Wednesday, January 17, 2018

'No gas shortage'


BACKED UP: Motorists join long lines to fill up their gas tanks at Cross Crossing, San Fernando yesterday. —Photo: TREVOR WATSON

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Reports that workers at the state-owned oil company had downed tools yesterday triggered panic-buying at service stations across the country.

The union representing the workers said they temporarily halted work at the Petrotrin bond at Pointe-a-Pierre yesterday.

Motorists piled up at service stations in San Fernando, Marabella, Couva, Freeport and Chaguanas in a rush to get their tanks filled.

The long lines overflowed onto the roadways, causing a massive traffic pile-up.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said yesterday there was no shortage of fuel throughout the service station network.

She was speaking at the sod turning ceremony to start construction of a new police station at Arima.

In a statement, Persad-Bissessar said she was advised by National Petroleum (NP) that it will continue to deliver fuel and supplies will be made to all its service stations as normally scheduled.

Ernesto Kesar, president of the Oilfields' Workers Trade Union's (OWTU) Trinmar branch, said workers were on the job and there was no shutdown looming at Petrotrin.

"I don't know anything about a shutdown. We are awaiting a meeting with management at this time, but workers are on the job and there is no shortage of gas," he said.

The Express was told that a technical problem at the bond at the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery caused motorists to assume there would be a gas shortage.

Shaffick Hyatali, OWTU representative, said workers were stationed at the bond and there was no shutdown.

The Express learned that operations at several oilfields across the country were shut down, as workers continued the protest against the appointment of a top manager.

Workers attached to Forest Reserve, Santa Flora, Point Fortin and Penal/Barrackpore areas gathered at the gates to the Santa Flora compound, calling for the manager's removal.

Philbert Thomas, a spokesperson, said the exploration and production workers have refused to work until management agrees to address their concerns.

Several attempts to contact Petrotrin's corporate communication manager, Gillian Friday, last evening were unsuccessful.

Oilfields' Workers Trade Union (OWTU) leader Ancel Roget yesterday said while there was no immediate gas shortage, if management did not deal with the health and safety issues quickly, the situation could worsen as early as today.

He said there was a "halt" at the bond area in Petrotrin as workers showed solidarity to their colleagues in the Trinmar fields.

"There was not much manpower at the bond", he said, adding that it could become a problem.