OWTU president general Ancel Roget says the real reason for the continued closure of downstream natural gas users on the Point Lisas Industrial Estate is a “badly negotiated gas deal between the National Gas Company and the upstream producers.”He was addressing an early-morning protest by Yara workers at the company’s ammonia plant at Savonetta, Couva on Tuesday.
The plant was shut down on December 31.The workers, who were mostly dressed in the union’s familiar navy-blue polo shirts with the OWTU’s star emblem emblazoned on the chest, chanted the labour movement’s slogan “We shall overcome” while marching in a wide circle at the plant’s entrance. Speaking to reporters, Roget said Yara seemed “hellbent” on sending home the workers, although there are vacancies at two other ammonia plants jointly owned by the company and National Enterprises Ltd (NEL).“We have had 13 bilateral sessions with the management and the management are themselves hell bent on sending the workers home in a situation where there are a number of vacancies on the two remaining plants.
“We are saying there are opportunities to redeploy all of those workers so nobody should lose their jobs, and when that is done, it would allow for greater levels of efficiencies and monitoring and turnarounds.”He said the union was calling on Yara "to do what is right and morally and legally and logically correct and preserve the jobs of those workers to ensure that your continued operation of the two remaining plants is properly well manned and operated.”
Roget also said the renegotiated gas deal between the upstream producers and NGC was the main reason for several plants on the estate being shut down.“NGC buys gas from the upstream producers and then resells that gas to gas users, and therein lies the critical problem for TT. What we are experiencing here is a badly negotiated deal between NGC and the upstream producers.”He said NGC was now paying more for gas "and they just simply pass on that increased cost to all of the gas users."Slamming this "bad deal," he said it was "not in the interest of TT, and so we call for NGC, BP and Shell and EOG and all of the upstream producers to go back to the table and negotiate a better deal for TT.”The result , he said, was that "workers are falling like flies all over the place. Workers are being sent home because industries, gas users, cannot continue to maintain that cost, because it is exorbitant and it is probative for their operations.”He said this is compounded by an irregular gas supply and would lead to a reduction in foreign exchange.
“The estate here is a major contributor to forex in the country and forex is a major thread in the tapestry in the economy of TT and therefore the closure of these plants would see the drastic reduction or further reduction of forex to our economy.”
The OWTU is expected to protest in Port of Spain on Thursday.