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Regardless of the outcome of this morning’s legal bid by Government to wind up CL Financial, majority shareholders intend to press on with their special meeting this afternoon to put more of their directors on the company’s board.
“...And we’re fully prepared to appeal any negative outcome for us regarding Government’s wind-up bid,” former Clico chief executive officer Claudius Dacon added yesterday.
The Government is appealing the decision of High Court Judge Kevin Ramcharan, who last week refused its application for the appointment of provisional liquidators. In the event the State is successful in its appeal, it will be allowed to appoint Hugh Dickson and Marcus Wide of international accounting firm Grant Thornton as provisional liquidators.
“We hope good sense will prevail in (today’s) matter, but we have legal experts standing by to immediately appeal any negative outcome for us,” Dacon told the T&T Guardian in a telephone interview.
“We’ll have our special annual general meeting in the afternoon regardless of how it goes. It was because we sought the AGM—to appoint more of our directors to the CLF board to regain control of CLF companies—that Government filed all this legal action.”
The AGM is scheduled for 3 pm at the Queen’s Park Oval, Port-of-Spain.
Additional directors to be appointed are United Shareholders Ltd representatives Carlton Reis and Kirk Carpenter. Government currently has four board representatives while shareholders have three.
Dacon added: “Government’s legal action wasn’t necessary since we want to repay the debt owed to Government from the 2009 Clico bailout, which they say is $15 billion. We have foreign funds for this. But first the AGM is needed to start rebuilding companies and put processes in place for repayment of the debt.”
Dacon said processes involve establishing terms and preparing to negotiate with a proper memorandum of understanding which can lead to restoration of value in the companies which, in turn, will lead to resolution of the debt.
On claims that creditors are also seeking $2 billion from CLF shareholders, Dacon said that was not an extra amount but was part of the overall $15b sum which Government was seeking.
“Creditors—subsidiaries of Government, FCB and others—have announced intention to claim monies due, but that’s part of the $15b debt, which we’ll pay. They’re simply double counting figures in this and other area, seeking to put pressure on us,” he said.
Dacon is concerned Government’s moves could delay efforts to deal with CLF’s regional issues.
“We’ve started talks with associate companies in Guyana and Grenada and they support our bid to get things going to deal with their issues. But there can be no regional resolution until we solve the problem in T&T. A negative outcome for us would also cause a regional setback.
Overall Market activity resulted from trading in 12 securities of which five advanced, two declined and five traded firm.
Trading activity on the First Tier Market registered a volume of 53,088 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $3,064,402.34.
Trinidad And Tobago NGL Ltd registered the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.10 to end the day at $21.93. Conversely, The West Indian Tobacco Company Ltd registered the day’s largest decline, falling $0.01 to close at $125.82.
Clico Investment Fund was the only active security on the Mutual Fund Market, posting a volume of 10,200 shares valued at $228,446.62. It advanced by $0.01 to end at $22.40.
The Cabo Star, the newest cargo vessel on the sea bridge, set sail late yesterday, after being called into service earlier than scheduled.
But while the vessel accommodated all the trucks which had backed up because of problems with the Atlantic Provider, it did little to ease the frustration of angry truckers.
General Manager of the Inter-Island ferry Service Leon Grant confirmed the vessel was not originally scheduled to sail yesterday, “because we were waiting to complete all the necessary documentation and paperwork, there are a lot of little things to do, but when we realised the situation with the Atlantic Provider we could not afford to let it continue.”
Chairman of the Port Authority board Allison Lewis confirmed the delay of the Cabo Star was “because all the administrative paperwork was not completed on time.”
The Atlantic Provider broke down due to mechanical problems on Friday, leaving scores of truckers and their cargo stranded. Yesterday, 100 trucks were loaded onto the Cabo Star but truckers were not allowed on because Grant said “there is some paperwork to be completed. That will be done sometime this week.”
Grant said the Cabo Star would be put on a schedule of 2 pm from Port-of-Spain and 11 pm from Scarborough, but this was not possible yesterday because of where it was berthed, “they had to get a pilot to come on board and turn the vessel around to put it on the dock for loading.”
Loading of the trucks and cargo started at just before 3 pm and the vessel left the Port of Port-of-Spain just before 6 pm.
Truckers yesterday complained at the lack of information over the Cabo Star’s relief mission.
“It is a bit disappointing. We have loaded trucks, we not getting information and we can’t leave the trucks. It is making us feel that the people who running it not sure what they are doing,” one driver said.
By late evening as their trucks were being loaded on the vessel, however, drivers were accommodated on the T&T Express.
Grant said with the arrival of the Cabo Star, Trinity Provider barge had been taken out of service and will no longer be required from month end.
None of the stakeholders have as yet experienced the journey on the Cabo Star. But when the vessel arrived in Tobago last Friday, stakeholders were given a tour of the vessel when it docked at the Scarborough Port.
President of the Inter-Island Trailers and Truckers Association Horace Amede said yesterday the association was “satisfied with the vessel.”
“The vessel is good, we are happy with the accommodation. There is a deck for trucks and a deck for motor vehicles. It has the capacity for the business community as well as the general public,” Amede told the T&T Guardian.
President of the Tobago Chamber Demi Moore Cruickshank added: “We are back on track. We hope it is smooth sailing and that it does not development any mechanical issues.”
He said the vessel was “about 30 per cent bigger than the Galicia and has comfortable accommodation and cabins. There is a movie area that can accommodate 40 persons and smaller rooms with television monitors. There is a sauna and a swimming pool.”
He said the vessel has four decks, one of which is dedicated entirely to cars.
“This will help out for the Great Race, Easter, Christmas. It will be able to meet equipment and transportation needs. We are comforted that drivers will be transported in comfort with their cargo.”
Cruickshank said the concern was ensuring “we could bring cargo and full up the warehouses and get things back on track, so we are comfortable.
“All we hope is that it does not develop mechanical problems.”
Issues of whether there was any corruption involved in the acquisition of both the Cabo Star and the Ocean Flower 2, he said, “are for the Integrity Commission, Fixing T&T, the Opposition and other watchdog groups.”
With the aim of facilitating a greater awareness of programmes which will assist businesses to incorporate innovation into their processes, the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (Cariri) in partnership with the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce recently hosted a session, Encouraging Innovation in Corporate T&T, at Cariri’s Centre for Enterprise Development, Freeport.
Cariri and the Chaguanas Chamber have established a strong relationship built on both organizations’ desire for diversification and growth in the economy.
This particular session was geared towards promoting the intent of the Chamber to remain proactive in providing avenues for businesses in the Central area and this was the platform that Cariri chose to promote two new initiatives that will greatly assist organizations.
The first, is the Innovation Gap Analysis Programme (iGap) which is intended to identify and engage potential innovations in existing companies and will also address the need to develop a culture of innovation in private sector enterprises, particularly SMEs, based on the recognition that SMEs are particularly vulnerable to the rapidly changing dynamics of the international economic environment and, to remain competitive, these enterprises must keep their value proposition current, relevant and valuable to customers.
The Data Innovation Solutions Centre (DISC) is the second initiative, which involves business intelligence and data analytics which will use the respective organizations data to provide information that can assist in making more sustainable and innovative business decisions.
This session also facilitated the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Cariri and exporTT which was witnessed by Trade Minister Paula Gopee Scoon.
This MOU will see greater collaboration between the two institutions. Its general intent is to amalgamate the efforts of both parties by leveraging on the strengths and synergizing current projects/programmes.
Some of the aims of the MOU are promotion of data analytics solutions, capitalizing on existing and upcoming technology and trade agreements, sharing of industry information on legal and regulatory developments, market intelligence and information on global trends as well as identification of expertise for advancement of local and regional skill sets, among a host of other initiatives.
Cariri and exporTT have outlined as a priority their commitment to the development of the local economy and maintain that more can be done together. Gopee-Scoon commended both organizations for taking this initiative as she endorsed the collaboration.
Facing hardship since the government banned the export of lumber last year, sawmillers in south Trinidad are finding it hard to keep their businesses afloat. As a result, millions of dollars in lumber are remaining on the hands of the sawmillers. Bevin Lemo, of Bevin’s Enterprises Limited in Penal Rock Road, said he has been forced to send home some of his workers because he could not pay their salaries.
“I have $120,000 worth of prepared lumber just lying in my yard and nobody is buying it. I cannot export it and I have used up all my money so I have not been able to pay my workers salaries for the past month,” he said.
Lemo explained that only a few sawmillers are benefitting from the ban on exports. He said Government’s plan to stimulate the local furniture industry by banning exports has not worked and he wants Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat to revisit the export policy.
Davis Ramkissoon, R&D Sawmill at Princes Town said he too was affected badly.
“ales dropped by half because people are not spending their money to buy lumber locally.. The product price has dropped. The government has put a hold on the exports and this is stifling the local market,” he complained.
Ramkissoon said more than 75 sawmillers are negatively affected.
Goberdhan Kissoon, owner of G&P Sawmilling Industry in Penal, said he has not sold a length of lumber for the past six weeks.
“My sales dropped by 90 per cent. We have been working only one day per week because it makes no sense paying royalties to the State, cutting the lumber and preparing it only to have it remain on your hands,” he said.
Kissoon said while Government’s aim of stimulating the downstream lumber industry is good, nothing is being done to assist the sawmillers with the sale of their products.
“A lot of people got licenses to own sawmills so the market is saturated. Government must revisit the export policy now,” he said.
Contacted for comment, Ken Ramesar, a director of the T&T Sawmillers and Lumber Manufacturers Co-operative Society Limited, said Government is losing valuable foreign exchange by banning exports.
“When we export to India, they pay US dollars through the Bank of Baroda, so US dollars is coming through the system and Government is losing valuable foreign exchange by banning exports,” he said.
He added that the local furniture industry is dying because of the importation of foreign furniture.
Rambharat said it was too early to assess impact on ban of downstream users of teak.
“That is only part of the consideration. More important issue is management of those resources which are highly subsidised by taxpayers. We have to extract teak from our reserves in a sustainable way. Some sawmillers only existed to cut and export teak,” he said.
Trading activity on the First Tier Market registered a volume of 323,700 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $3,246,838.29.
Scotia Investments Jamaica Limited was the volume leader with 284,235 shares changing hands for a value of $595,317.60, followed by The West Indian Tobacco Company Limited with a volume of 15,498 shares being traded for $1,950,113.34. Massy Holdings Limited contributed 7,553 shares with a value of $377,460.74, while First Citizens Bank Limited added 6,000 shares valued at $189,900.
Scotia Investments Jamaica Limited registered the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.02 to end the day at $2.09.
Conversely, National Flour Mills Limited registered the day’s largest decline, falling $0.06 to close at $2.14.
On the Mutual Fund Market 7,548 shares changed hands for a value of $97,449.72.
Bourse Brazil Latin Fund was the most active security, with a volume of 5,000 shares valued at $40,400. It remained at $8.08. Clico Investment Fund declined by $0.01 to end at $22.39.
The 2017 edition of Tobago’s World Food Day will focus on training and building awareness.
Secretary of the Division of Food Production, Forestry, and Fisheries Hayden Spencer said World Food Day will not follow the two-day event exhibition structure of previous years.
“World Food Day has to be scaled down. One because of the present financial constraints the Tobago House of Assembly’s faced with, and two, we cannot do things the same way and expect to get a different result.”
Themed Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development, the World Food Day activities will take place throughout October instead of a two-day exhibition.
“These efforts will be made to educate our stakeholders, farmers, students and the general public on agriculture.
“We will conduct workshops, seminars and open days at different agricultural stations that the Division has responsibility for throughout the entire month of October with a gear to boost the awareness of farming.”
There will also be stakeholder workshops and farmers’ markets at various locations, enabling farmers to sell their produce directly to consumers.
“We have eight farming districts and we want to get all the farmers involved,” Spencer said. “For example we’ll invite the public and farmers to Hope Farm, so you get to experience and learn what is going on.”
The Division’s aim is that by educating the public about agriculture and its benefits, it will improve the island’s food production.
President General of the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union (SWWTU) Michael Annisette waited in vain for hours yesterday to meet with Angostura CEO Genevieve Jodhan to discuss a grievance involving a senior manager at the company.
The meeting did not come off as officials at Angostura’s Laventille head offices claimed no talks with the union were scheduled for yesterday.
However, email exchanges between Annisette and Jodhan between July 16 and 17 showed that arrangements had been made for a meeting at 1.30 pm and had been confirmed by Jodhan.
In a July 16 email she wrote: “May I please ask that the grievances be sent in writing before our meeting and may I further ask for the date to be changed to Friday July 21 so I can be present and would propose the time to be at 1.30 pm.”
The meeting was called to discuss workers’ complaints that they had lost confidence in a senior manager at the company.
Annisette had told Jodhan that matter “goes beyond the normal grievances and has its genesis in the lost of confidence...and therefore any delays in getting the meeting off the ground may be inadvisable.”
Speaking with the T&T Guardian outside of the House of Angostura compound in Laventille yesterday, Annisette said he was very disappointed that he did not meet with the CEO. “We had advised that the meeting is critical and important,” he said. For the past nine days workers have been staging lunchtime protest actions.
Annisette said the protests will continue until Angostura’s management deals with the senior manager.
Jodhan did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.
While Central Bank stopped issuing one cent coins from July 1, the coin remains legal tender and can be used for cash payments until the Bank notifies the public otherwise.
The Bank (CBTT) stated this yesterday, as it issued guidelines for the public on the rounding off process which will apply to cash transactions following the future halting of use of the coin.
Rounding means the lesser or greater adjustment of a final cash payment to the nearest 5 or 10 cents.
The Bank intends to withdraw the one cent coin from circulation and in due course it will no longer be legal tender.
The bank expects to demonetise the coin by July 1, 2018.
As of July 1, 2017, the bank stopped issuing one cent coins. Over time there will be less in the system and price rounding on cash transactions will be required, CBTT added.
“When the one cent coin is demonetised, regulations will be introduced to mandate and enforce rules on rounding. Until such time, voluntary guidelines are intended to assist the public with the transition,” the Bank said.
Rounding will only apply to cash payments and to the total amount of the bill as follows:
• Where a consumer has one cent coins available and can tender the exact amount payable to the vendor in cash as the one cent coin remains legal tender;
• To payments made using non-cash methods such as cheques or electronic payments including, but not limited to debit, credit or prepaid cards;
• To individual prices of a good or service and, as such, prices on individual items need not to be changed;
• To duties, taxes or charges, which are to be calculated in their exact amount prior to rounding.
The Central Bank said a vendor might obtain consent to round off sums orally or by other means, such as appropriate signage at conspicuous locations.
However, participation in rounding during the transition period is voluntary for both vendors and consumers.
“The Central Bank encourages vendors and consumers to accept the rounding of the final amount of any cash payment or change owed in a consistent and transparent manner.
“A vendor/consumer who wishes to round must obtain the agreement of the consumer/vendor before proceeding with the transaction or before applying the rounding guidelines,” the bank said.
“There should be an indication to consumers of the vendor’s participation in rounding which could be done by in-store signage visible to the public.”
Where a vendor wishes to round but the consumer doesn’t agree, the bank advises that the vendor provide exact change to the consumer.
“If the vendor insists on rounding, a consumer may tender the exact cash amount payable, pay for the good or service using a non-cash method, or no longer purchase the good or service from that vendor.”
Rounding UP to the Nearest Multiple of 5 Cents Rounding DOWN to the Nearest Multiple of 5 Cents
A payment of $1.03 shall be rounded to $1.05
A payment of $1.04 shall be rounded to $1.05
A payment of $1.08 shall be rounded to $1.10
A payment of $1.09 shall be rounded to $1.10
A payment of $1.01 shall be rounded to $1.00
A payment of $1.02 shall be rounded to $1.00
A payment of $1.06 shall be rounded to $1.05
A payment of $1.07 shall be rounded to $1.05
Frustrating. That’s how one business group has described the logistics for inter-island travel between Trinidad and Tobago. Gabriel Faria, chief executive officer of the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce, said instead of Tobago businesses capitalising on the July/August period to increase visitor arrivals they are now faced with juggling with logistics on how to move goods and people between the islands.
According to the Tobago Department of Tourism, about 28,000 people visited Tobago for the period ended December 2011.
Faria’s comments come even as the logistics are still being worked out concerning the movement of cargo between the islands as well as on Sunday, pilots from Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) refused to operate the ATR planes.
Clearly disappointed that there wasn’t more discussion as well as partnering to deal with the issue, he said already the Tobago businesses have lost July or the equivalent of one month from the entire vacation period.
In an interview at the TTCIC’s Westmoorings headquarters on Wednesday, Faria said, “I can feel the frustration of so many consumers, homeowners, vacationers, business people because it just seems to be a perfect storm, it really feels that the entire Tobago environment is being crippled by all the things that have been thrown at them.
“This would be one of the worst (situations the island has ever faced), tourism down, inter-island transport down-both cargo and passenger.
“It just feels like no one cares, it feels like the institutions or the government institutions are not taking action as quickly as they should.”
Worried that the problem worsened, Faria planned to visit Tobago this weekend to do an assessment. He said with a little more planning and discussion with the business community would probably have achieved a better result.
“Understand that Tobago tourism has been on the decline for quite sometime, their one reprieve is the summer period.
“The concept of a stay cation is a very valid concept, it allows Trinidadians to go to Tobago they don’t need foreign exchange, but you can’t get to Tobago because its a flight problem, and you can’t get to Tobago because there is a cargo problem, you can’t get into Tobago because its a boat problem for passengers.”
Employees of the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) have vowed to continue their protest until concerns regarding the settlement of outstanding arrears are addressed by their management team or respective line minister Clarence Rambharat.
Mandated to report to the Agriculture Minister, the ADB specialises in development financing for the agricultural sector.
Following four consecutive days of sit-in protest by the employees both inside and outside the head office at Henry Street, Port-of-Spain - senior ADB officials yesterday sought to reassure staff that they were working to bring some resolution in the matter.
However, they stressed there was a collective bargaining procedure to be followed, which was responsible for the some of the lengthy delays.
Acknowledging the high level of service and professionalism that continued to be displayed to members of the public by the protesting staff, officials said they were thankful their clients continued to be served by the hardworking and committed staff.
This, despite several attempts by the management to have workers vacate the building as soon as they completed work at 4 pm daily.
During their candle-light vigil on Wednesday which was conducted as workers sat on the pavement outside the office, the fire alarm on the second floor was activated - forcing two senior managers and the lone security guard inside to hurriedly exit the building and surrounding areas.
While the protesting workers followed procedure by moving away from the building, they were hardly surprised to see the senior officials re-enter the building without any clearance from fire officials who never came to the scene.
The angry employees yesterday said this could only have happened if a call had been placed to fire officials indicating it was a false alarm - something only someone in authority can do.
Following on the heels of Wednesday’s action, staff were issued a memo yesterday by the ADB’s Corporate Finance Manager Gleason Garraway that no-one was allowed in the building without his permission after 4.30 pm.
The workers have said they will not be deterred from continuing their protest and were expected to gather yesterday.
They are demanding the settlement of outstanding salary negotiations for the period 2011 to 2013, and have also rejected an offer of nine per cent.
They are instead insisting on nothing less than 14 per cent which would maintain parity with the rest of the public service.
Contacted yesterday, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat confirmed the matter had been referred by Cabinet’s Human Resource Committee back to the ADB, to continue negotiations with the PSA.
In a text, he assured, “The negotiations are in the hands of the parties.
If there is anything further that is required, the Bank would seek guidance from the Human Resource Committee.
As always, I hope that the negotiations can be settled.” ALP
Officials of the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union (SWWTU) are set to meet with Angostura’s chief executive officer, Genevieve Jodhan, just after noon today to discuss the removal of a senior manager accused of violating several aspects of the collective bargaining agreement.
Satisfied that weeks of ongoing lunch-time protests by the workers had finally culminated in management’s willingness to meet to discuss the issue, SWWTU president Michael Annisette yesterday said, “We have the documents and empirical evidence in support of our claims.”
Revealing that some of the information had already been shared with management, Annisette said the workers had lost confidence in the manager who was installed at Angostura just over one year ago.
He claimed the manager had violated several widely-accepted industrial relations practices, which had rendered him a liability to the company.
Annisette claimed the violations included the non-payment of special allowances to both staff and retirees, promotion of a certain employee without proper justification, the payment of uniform allowances prior to discussions with the union, and his reported “moon-lighting” as he was said to be performing consultancy services for other companies which was a direct conflict of interest with his current position.
Joining the workers during yesterday’s protest outside Angostura’s main entrance along the Eastern Main Road, Laventille, Annisette alleged the manager, “Constantly keeps shifting the goal-post to suit himself.”
He claimed that approximately 90 per cent of the workforce at Angostura were united in the call for the manager’s removal.
Annisette said it was virtually impossible for unbiased decisions to be made during any exchanges between the union and the manager due to the ongoing situation. He explained that as a result, many of the workers had also complained of feeling victimised.
Declaring the manager’s level of arrogance was something akin to “Trumpism,” Annisette maintained that if the union was unable to meet with officials to discuss employee-related matters in a free and fair manner, then it could never result in anything positive for the company.
He lobbed the ball at Angostura as he challenged them to, “Step up and deal with the matter now before it got worse.”
Annisette concluded, “Following investigations, we have confirmed there is merit and foundation for the justifiable stand taken by the workers and we have no other alternative but to support the call of the workers and demand the removal of the manager because he is a liability to the company and workers have no confidence in him.”
The American Chamber of Commerce of T&T (Amcham T&T) is calling for focus on expenditure reduction and debt management in recommendations submitted to the Ministry of Finance on the 2017/2018 National Budget.
“We continue to advocate for the prudent management of the country’s affairs. The growing debt burden has and continues to be an area of concern and therefore expenditure curtailment in light of revenue challenges is advised,” the business group said.
Amcham T&T said challenging economic times have persisted into 2017, and the decline in oil and gas revenues continues to affect both Government and its budget considerations and the business community. The group said a collaborative approach is essential in the development and transformation of the economy.
The group’s budget proposals focus on debt management, ease of doing business, digital transformation, energy sector policy, diversification and national security.
On the issue of debt management, Amcham T&T is calling for formulation and adoption of fiscal rules on debt, budget balance, expenditure, and revenue to be implemented no later than fiscal 2019.
“Debt that will be incurred due to Government-to-Government arrangements with delayed repayment terms or moratorium periods needs to be explicitly stated and monitored as part of Total Public Sector Debt. Overdrafts of the Exchequer Account should also be included in this calculation,” the group said.
For ease of doing business, Amcham T&T is recommending implementation of an effective transfer pricing (TP) regime as well as a procedure for an advanced tax ruling system.
The group is calling for the online purchase tax to be replaced with a $10 airway bill fee.
Amcham said the budget should be pegged on an oil price at US$40 a barrel, with a hedge of US$35 and maintain budgeted gas price at US$2 per mmbtu. The group suggested a review of the margins afforded to petroleum dealers, peddlers, and retailers and implementation of a mechanism to automatically calculate these margins.
In the area of national security Amcham T&T proposed the following:
• Address the appointment of a Commissioner of Police.
• Provide an update on initiatives to electronically monitor offenders and establish a DNA Bank.
• Strengthen Fraud Squad, FIB.
• Strengthen Cyber Crime Unit.
• Address the challenges in the Forensic Science Centre.
• Implement adequate support mechanisms for victims and officers.
• Implement recommendations for Prison Reform.
“Bureaucracy in Government operations continues to be a hurdle and addressing the ease of doing business and tax system improvements recommendations put forward here could work to improve the efficiency, cost and convenience of government services,” the group said.
“Improving the efficiency of the public sector and leading T&T into the fourth industrial revolution mandates a digital transformation. Now more than ever talk of diversification must be followed by the implementation of key initiatives in sectors with the potential for growth.”
Trading activity on the First Tier Market registered a volume of 150,266 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $2,956,718.62.
FirstCaribbean International Bank Limited was the volume leader with 108,213 shares changing hands for a value of $824,583.06. JMMB Group Limited contributed 4,030 shares with a value of $5,037.50.
T&T NGL Limited registered the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.20 to end the day at $21.80. Conversely, Clico Investment Fund registered the day’s largest decline, falling $0.04 to close at $22.40.
Energy Minister Franklin Khan visited Petrotrin on Tuesday and met with the board of directors and members of the executive leadership team at the company’s administration building in Pointe a Pierre.
Khan was accompanied by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy Selwyn Lashley, special adviser Leroy Meyers, chairman of the Natural Gas Task Force Wendell Mottley and other senior ministry officials.
It was the minister’s first official visit to Petrotrin since assuming office and as a former employee Khan was warmly welcomed by the Petrotrin team.
The meeting focused on the company’s performance, the current challenges and the shareholder’s expectations for Petrotrin even as there are ongoing deliberations about the company’s strategic direction.
The scanners at the Port of Port-of-Spain will be in operation by the end of the year, Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon said yesterday.
The minister said while Government is aware of the need for a business environment with the least amount of impediments, it would take a few months for the scanners to become operational.
“If we could do it faster we will. This is a business imperative and we are doing the best that we can,” she said in response to questions from reporters
Gopee-Scoon added: “The question of the port scanners is a priority and we have in fact asked the Ministry of Works and Transport for a very detailed implementation programme and timelines of when in fact those port scanners would be operationalised.
“Cabinet has in fact actioned the Ministry of Trade and Industry that all of these doing business necessities are to be put right and implemented.”
On Tuesday, CEO of the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce Gabriel Faria expressed concern about the length of time it would tale for a shipping container to clear at the Customs Examination Station.
Concerns about the situation with the port scanners were first raised Monday’s sitting of the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on national security where was revealed that an electronic scanner commissioned in 2014 is not in use due to concerns about radiation.
Although Massy Stores’ operating costs are increasing daily and its sales are declining, lay-offs are not being considered. CEO Derek Winford said the supermarket chain is committed to ensuring the well-being of its employees in the tough financial market currently prevailing in T&T.
Winford, who spoke at a cheque presentation ceremony at Massy Stores Head Office in Port-of-Spain yesterday, said the company encourages lifestyle and workplace changes to maximise the potential of its employees. including allowing mothers to bring their children to work.
He said Massy Stores employs a number of young women as cashiers, many of whom arefrom homes where the fathers is absent or play a minor role.
“Things happen and as a result they sometimes can’t come to work. We understand and recognise that problem and we’re very flexible with our scheduling,” he said.
Winford said there are almost always children in the office as workers heeded the advice from management to bring their children along. This enables mothers to continue working because they know their children are safe.
“It is a tough balancing act for us but we are committed to doing it,” he said
Outlining the extent to which Massy Stores has been affected by the recession, Winford said: “Costs are going up and sales are flat and declining.”
He said further complicating the situation are constant demands from trade unions for wage increases.
“It’s a tough environment,” he said.
However, he added: “If there is some more reality in terms of what’s going on in the economy, then there will be enough to pay our people well and to pay our shareholders well.”
Winford said although the Massy Group continues to diversify operations and expand into other areas, Massy Stores is struggling with monthly costs such as trents, salaries and utilities.
“Retail in Trinidad and Tobago is struggling,” he said.
At yesterday’s function Elena Villafana-Sylvester of FEEL and Jason Thomson of United Way T&T were presented with cheques totalling $128,145 from the proceeds of this year’s Run For Food initiative. The annual event is a collaboration between Massy Stores and the World Food Day National Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries.
President General of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union Ancel Roget says if Petrotrin has to cut jobs in a proposed restructuring exercise the first to go should be from the human resource and corporate communications departments. He insisted no job losses should come from oil producing areas.
Roget said he told that to Energy Minister Franklin during yesterday’s two-hour meeting at Tower C , International Waterfront Centre, Port-of-Spain.
He told reporters yesterday’s meeting was cordial but the minister “did not tell us anything that we did not know.”
Roget said the union told Khan that the workers were not to be blamed for the financial problems affecting the company and any restructuring should ensure those who work in the core area of oil production and refining be retained.
Roget said that there were many workers in the human resources and corporate communications departments who could be offered alternative jobs in the areas of production and refining.
“Those (workers) do not produce oil and they do not refine oil to make products,” Roget said.
He also said there was no need for certain executive positions in the company.
Roget said there are some 2,000 vacancies that needed to be filled in the areas of oil production and refining. He insisted the human resources and communications departments are “highly overstaffed.”
He said the OWTU would like to see an immediate restructuring of the company “putting the focus and emphasis where it matters — where real people who do real work ,those vacancies ought to be filled.”
Roget said the company has put a hold on the filling of those vacancies.
He said he told the minister that the OWTU “was fully committed to restructuring the company and “we believe that it should involve the union.”
He said the issue of the $850 million bullet payment from the recent negotiations for a new collective agreement was also discussed yesterday. According to Roget the union was told that that issue had to be renegotiated. He said while the union supports that for the company to ease its debt burden it must also have the right management to achieve that objective.
Roget said Petrotrin must to be insulated from political interference in order to be a successful business.
Asked to comment on Tuesday’s meeting between Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the OWTU leader said under former prime ministers Basdeo Panday and Patrick Manning “you would never have seen such an approach.”
He said Rowley has effectively turned to the woman whom he said cannot run to country in 2015 and asked her to help manage it in 2017.
“Something has to be wrong with that. Something has to be ludicrous about that whole arrangement,” Roget said.
He said if the Prime Minister and his Government “feel that is good political stroke, it is not, wait until the backlash comes and we are sure it will come. It is an admission of failure.”
Rowley met with Persad-Bissessar on Tuesday but there was no agreement on one of the major issues discussed, a legislative intervention to resolve the issue of the 53 part-heard cases left by former Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar when she became a judge last April.
She has since resigned the new appointment.
CEO of the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce Gabriel Faria is disappointed that members of the business group were not consulted about plans to begin scanning one shipping container at a time at the Port of Port-of-Spain. He said the measure will lead to longer times for clearing a container.
“It is unfortunate that decisions like this are not done in collaboration with business because the impact it has in terms of operating cycles, in terms of the way you have to buy goods, especially compounded with the current foreign exchange situation, will put significant pressure on consumers ,” he said yesterday.
“if a person is accustomed to goods being cleared within five days, its now going to take 14 days. That means that by the time the goods are cleared, delivered to the warehouse, delivered to the retailer, understand what the potential impact is, which is the customer unable to access product. We are disappointed by the way it is being handled.”
Faria’s comments came just days after it was revealed at a Parliament Joint Select Committee meeting on national security than an electronic scanner commissioned since 2014 was not in use at the port because of concerns about radiation raised by Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke.
Faria said a Chamber member recently experienced the inconvenience of a longer time to clear a container which came on July 13, but the documents went to the Container Examination Station (CES) on July 17 when normal clearing time should have been the next day.
“Today, with the new mandate by CES, the new clearance date for that container, to get to inspection is July 27. What you are talking about is changing the logistics from what could be five days, and in some instanc
Officials of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) are warning that they will not stand idly by while Government gives away part of the country’s “patrimony” to friends and family.
The warning comes as the country awaits Cabinet’s decision on the future of state owned Petrotrin and ahead of a meeting today between Energy Minister Franklin Khan and the union to discuss the Petrotrin report.
That report submitted by a committee chaired by Permanent Secretary in the Energy Ministry Selwyn Lashley was considered by Cabinet at its weekly meeting last Thursday. It recommends splitting the company into three.
“Government now has a golden opportunity to fix the problems at Petrotrin, and it should not be used to put friends and family in position and to give away the company’s operations,” OWTU president general Ancel Roget said yesterday.
In Point Fortin last Monday, Khan admitted that Petrotrin had made “fundamental investment errors.”
He said while the company’s biggest asset is right off shore Point Fortin at Trinmar, nothing had been done there for almost a decade.
Former energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine said since September 2015 Trinmar’s production has declined from 21,085 barrels of oil per day (BOPD) to 18,925. He said that should come as no surprise as Petrotrin has not drilled in Trinmar since April 2016.
“Instead of having two work over rigs they have one. That approach can only have one outcome and that is the decline in Trinmar’s production and that is precisely what has happened in the last two years,” Ramnarine said.
Asked why Petrotrin had not benefitted from deep horizon drilling licences on land, Ramnarine said the Energy Ministry had opted to put the deeper horizons on land out for nomination.
He is of the view that the ministry should consult with Petrotrin on these deeper horizons.
While Petrotrin has the capacity for deep horizon drilling on land, Ramnarine said the company does not have the money to invest at this time.
The former minister said he is disappointed that the Cabinet appointed committee dealt only with restructuring of the company and made only “cosmetic recommendations.”
Roget agreed that there is need to deal with Petrotrin’s exploration and production.
“We want a viable Petrotrin, but we will not settle for selling out. If they making a case for selling out they need to think again, because people will suffer as a result of that,” he said.
Roget, who is leading the OWTU team at today’s meeting is calling for a focused discussion.
“Remove the politics from the table,” he said.
Khan, who said the report offers several recommendations to improve efficiency and production capacity at the company, said of today’s talks: “We intend to work with all those who want to be part of the solution. We look forward to productive discussions with the OWTU and the other stakeholders towards this end.
“As a government, we plan to deal frontally with the challenges that face Petrotrin working with all stakeholders, Petrotrin will take decisive action to control costs, generate working capital for investment and make the company profitable once again.
“I look forward to meaningful and open discussion with President General Ancil Roget and the team from the OWTU.”
Khan will be accompanied in the discussion by Selwyn Lashley, Permanent Secretary in the Energy Ministry, special adviser Leroy Meyers Wendell Mottley, chairman of the Natural Gas Task Force and other senior ministry officials.