Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 15th 2017 Contents A22 letters on sunday
guardian.co.tt Sunday, January 15, 2017
The Energy Chamber produced
a survey which attempted to sug-
gest to the public that the salary of
Petrotrin workers is above T&T’s
industry standards. However, this
report does nothing more than
raise several fundamental ques-
tions about how workers are viewed
and treated in T&T.
Firstly, the Energy Chamber
needs to clarify which companies
were surveyed in order to deter-
mine the ‘rest of the sector’? Did it
include Atlantic LNG, BP, BG, BHP
Billiton etc? If so, it would only be
fair, and also interesting, for the
Energy Chamber to publish the
pay rates of these multinationals.
In addition to not including mul-
tinationals, the survey did not
include companies such as YARA.
If their survey did not include the
multinationals operating in T&T,
then it is flawed and cannot be said
to compare Petrotrin’s wages to the
‘rest of the sector’.
Secondly, the survey failed to
take into consideration that Petro-
trin is an integrated production and
refining company, and it is the only
such company in T&T.
Therefore, Petrotrin cannot and
should not be compared to any oth-
er industry. How can you compare
refinery workers when there are no
other refinery companies in T&T?
The answer is simple: you cannot.
Therefore, since there are no
comparators in T&T, Petrotrin
can only be compared to the global
This is not difficult for the En-
ergy Chamber to produce as the
average global salaries for oil and
gas can be found in the Hay’s Oil
and Gas Salary Guide 2015.
According to the report: “Over
the past 12 months, we have seen
the average global permanent sala-
ry increase by 1.3 per cent from last
years’ average salary of US$82,239
This breaks down into a lo-
cal talent average of US$71,569
(TT$500,983), and an expat
talent average of US$99,013
(TT$693,091). The average con-
tractor day rate globally in 2014
was US$540 per day (TT$3,780)”.
The Hay’s Oil and Gas Salary
Guide further stated that the av-
erage annual salary for an inter-
mediate person working in the
electrical field was US$48,500/
year (TT$28,300/month), and
US$70,000/year (TT$ 40,800/
month) at the senior level. In the
mechanical area, the average annu-
al salary at the intermediate level
was US$42,600/year (TT$24,850/
month), and US$62,000/year
(TT$36,166/month) at the senior
The Oilfields Workers’ Trade
Union is positive that no elec-
trical or mechanical employee of
Petrotrin earns anything close to
the intermediate level, far less the
Therefore, when considering
the global and regional average,
Petrotrin’s only comparators, the
Energy Chamber’s survey should
have revealed the truth: that con-
tractor workers in the oil and gas
service companies of T&T are in
fact significantly underpaid.
Thirdly, it is unfortunate that the
Energy Chamber’s survey follows
the apparent trend of publishing
the salary of ordinary workers, as
they conveniently omitted the pay
of Petrotrin executives.
It is only fair that the country
also knows the executives’ salaries
and not only that of Petrotrin’s
cleaners (which is inaccurate).
Petrotrin’s President receives
TT$180,000 per month, the vice
president is paid TT$120,000 per
month, and senior managers re-
ceive some $64,000 per month.
Not to mention the salary of the
four expat managers at the refinery
which accounts for TT$6 million
per year. While this disparity is ex-
treme, the situation in the private
sector oil and gas service compa-
nies is indeed worse.
As a result, the wider discourse
should be about how underpaid
workers are in general throughout
T&T rather than the propaganda
being mounted against Petrotrin
workers founded on inaccurate
salaries and surveys.
Finally, the public should not
forget that the general strike and
labour riots of 1937 started by oil
workers in the oil fields that spread
throughout the country’s working
class was vociferously condemned
by the colonial authorities and the
However, militant actions led to
the rise of general wages through-
out the economy benefiting the
The militant action of the OWTU
in the 60s and 70s led by George
Weekes was also condemned by the
Government and business class,
but those actions also led to the
general increase in the standard of
living for the entire working class.
Today is no different, as too
many labourers working for oil and
gas service companies are being
left behind, and the time has come
once again to make things right.
This is what the Energy Chambers’
survey has truly revealed.
Chief Education and Research Officer
Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union
Cemex last best option for TCL
The recently announced Cemex bid for majority control
of TCL and the revised enhanced offer published on Janu-
ary 10, must be seen as the last best option for the belea-
guered regional cement business—despite a virtual
monopoly in major CARICOM markets—which was run into
By 2014 TCL recorded its second loan default, accumu-
lated a crushing debt north of US$ 300 million, was in des-
perate need of plant upgrades, and used price increases to
cover rising production costs resulting from the curtailment
of maintenance programmes.
Not surprisingly, after an extensive international ‘cru-
sade’ to raise capital, senior executives returned empty
Apparently, TCL’s swelling losses, rising costs, and over
leveraged balance sheet failed to impress investors.
Locally, frustration and lack of confidence in TCL’s man-
agement prompted shareholders with no prospects of fu-
ture dividends and risk of losing their investments to resort
to their only ‘option’.
In August 2014, a significant shareholder group removed
TCL’s CEO also making a series of changes within the man-
agement and board.
The ‘new’ team reportedly implemented a plan to re-
structure the group’s withering debt burden and crippling
collective agreements to attempt to rescue this pivotal
company, a key component in the construction sectors of
Even though this ‘option’ successfully bought time to
begin plant upgrades and comprehensive restructuring, the
challenges of raising capital remained.
According to a well-placed insider, recapitalising TCL re-
mained a problem with a 20 per cent shareholder limit in
Another stakeholder cautioned: “Competitively priced
exports is the only hope for TCL, our region already has two
million tons of excess capacity...we can’t afford plant up-
grades or technical capabilities.”
In March/April 2015, the 20 per cent ceiling which repre-
sented an impediment to further investment (that en-
trench bad management) was removed and a subsequent
issue of new TCL shares increased the company’s capital by
US$ 57 million.
While few local shareholders participated, Cemex, the
Mexican giant and third largest cement company globally, a
20 per cent stakeholder, upped its ownership to 39.5 per
cent by investing around US$ 50 million.
Certainly, although TCL and its operations in Trinidad,
Barbados and Jamaica have a long way to go to reach the
goals of profitability, competitiveness and sustainability
that Chairman Espinet and his board have set, apparently
performance in key operational areas and its financial situ-
ation have improved.
It is reported that Cemex has put senior management
professionals from its global network into the TCL Group
to, according one executive: “incorporate best practices and
technologies and upgrade the capabilities of local manage-
ment and work force.” This appears to be one of the major
drivers influencing the turnaround of TCL.
Now, 15 months after increasing its stake in TCL, Cemex
is bidding for control, at a time when according to the IMF,
growth scenarios are deteriorating for commodity-depen-
It said: “Trinidad and Tobago is one of the most affected
because it depends on fossil fuels and prices can’t seem to
Given that local investors didn’t take up much of the
new share offering, the opportunity was there for Cemex
to demonstrate confidence in T&T and TCL. Maybe it is re-
ally the ‘last best option’ for TCL!
Not surprising, are the few protesters commenting on
the demerits of Cemex owning the majority of TCL. They
have also ‘determined’ what Cemex should pay for the priv-
ilege of rescuing this important industry employing thou-
sands of ‘our people’ across the region from the jaws of
extinction. Predictably none have highlighted that Cemex
recognised the importance of maintaining local participa-
tion in this regional industry; structuring its bid to retain
local ownership and TCL’s continuity in the local equity
By contrast, renowned international rating agency Fitch
Ratings reported: “Cemex’s bid to increase its stake in TCL
would be a positive rating trigger for the Trinidad-based
company”, also noting, “an increase in Cemex’s current
stake in TCL to 74.9 per cent could result in an upgrade of
at least one notch to TCL’s ‘B-’ rating”.
For Cemex to consider this bid successful and TCL to de-
liver value, Cemex must achieve control at an affordable
price, to accommodate additional major life-saving’ invest-
ments in T&T, Barbados and Jamaica to bring these opera-
tions to international standards and achieve global
competitiveness and long term sustainability,” says an-
other company executive.
Offer now at $5.07, a 50 per cent premium—highest
price in five years, payment option in $US.
Recent imports of competitively priced Turkish cement
represent the ‘clear and present danger’ of only looking in-
wards. In today’s world, a successful global partner is not
Since local investors have not demonstrated either the
appetite or confidence to keep a regional cement industry
alive and well...then perhaps Cemex is TCL’s last best op-
Recently retired executive director of PwC ASL
A Port-of-Spain City Corporation worker powerwashes a section of the sidewalk along Independence Square in
front of Scotiabank on Friday. PHOTO: MARCUS GONZALES
WASHING DOWN TOWN
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