The Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) has called on the Government to explain why the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC) continues to supply subsidised power to one of the largest steel producers in the world, Arcelor Mittal Point Lisas Ltd.
OWTU vice-president, Peter Burke, stated that the $12 million subsidy has put a burden on T&TEC’s finances.
Speaking at a news conference at the OWTU headquarters, San Fernando, yesterday Burke said, “Mittal has become a world-class producer of steel on the back of cheap electricity from T&TEC. The company is benefiting from rates of electricity that is cheaper than cost. That is unacceptable because all the stakeholders in T&TEC are concerned that this burden is unnecessary given the fact that it has made Mittal the second largest steel producer in the world. And much of this steel empire has been built on the basis of cheap electricity,” he said.
Burke said the Government should intervene immediately to ensure that consumers and employees enjoy effective and efficient services from the electricity company.
He claimed that Mittal pays $22 million per month for power which would usually cost $34 million.
“There are other issues which impact on the viability of T&TEC. One is the procurement practices. We are absolutely certain that efficient procurement practices by T&TEC is going to impact positively on the balance book. And we are not going to support a rate increase on the context of wasteful procurement practices where increases in electricity would go to the private pockets of people employed by T&TEC for outsourcing and not giving us value for money,” he said.
Burke said the Government needed to ensure that T&TEC operates within the law, which is to provide a safe supply of electricity at a reasonable cost.
Another matter engaging the union’s attention, he said, was the decision by T&TEC to contract work which can be performed effectively by staff.
“We also feel strongly that T&TEC has not been providing materials and so on for the workforce. It is a direct result of poor procurement practices.
“In many cases they choose to contract out work that can be done safer and more efficiently (by staff). These contractors have been paid where no work has been done and prices are ridiculous. The contractors are paid for mobilisation and don’t do any work or they go to the jobsite and refer work to regular staff. These add to the cost of operations at T&TEC,” he said.
Burke said the union has documentary proof of unsafe work procedures by contract workers.
He said workers were outraged that private contractors were in possession of T&TEC materials, while they have none to carry out their duties.