Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 28th 2014 Contents A5
Friday, November 28, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian Petrotrin workers
ready for strike
Petrotrin workers have given their
representative union, the Oilfields
Workers Trade Union (OWTU),
instructions to institute legal strike
action against the state-owned oil
The call came as hundreds of workers
held a closed-door meeting at the
union's Paramount Building, San Fer-
nando, headquarters yesterday, follow-
ing a memo from the company it could
not increase pay or pay out backpay
because of a $364 million net loss it
incurred for fiscal 2013/2014.
The union and the company are
involved in conciliatory talks with the
Ministry of Labour after failed bilateral
talks to settle negotiations for six cat-
egories of workers in both Petrotrin
and its marine branch Trinmar. The
company has offered zero per cent.
OWTU president general Ancel Roget
said the union had substantially reduced
its proposal and was prepared to nego-
tiate downward to find an area where
they could settle with the current trends
being offered in the country.
"But we are not prepared to offer
zero," he said in an interview after the
Roget said the workers were incensed
by the propaganda by the company
about its losses.
He added: "That is a blatant lie. The
company is being disingenuous.
"Petrotrin does not sell oil, they sell
products. They import crude, they mix
that crude with local crude, refine it
and produce products and sell it. The
difference in the cost of production of
that product and what they sell it for
is the margin and that is how they make
He said if the CEO of any multi-
national company was to tell the public
the company was losing money, that
CEO would be looking for another job.
Roget also sent a warning to Prime
Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, noting
she had come to them as opposition
leader in 2010 looking for a job as prime
"If you are taking away my job and
reducing my salary and making sure
my members are not given a fair adjust-
ment and you want to destroy the com-
pany and therefore my job security, we
are prepared to make sure that we inter-
fere with your chances for anymore
employment going forward. You can't
get employment and take away mine,"
Howai to address House today
With the oil price plummeting to US$77 a barrel
yesterday, Finance and the Economy Minister Larry
Howai is expected to make a statement on the matter
in Parliament this afternoon.
This was revealed by Energy and Energy Affairs
Minister Kevin Ramnarine during yesterday's post-
Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime
Minister, St Clair.
According to a BBC report, the price of oil initially
yesterday slumped to US$72 a barrel after the OPEC
oil producers' cartel decided not to cut output at its
meeting in Vienna. The 2015 budget was based on
an oil price of $US80 a barrel.
Ramnarine said the development was being mon-
itored "very closely" by his ministry, adding it was
no surprise after OPEC decided against cutting supply.
Howai, Ramnarine said, was authorised by Cabinet
to make a statement on the matter today. Howai will
speak to legislators on "the issue of oil prices and
the impact they will have on the economy and Gov-
Ramnarine said the Government "will also be look-
ing at the gas prices so he will also cover natural gas
He said when he checked yesterday the oil price
was below US$70 a barrel.
Ramnarine said: "The analytical work that was
done by the Ministry of Finance was based on (a gas
price) of US$70 a barrel and a gas price of US$2.75
He said the budget price had been revised down-
wards to US$70 a barrel and the Government would
have to revise the revenue forecast for the economy,
based on new price assumptions.
Also contacted yesterday, Howai said budget cuts
were "still under review."
Asked if Government would be cutting expenditure
since the OPEC decision portended further oil price
decline, Howai said in an e-mail: "The matter is still
under review, to see how prices react and then settle
following the OPEC meeting."
Govt in bad situation,
say senior economists
Falling oil prices put the Govern-
ment in a difficult situation, economist
Dr Ronald Ramkissoon said yester-
Commenting on the decision by
OPEC not to reduce output, he said:
"An oil economy must not operate in
deficit for any length of time.
"T&T has been running a deficit for
about four years. We now need to deal
with this in light of below average oil
"Government needs to look at where
on the expenditure side they need to
cut. The first area they would need to
look at is transfers and subsidies like
fuel prices. Whether the Government
wants to do it or not is up to them."
OPEC took no action to ease a global
oil-supply glut, resisting calls from
Venezuela that the group needs to stem
the rout in prices.
The group maintained its collective
production ceiling of 30 million barrels
a day, Ali Al-Naimi, Saudi Arabia's oil
minister said after the 12 nations met
in Vienna. Futures slumped the most
in more than three years. (See page A19)
Ramkissoon said economists always
cautioned economies like T&T, which
was oil-based, not to depend on fluc-
tuation in international markets.
He added: "It seems that T&T will
be in a scenario of low oil prices for a
while. What is a while is left to be seen.
"If oil prices were to increase because
of geo-politics, or some other reason,
it means later on in the fiscal year we
can have prices at an average of US$80
a barrel or higher. The fact is it has been
at an average in the US$70 and over for
a few weeks. It has not been like that
for an entire fiscal year."
Ramkissoon said T&T still was not
in the same position it was during the
1980s when the country experienced a
recession due to a fall in world oil prices.
"I do not know if that situation is
before us now, as T&T has the Heritage
and Stabilisation Fund (HSF)," he said.
Still, he said, T&T would continue
to have problems if the economy was
"Successive administrations have
sought to shield the population from
the reality. The consequence is a sig-
nificant part of the population depends
on government largesse and an economy
that is not diversified," he said.
Dr Roger Hosein, University of the
West Indies (UWI) economist, described
the decline in oil prices as "sharp."
Despite that, Hosein said prospects
for the economy were not dim as there
had already been a margin of recovery
in last few days and it may be sustained
during the winter.
He added: "We are not in a predica-
ment of unmanageable magnitude but
it points in the direction of the Gov-
ernment having a Plan B as to where
it can cut some of its planned spending
for the fiscal year.
"Again, however, as we have been
arguing variously for many decades, the
sustained solution lies in diversifying
the productive base away from its mono
HOW IT'S DONE
PNM: Detail finances
Opposition Senator and People's National Move-
ment (PNM) PRO Faris Al-Rawi yesterday said the
country remained eternally dependent on revenues
earned from the oil and gas sector and the plum-
meting oil prices were a source of major concern
for all citizens.
He said while it was true that T&T's revenue
earned from the spot sale of gas was "higher than
the Henry Hub prices, upon which the budget is
pegged, it is incumbent on our Government to level
with the country as to the true state of our finances
and budgetary projections."
He said that was particularly necessary "since
the Government is yet to come clean on the extent
of the indebtedness that they have put T&T in."
Al-Rawi said the Opposition awaited the infor-
mation to be presented by the Government "and
in particular, what measures of fiscal responsibility
may be necessary in this circumstance, especially
since the Government seems hell-bent on nauseating
the population with unsolicited, very expensive
advertisements on a constant basis."
He said that level of advertising totals "well over
According to Al-Rawi, the Government had spent
almost 15 years of annual budgets in the past four-
and-a-half years and citizens were complaining
that they could not see the evidence of value for
The House of Representatives meets at 1.30pm
at Tower D, Waterfront Centre, Port-of-Spain. ---
With reporting by Aleem Khan
Welding instructor Hemant Matabadal gives Sharda Rampersad, right, a demonstration on how to use a
welding tool at the Institute of Technology's display booth at Southex International Expo at SAPA, San
Fernando, yesterday. PHOTO: TONY HOWELL
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