OWTU wants inquiry into Petrotrin closure

OWTU president general Ancel Roget. Photo by Ayanna Kinsale
OWTU president general Ancel Roget. Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

THE Oilfield Workers' Trade Union (OWTU) on Monday made its own call for a commission of inquiry (CoI) into the closure of former state oil company Petrotrin in November 2018.

UNC deputy leader David Lee made a similar call in December 2019.

The OWTU based its call on legal steps it was currently taking to protect the pension plan of the now defunct Petrotrin.

At a news conference at the union's Paramount Building headquarters in San Fernando, OWTU president general Ancel Roget said, "The country must know at some point. If not now, when they (PNM) leave government, because that is going to happen. If not now, sometime soon. We must have a CoI, a public CoI into who say, who get vex, who operated by vaps, who advised them to close Petrotrin."

Roget said it was a grave injustice "not just to the Petrotrin workers but every single citizen born and unborn...when the took this decision to shut down Petrorin."

He claimed former prime ministers Dr Eric Williams, George Chambers, Patrick Manning, Arthur NR Robinson, Basdeo Panday and Kamla Persad-Bissessar "would have never taken such a decision."

He said one of the effects of Petrotrin's closure was to put its employees' pension plan in jeopardy. The last actuarial report on the plan, on September 30, 2019, he said, estimated the plan had a deficit of approximately $1.5 billion deficit and a monetary value of approximately $7 billion.

He said at the time of Petrotrin's closure three years ago the plan had approximately 7,000 members, some of whom were retirees and others were laid off when the company was closed.

Roget said the actuaries advised Trinidad Petroleum Holdings Ltd (TPHL), under which Petrotrin falls, that an initial sum of $250 million and payments of $135 million annually for the next ten years were needed to fill that deficit. The plan was in deficit, he said, before Petrotrin's closure.

He referred to a sequence of legal letters from May 28-July 12 between the union's lawyers, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj (RLM) and Co and attorneys representing TPHL and the fund's trustee, Republic Bank, to get information about the plan.

To date, Roget said the July 12 letter from RLM & Co Ltd to TPHL is seeking a reply from the latter within 14 days about the fund and recommendations to address its deficit.

The union is consulting with it lawyers, he said, and "they have assured us that we are going to take this to the distance.

"We are prepared to go to England to ensure...if that is where we need to go..to the Privy Council to ensure that the workers who work and that their contributions don't go in vain..and that their pensions are secured, as per their entitlement."


"OWTU wants inquiry into Petrotrin closure"

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