PETROTRIN Refinery at Pointe-a-Pierre. Image: KRISTIAN DE SILVA

“Close the deal!”

That’s what the Joint Trade Union Movement urged the Government on Friday as it called on it to finalise the sale of the former Petrotrin refinery to the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union’s Patriotic Technologies Limited company.

In a virtual press conference yesterday, several union leaders questioned the Government’s decision to reject Patriotic’s bid especially given that it had previously accepted the company’s initial bid.

“We would have had an announcement by the Minister of Finance in 2019 I believe indicating clearly that the Oilfield Workers Trade Union and Patriotic would have been successful in that bid and that announcement came after. A very rigorous process that would have gone through and it turned out that they the OWTU would have submitted the most comprehensive and strategic bid to show their capability to acquire and to run the former Petrotrin refinery,” said Trevor Johnson, JTUM’s assistant general secretary during the virtual conference.

“We want to make it clear that we do not accept any sort of Government’s rejection of Patriotic bid and therefore we are concerned as part of the trade union movement and we call on the Government to complete the deal with Patriotic,” he said.

Earlier this week, a Cabinet sub-committee stated that Patriotic’s bid for the refinery did not meet the minimum requirements to obtain the 100-year-old facility. It was the second rejection of Patriotic’s attempt to buy the refinery in two months.

However, the OWTU was given a 15-day extension to prove they had the US$500 million needed to buy the refinery.

President General of the All Trinidad General Workers Trade Union Nirvan Maharaj said this extension proved that the OWTU approach was worthy of the refinery’s ownership and called on the Government to further bridge the gap.

“The mere fact that the Government of this country could give a 15-day extension to the OTWU means that there is merit in the proposal. It means that there is simply one or two issues that could be worked out with mutual compromise on both sides of the divide,” he said.

Maharaj argued that the refinery was an asset which belonged to the working-class people of Trinidad and Tobago, further emphasizing the need for the OWTU to obtain it.

“The OWTU has done everything possible. It has broken the glass ceiling and it is placing the assets of this country in the energy sector, that is the Petrotrin refinery, into the hands of the people. One would hope that the aspirations and the dreams of the people of this country, the working class and all those who would have given their blood and their sweat and their toil and their tears, for the privileges and rights that we now enjoy would not have gone in vain,” he said.