Unplanned shutdowns of the multi-million-dollar machinery at State-owned Petrotrin triggers a $135 million loss on a daily basis.
Petrotrin president Khalid Hassanali yesterday circulated an internal memo to Petrotrin employees after the recent protest action by workers led to fluctuations in plant operations over the past week.
"Deviations from the agreed grievance process as laid out in the collective agreements unnecessarily impact the operations of the company," Hassanali said in the circular.
Hassanali met with Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) president general Ancel Roget and his team for more than seven hours yesterday to discuss the now contentious issues affecting progress at the oil company.
According to an internal memo, the issue of the bunkering license, the unfilled job vacancies and the issue of variable pay were discussed, with no major resolutions.
"In the current situation, the company lost revenue estimated at approximately $135 million per day which adversely affected the company's profitability as well as its long-term viability," he said.
Hassanali, in a telephone interview, said the plant has been off-line since September 1 and, to use his calculations, Petrotrin has lost more than $945 million in the past week.
He also said that unplanned shutdowns in other areas external to the refinery can cost the State more than $1,000 a day.
"Yes it's safe to say that billions are lost in these shutdowns.
"Additionally, the supply of products to our external customers was interrupted and this will erode the company's reputation as a reliable supplier of refined products in the local, regional and international markets," he said.
Hassanali said these accumulated losses will no doubt affect the company's ability to pay out variable pay for this fiscal period, 2011-2012.
While the lack of variable pay has, in part, triggered the shutdown at the refinery this past week, it is not the critical issue. The protest action stemmed from the award of a bunkering licence to an unknown private party.
This, Roget insisted, is the Government's attempt to satisfy party supporters as Petrotrin has a bunkering licence and should capitalise on that instead of giving away revenue.
Roget addressed the topic on the podium during a protest march in Port of Spain yesterday.
"This licence is causing a lot of problems," he said.
Roget said there was no reason to give a private company a job that local Petrotrin workers can and have been doing. He said the country was not earning any revenue and instead of the Government aggressively pursuing every available revenue stream they were handing it over to foreigners to earn money.
"It is all about money for campaign. We call on the Prime Minister to launch an immediate enquiry into that and to deal with the chairman and the board of directors and the Minister of Energy," he said.
"That oil belongs to the people of Trinidad and Tobago and if the Petrotrin workers can't get it, nobody will be allowed to benefit from it," he said.
Despite that statement, in a telephone interview yesterday, Roget turned the responsibility of the cost of the shut down back at Petrotrin's management.
"What Mr Hassanali has not said is that prior to this shutdown, eight plants were already down at the refinery, those producing LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) and gasoline. The company has been purchasing those products that we should be producing," he said.
With regard to the daily multi-million-dollar losses, Roget said Hassanali was "exaggerating".
"He needs to take direct responsibility for running the refinery. The 'cat-cracker' has been down for over a year and that demonstrates his inability to get the refinery back up."
Roget said the union was willing to forgo the 2011-2012 variable pay "on principle" to get what was promised for the 2009-2010 period.