Opposing positions by the board and management of Lake Asphalt and the union representing workers as to its financial stability, has led Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh to call on government for clarity.
On Tuesday, the company’s workers and the Contractors and General Workers Trade Union protested outside the company’s La Brea plant for job security amid claims it was facing closure after Carnival.
The union’s president general, Joseph Phillip, said he had written to the Prime Minister and Franklin Khan, Energy Minister, to meet and discuss the viability of the plant which, he said, had made bad decisions and had lost its international markets. There has been no meeting to date.
Phillip also warned last year about the company’s ability to continue normal operations, having lost a guaranteed supply of bitumen with the closure of Petrotrin, and a decision by their former customers to source the bitumen independently.
He said the company is the lifeline of the La Brea community.
After Tuesday’s protest, CEO Roger Wiggins denied there were plans to send home employees. He said the company was reviewing its strategic plans which will soon improve its revenue stream.
On Wednesday, the Christopher John-Williams-led board told workers their salaries will be paid.
In a statement, John-Williams asserted there is no impending closure of the company, nor any anticipated job loss. He said the industry is changing and the company has to transform to meet the challenges.
“We are working closely with the Government and all other stakeholders to ensure the successful transition of Lake Asphalt.”
He outlined several initiatives taken by the board as it seeks to achieve this goal, namely the expansion of the Lasco paint plant from a pilot plant to a full-scale production plant, the commercialising of the UWI licensed products (UWI Primer and UWI Plastic cement) and the patenting and pending production of Cold Milled TLA.
The third initiative, he said, “will make our world-renowned Trinidad Lake Asphalt, mined from the pitch lake in La Brea, more user friendly, energy efficient, environmentally carbon neutral (compared with synthetic polymers) and less costly.”
Indarsingh, a former trade union leader said Rowley and or Khan must clarify what is the true status or the future the company and the employment of some 350 permanent and causal workers.
“Will the company cease operations after Carnival? Is the company financially broke as the union is saying, and is this current position linked to the closure of Petrotrin and the whole supply of bitumen?
“Is there a plan to give away the assets of not only the plant but the pitch lake itself to friends and financiers or is there a plan to privatise?”