Workers at State-owned fuel refinery Petrotrin have started heading back to work after strike action that began over the weekend.
Petrotrin president Khalid Hassanali said yesterday that resumption in exploration and production operations had resumed and workers in the marketing department and port based at Pointe-a-Pierre were back out in normal numbers. Operations at the refinery, he said, were being put back up in stages.
"Normal operations are resuming," Hassanali told reporters at the closing ceremony for the Deepwater Bid Round 2012 at Hyatt Regency (Trinidad), Port of Spain.
Hassanali and Petrotrin chairman Lindsay Gillette also sought to reassure the public that there was no need for panic, as the company had contingencies in place to keep the fuel supply flowing, even in the light of strike action.
"There is no shortfall in fuel...rest assured," said Gillette, adding that there was some loss in production at the company, but that was still being calculated.
Chairman of State fuel marketing and distribution company, NP, Neil Gosine, also assured that NP had full reserves and there were no shortages at gas stations.
Workers downed tools over the weekend after Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine had announced at a post-Cabinet media briefing that Cabinet had decided to grant a licence to a local operative, a subsidiary of Bunkering International, to run a major bunkering facility in Trinidad and Tobago waters.
Petrotrin workers were also angry that the company had, they believed, reneged on a promise in February to pay them their variable pay and also to fill 500 vacancies.
Hassanali said there had been a misunderstanding over the variable pay matter.
"Variable pay is based on a profit-sharing formula. If the company makes a profit of $150 million, 15 per cent goes to profit sharing. For 2009/2010, the period in contention, no profit was made because the company had to write off a $2.7 billion debt on the Gas-to-Liquids project. The unions, on the other hand, believe workers are not responsible for that," he said.
On the issue of vacancies, he said the organisational charts used to make that determination were six years old.
"Some parts of the company are overstaffed and others understaffed. We are trying to make people permanent and deal with the situation, but based on more up-to-date charts," he said.
Regarding bunkering, Hassanali said: "Currently we have one barge that does bunkering. As I told the union, in the bunkering business we want some balance and we already have a barge. There is no real threat for job security by giving out bunkering licences. We have fuel oil and gas oil that we can market and I think there are opportunities there for some players. Our core business is exploration, production, refining, marketing and trading. We are in the wholesale business for bunkers, not necessarily retail."
Energy Minister Ramnarine is expected to meet with the OWTU today at 10:30 a.m. at the Ministry's offices in Port of Spain to discuss the issues further.
"These meetings are a useful level of insight into the company's operations," he said.