Gov't will consider serious business proposal from OWTU

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has written to the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU), telling the union that the government is ready to consider any serious business proposal for the puchase of the Petrotrin refinery.

However, the letter says that if any superior proposal comes forward, the government will put the interest of taxpayers first.

The following is the prime minister's letter to Petrotrin.

"I have received your correspondence of 10th September, 2018 which contained your Union’s Proposal and suggestions of a business plan for operations at Petrotrin, involving the continuation of the refinery operations.

I have also today received your further correspondence of September 18th, 2018, which appears to repudiate your initial rejection of any involvement of the union in the business aspect of the refinery, as raised by me in my address to the nation on September 02, 2018.

I also note in this latest communication your reference to the “ownership of these assets” as a fundamental principle which you are governed by and which I presume determines your view of the nature of this very serious national problem which is Petrotrin.

I want to make it abundantly clear that contrary to the many conspiracy theories and the insults that they have spawned, neither the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, the Board of Petrotrin  nor any person or agent acting on behalf of the taxpayer, has made any arrangement whatsoever, at this time, to dispose of the refinery assets of Petrotrin.

As you will be aware, at our meeting of August 21, 2018, it was made abundantly clear, by me, that the refinery would cease to operate. This position was arrived at after lengthy, detailed, expert analysis, by the company, taking into account all the components of concern raised in paragraph 2 of your letter today. 

I also take note of our common position of the need for a restructured Petrotrin with a new mandate which will not require a government guarantee to conduct its business and will not threaten the country’s credit rating. The Board, monitored by the Cabinet, has done exactly that and it is out of the requisite analyses and diagnoses that the Government has taken the very difficult decision to close the refinery.

The restructuring that will follow will see the refinery separated from the company’s business and would then stand alone as an asset for which a future of some sort would have to be designed. It is this development to which I referred when I spoke of “opportunity attention”.

Once the refinery is so cauterized then it would be available for attention in order to ensure that the taxpayers, who are the owners, get whatever value which can be derived from its use or disposal.

I want to give you the assurance that if the OWTU is able and willing to present and commit to the rigours of an acceptable business proposal, then the Government will treat it with the dignity and respect it deserves and would be prepared to give the workers some facilitation so long as that is within reasonable business transactional arrangements.

If however much more attractive proposals become available then it must be expected that the interest of the taxpayer will take priority.

I have noted that your proposal has been sent to the Board, which has already indicated that if a superior proposal is presented to change the current decision it will not hesitate to treat with it and advise the Cabinet, accordingly. I have not been advised that such a situation now exists.

It should be noted that the Cabinet does not advise itself on this very weighty and complex matter, but instead have carefully used the expertise from all available technical and financial sources before coming to this decision and would in similar manner expect other proposals to have been so subjected.

We are aware that in the short term there will be hardships and concerns of our people to be dealt with, but we have every confidence that in the medium to long-term, the outcome will be to the benefit of the wider national community."

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