To do this, he said, PET will have to do two things. One, find an appropriate financier and, a crude oil supplier as the refinery will need oil to operate.
He explained an appropriate financier does not mean the OWTU must have cash in hand, but having been selected by the government gives them the edge in attracting finances.
Noting “there is stupid talk that Roget cannot run a refinery,” he said if the requisite skills do not reside within the union, it could go into the market and hire the skills.
“We are waiting to see what the union comes to us with, and it is in everybody’s interest in this country to succeed in what they are engaged in. Whether Gasparillo, Marabella, San Fernando, Fyzabad or Scarborough, it is in your interest, and the government would do everything that is reasonable to make them succeed, if they are serious.”