A five-hour emergency meeting between Petrotrin's management and the Oilfields Workers' Trade Union (OWTU) yesterday failed to end protest action taken by the workers over the weekend.
The filling bond at Pointe-a-Pierre, the Marine division and the refinery remained down yesterday, with workers at the Exploration and Production division also planning to down tools later today in solidarity.
President General of the OWTU, Ancel Roget, yesterday said the meeting ended with no resolution as the management was unable to make any decisions without board approval.
The meeting, he said, was to address three outstanding issues: the lack of variable pay, unfilled vacancies and the issue of a new contract to Bunkers Oil Trinidad and Tobago.
Roget said the first two issues were part of the February 17 agreement between the two and have, to date, remained unfulfilled.
The workers' protest action had initially led to undelivered fuel to Tobago and parts of South Trinidad over the weekend. By today however, the shut down at the refinery and the bond would lead to no deliveries throughout the rest of the country.
Roget said while there was fuel at the filling bond, the workers were not assisting with its distribution.
"Inevitably, this would lead to a shortage," he said in a telephone interview yesterday.
Roget said the workers' upset stemmed from unmet promises made during the marathon negotiation session back in February when the union broke the five per cent wage cap and settled at nine per cent.
"We have the outstanding issues of the unpaid variable pay for the 2009-2010 period, the still unfulled vacancies and the issue of privatising areas of Petrotrin," he said.
"Yet by his own admission, the Minister is seeking to give away a fail safe income earner like bunkering," he said.
Roget is referring to a three week old statement by Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine who said that a license was in the works for Bunkers OIl Trinidad and Tobago to market a bunkering initiative out of Petrotrin. Roget does not agree that this area should be privatised.
Roget said there were over 500 unfilled vacancies at the company, but while it was a management decision, the board "had a stranglehold" on their decision making.
The board is currently led by Lindsey Gillette.
Petrotrin's president Khalid Hassanali yesterday confirmed the labour walkout.
"We arranged today's (yesterday's) meeting because of a high level of absenteeism at the bond, the port and the refinery," he said in a telephone interview yesterday.
"I was a little surprised that the variable pay for 2009/2010 came up because that was not part of the agreement in February," he said.
"It was not a part of the settlement," he said.
Hassanali said the company used a formula to pay out variable pay and once the company's profit was over $100 million, it would pay out the profit sharing.
Though Petrotrin did earn a profit for the period in question, it paid out almost $800 million to cover losses associated with its World GTL (Gas to Liquid) investment that subsequently failed.
"The workers profit when the company profits, but when we don't the formula shows that we cannot pay," he said.
Hassanali said the issue of the unsettled variable pay has been sent to the Industrial Court for an "interpretation" of the formula.
"The workers would say that the WGTL was not their doing, but they profit when it's based on internationnal prices and that is not their doing either," he said.
Both Hassanali and Ramnarine said that contingency measures were in place to ensure that the country does not suffer a fuel shortage.
With regards to Tobago, Ramnarine yesterday said he spoke with National Petroleum and was advised that the sister isle was "well stocked".
But according to Roget, the ship that was supposed to supply Tobago was still unberthed and unfilled as of late yesterday.
Ramnarine, in a telephone interview yesterday, said he would be meeting with the union by Wednesday to discuss the situation, but once again reassured the nation that there was enough fuel to circumvent any panic buying.