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Major strike looms at Trinidad oil company

5 January, 2017Some 5,000 oil workers in Trinidad and Tobago are poised for strike action over attempts by the state-owned oil company to impose a six-year wage freeze.

In negotiations with the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU), the Petroleum Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (Petrotrin), has refused to grant any increase for two successive collective bargaining periods.

The union has filed strike notice and is due to strike on Monday unless the company makes a reasonable proposal. 

The OWTU, affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union, says it will not sit idly by and watch as the company attempts to erode workers’ wages using low oil prices as an excuse.

OWTU president general Ancel Roget says that workers should not be blamed for Petrotrin’s financial difficulties and that former energy ministers and business chambers in Trinidad did nothing when the union alerted it to corruption and mismanagement at the company. Roget says inefficiencies are costing the company US$522 million annually.

“This is based on Petrotrin’s own information and records. These inefficiencies include equipment reliability, operational inefficiency, overtime, flaring and quality giveaways,” Roget told reporters, “This is more than what workers are demanding for the entire three-year period. Petrotrin, believe it or not, has the ability to pay this wage increase.”

OWTU says Petrotrin has made a number of poor decisions including a failed World Gas To Liquids (WGTL) project, which cost Petrotin over US$1 billion; paying hundreds of millions of dollars to contractors for equipment the company already has; and paying four expatriates $18 million for three-year contracts to replace one refinery manager.

Roget has warned that all operations, including refinery, land and offshore, would come to a complete halt if the strike goes ahead.

IndustriALL has called on Prime Minster Keith Rowley and Petrotrin President Fitzroy Harewood to make a reasonable proposal in order to avert a strike. It has also expressed its full solidarity with the OWTU.

Valter Sanches, General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union said:

Petrotrin’s unreasonable and unyielding position disregards the vital contribution of workers to the company and the economy of the country. It also ignores the reality that it is workers who have held the company together despite its many inefficiencies.