OILFIELDS’ Workers Trade Union (OWTU) president general Ancel Roget said they remain optimistic that negotiations for the sale of the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery to Patriotic Energies and Technologies Co Ltd, a company owned by the OWTU, will be completed before the August 10 general election.
Last September the Government announced Patriotic Energies as its preferred bidder, accepting their proposal ahead of 76 other bidders. In its proposal, Patriotic had offered upfront cash consideration of US$700 million plus US$300 million for the non-core assets of the company.
“We’re very optimistic, and until something presents itself to puncture that optimism we will continue to be optimistic,” Roget said during a press conference at the OWTU’s Paramount Building, Circular Road, San Fernando, headquarters yesterday.
“If you’re involved in a process for almost 18 months, because it is election time would you stop that process? In other words, election or no election, our eyes are on the prize to close that process to ensure that workers are given jobs.”
Roget said the OWTU felt compelled to respond following last week Wednesday’s announcement by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley that all Patriotic had to do was sign off on the Asset Purchase Agreement, the first of a two-phase process, and then they would move on to the closing phase of the acquisition process.
“We would have hoped from that time to now, because he would have told the country it’s just a matter of days, we would have been able to close that first phase of the process and announce in like manner this morning.
“However, yesterday we were called and informed that a meeting, which is aimed at closing the first phase would take place today (yesterday) at 11 a.m.”
He said the media, and by extension the public, will be made aware of what transpired at yesterday’s meeting.
“We take it as a profound duty to continue to educate and inform the public about every aspect of a process that is going to bring hope and real tangible benefits to the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” Roget said.
He noted that the country is faced with thousands and thousands of people who suffered job losses and cannot put a meal on the table for their families because of a number of situations including the Petrotrin retrenchment.
“Every day that goes by is another day that thousands of families are denied an opportunity to put food on the table. Another day that goes by is another day of joblessness for thousands of people. But another day that goes by without this process being closed is another day where in the midst of an opportunity to put food on the table for all of those families, they are simply being denied.
“And that is why we believe that there should be a great effort and anxiousness to ensure that no stone is left unturned, to ensure that we close this process and we get on with the business of reopening that refinery. Our one objective is to ensure that the country has the real fuel security by the reopening of that refinery, free from political interference, in the interest of all of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.”
‘All about the people’
He stated that the refinery will provide some 4,500 jobs, not for senior executives or hundreds of managers, but jobs for skilled workers such as scaffolders, technicians, operators, safety officers and labourers, who are all unemployed today, as well as permanent sustainable jobs for those who will be employed in the running of the refinery.
Roget added that nobody is going to prevent them from completing the deal.
“Absolutely nobody, be he prince or pauper, prime minister or opposition leader, labourer or general manager, man in the street or man in the management, will prevent us from going forward to acquire what belongs to the people on behalf of the people.
“Nobody will prevent the OWTU from going forward in this matter. And therefore, we look forward to the co-operating hands, the continued co-operating hands of those with whom we are discussing, the Government, to ensure that this process is completed and that jobs will be provided,” Roget said.
He said their effort is all about the people.
“And though many people might talk about the people, our conversation is a different one because our conversation reports to you about the tens of millions of dollars of investment that we would have made to reach this far.
“And so when that day, the tenth comes around and you the people would be asked to make a decision, you need to have the information to make that decision. And the OWTU is committed to providing you with that information. Not on the basis of the politicking that occurs on both sides, indeed on all of the sides, but on the basis of the facts, the truth, and so that the voters will be able to make the correct decision. What you do with that information is up to you, but we will bring that information to you.
He said closing the sale is not an academic exercise or something of an announcement. “It is related to us starting to mobilise, to put boots on the ground, to put workers to work so that we can begin the process of bringing foreign exchange.
”Before the restart, involved in the turnaround process will be the injection of foreign exchange, much-needed foreign exchange into our country’s economy. So any which way you look at it, any which way you turn it, this is going to benefit the people of Trinidad and Tobago.”
He said what is required now is a cooperating hand recognising the urgency, the need for jobs, and the pain and suffering of the people in the country.
“What is needed is a co-operating hand with the OWTU to close this process and ensure that the country benefits.”
Roget added that with the advent of Covid-19 exacerbating an already difficult situation, the only hope, the only silver lining in that dark cloud of economic doom is Patriotic Energies and Technology.