ANCEL Roget, president general of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU), has thrown the ball right back into the court of the Prime Minister weeks after Dr Rowley invited the union to meet and sign off on the acquisition of the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery and port.
Roget said on Monday, it would be in Rowley’s best interest to take control of the discussions between the OWTU’s company Patriotic Energies and Technologies and Trinidad Petroleum Holdings Ltd (TPHL) to fast track the process and sign off on the acquisition before the general election.
Roget rationalised if the PM had given a mandate and it was not met, he had a duty and responsibility to inquire why the process was not completed.
He said there seems to be people around the table who have a different agenda and this is stalling the process to have Patriotic acquire the assets and restart the refinery which, the union said, will yield 6500 sustainable jobs.
Roget sent a message to Rowley during a news conference at Paramount Building, San Fernando, that his (Rowley’s) credibility is at stake if the first part of that agreement is not signed off before election day next Monday.
Roget said, “This is not an election issue – it never started as an election issue – and it is our position, respectfully, that this process be closed before August 10.
“It will be a political tragedy of tsunamic proportions if somebody wants to play politics with this and say vote for me and stretch me down to the election with this. I hope this is not that.
“Ours is a position which says we are engaged in a process. We won a bid, it was announced in the Parliament, we satisfied the ten-point condition and it is time this thing should close.”
Roget said in spite of Rowley’s commitment that the government was ready to sign off and there was only one clause outstanding, many stumbling blocks have been put in Patriotic’s path.
He said the agenda of the TPHL team “does not square” with the PM’s statement.
He said initially there were six issues, as alluded to by Energy Minister Franklin Khan, who sits on the inter-ministerial committee appointed to oversee the acquisition, to be dealt with before the acquisition could take place.
Roget said, at a marathon session on July 15 these matters were ratified and the OWTU paid to have a draft document drawn up reducing these six issues.
0He said the document was presented to TPHL but instead of fast tracking the issue, their negotiators included some 21-plus issues, which were not related to and never part of the agreement included.
Shocked by this outcome which came to their attention on July 31, and which has pushed back the process by one year when they would have satisfied all the requirements by international and local teams and won the bid which was announced by Finance Minister Colm Imbert in the Parliament, Roget said they sought a meeting with the other party.
A meeting was agreed to but cancelled some three hours before because the team now wants the inter-ministerial team to look at the new document before any meeting with Patriotic.
“They are trying to frustrate us to walk away from the process from which we have invested tens of millions of dollars, time and effort of many employees, the hopes and aspiration of significant numbers of people, including former Petrotrin workers.
“They want us to abandon all of that, but the OWTU, the eternal optimist that we are will not abandon the hopes and dreams and aspirations of all of the people who depend on this closure (of the agreement) for their economic survival, to be able to put food on the table for their families, send their children to school and earn foreign exchange for the rest of the country.”