T&T: Billion-dollar payout for Petrotrin refinery workers

Energy Minister Franklin Khan speaks to reporters following the launch of TTT Limited on Maraval Road, Port-of-Spain yesterday. (Nicole Drayton photo)

(Trinidad Guardian): A billion-dollar Petrotrin payout is ahead to refinery workers who will lose jobs—including an early retirement package for those over 55 who will receive full pensions.

“We haven’t worked it out fully yet but the (termination benefits package) figure will be huge – significantly more than a billion dollars,” Energy Minister Franklin Khan told reporters yesterday.

Khan gave the estimated cost of workers’ termination benefits following yesterday’s launch of state-owned TTT Limited television station, formerly CNMG.

Earlier this week, Petrotrin’s board confirmed plans to close the company’s refinery in October in a move which will cause the loss of 1,700 permanent jobs. But OWTU president general Ancel Roget has called on Government to rescind the decision and call an election or “face chaos.”

But Khan said yesterday, “Mr Roget represents a trade union that seeks to represent workers as it sees fit. T&T’s based on law and order and any action they take, once legal, is acceptable. But if it’s illegal, the state would have to act.”

“So no – we’re not rescinding the decision,” Khan confirmed.

On Roget’s insistence that he wasn’t told of the closure at a recent meeting with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Khan said, “Yes, he was told. I was at the meeting. The meeting’s minutes will show the Prime Minister indicated in no uncertain terms to Mr Roget that Petrotrin will be getting out of the refining business. As to why (Roget) didn’t communicate that (to OWTU) at that point in time, that’s his call – not mine.”

On termination benefits for workers, Khan said,”All the costs are being worked out as we speak. A lot of milling through of numbers has to be done. We’ll be offering an early retirement plan for people over 55, pay them off and they’ll have their full pension. Then we’ll have an exit package—I don’t want to call it severance—for younger workers. That formula is still being worked out.

“But the (termination benefit) figure will be huge – significantly more than a billion dollars – since the base salary of Petrotrin is big. Any calculation will be based on base salary.”

While refinery workers don’t command the highest salaries and theirs is on par with the company’s Exploration/ Production sector’s wages, the refinery has the largest overtime costs, he added. But overtime wouldn’t come into play in termination benefits.


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