The Trinidad Guardian / The Petrotrin issue and the need to address it before it bankrupts the country was the subject of an address to the nation by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley in January 2017.

The Prime Minister has declared a genuine interest in fixing the troubles at Petrotrin once and for all, but Ancel Roget, president general of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU), seems to be primarily concerned about salary increases and strike action while massive losses continue to accrue at state-owned Petrotrin.

The troubles of Petrotrin are well known. What makes things worse, however, is a union leader who continues to demonstrate his willingness to be a part of the problem instead of working on a meaningful solution.

The last demand with the threat of nationwide strike action by Roget was in 2017. The union wanted a ten per cent salary increase for workers during a time when the country was struggling to cover recurrent expenditure.

All things being considered, the OWTU should act in the best interest of its workers by working with the Government to establish a reasonable common ground which will also redound to public benefit.

A very experienced and competent board was put in with a mandate to get to the bottom of the issues and restructure the company. The Government knows that unless this company is fixed urgently, it poses a threat to the entire country by straining the Ministry of Finance for support and by building up debt that will affect the country’s credit rating.

Billion-dollar debt and continuous losses at Petrotrin are known facts. So is overstaffing, waste, corruption and unreasonableness of the union.

These are the challenges that must be confronted by a government which puts the national interest first. This Government is doing what other governments were unwilling to do.

It was Roget who issued a false statement telling the public that the Government was engaging in mass layoffs in the public sector.

There is a responsibility which comes with leadership and those who occupy such significant positions should not make irresponsible statements which can cause unwarranted public panic.

As we celebrate Labour Day and the critical contribution our people make towards national development, we must continue to work together. The Government’s engagement with labour, intending to build trust and cooperation in the national interest can be easily undermined by self-serving and misleading representation of the facts.

Citizens are looking towards a better future in the energy sector and the wider economy and therefore there is a need for a collective effort for sustainable development. Let the national interest be our first priority as we are all in this together.

Senator Ronald Huggins, St Joseph

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