Backpay for Petrotrin workers

Retrenched Petrotrin workers may be facing a bleak Christmas this year having lost their jobs but the company officials say all outstanding arrears for back pay will be paid by January 15.

The commitment was given as president general of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union Ancel Roget sat down for a meeting with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Wednesday afternoon to discuss issues facing almost 10,000 workers.

Petrotrin said calculations of outstanding back pay for non-permanent (temporary and casual) workers was well advanced and workers can expect to receive payment no later than January 15.

"Some 2,069 of Petrotrin’s former non-permanent workers are owed back pay for the seven-year period 2011 to 2018.

The process for determining the amounts owed to each worker requires a considerable amount of detailed work – in any one year an individual may have worked in different jobs for different periods of time at different salaries/wages – each individual case, therefore, has to be researched thoroughly and calculated independently," Petrotrin said.

Saying preparation for payment is ongoing, Petrotrin said  75 per cent of calculations have been completed and the team expects to be in a position
to make payments on or before 15 January 2019.

"The Company is committed to ensuring that each eligible worker receives the monies due to them as quickly as practical and is working towards its commitment," Petrotrin said.

Speaking to the Guardian yesterday, Roget said he will make a statement to the media after his meeting to discuss promises to lands and housing to the retrenched workers.

On Monday while speaking in the House of Representatives, Rowley outlined six opportunities for retrenched workers which included ownership of a serviced housing lot.

He said workers will get high-quality housing and fully developed lots supported by subsidised interest rate mortgage loans from the Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage Finance Company (TTMF) as well as pre-approved house plans, technical assistance and oversight for the construction of affordable houses through the Government’s Aided Self Help Housing Programme.

Saying there were already substantially developed housing lots available under the Aided Self-Help Housing Programme in La Romaine, Picton, Cedar Hill, Couva, Carapichaima, California and Chaguanas, Rowley said first-time homeowners will benefit.

He also said that government had identified residential sites for the development of more housing lots in Usine Ste Madeleine, La Romaine, Pointe a Pierre, Claxton Bay, California, Waterloo, Jerningham Junction, and Chaguanas which can be given to Petrotrin workers.

He also said government had identified residential sites for the development of housing lots in Warden Road, Point Fortin; Sudama Village and Standard Village in Fyzabad; Sand Pit in Fyzabad; Sobo Extension Road; at the old Antilles Camp; in Vance River, Cashew Patch, Guapo Road, Quarry Village, Santa Flora, Los Bajos, Palo Seco, Rancho Quemado, Buenos Ayres, Los Charos and Los Iros.

Suitable agricultural land will also be made available in Felicity, Basta Hall, Windsor Park, Quarry, Los Iros, La Brea, Point Fortin, Barrackpore and Guayaguayare.

Workers need psychological aid

Several former Petrotrin workers said they were facing psychological turmoil since Petrotrin was shut down.

A man who worked at Petrotrin for 20 years said he applied for a position but when he went for the interview he was offered a position which he knew nothing about.

"They are hiring staff in an ad-hoc manner. This is risky and will cause problems. I am taking some time off before I decide what to do after Christmas," the worker said.

Another worker said he was aa with the offer of lands and houses. However, he said when Caroni 1975 Limited was shut down in 2003, workers were also promised a golden handshake inclusive of lands and houses.

"It is 15 years now and many of them dead without gettings lands. I

am not going to put faith in the Prime Minister's promise until I see it materialize," the worker said.

The wife of another ex-refinery worker said she has taken her husband to get counselling because he was having difficulty eating and sleeping.

"It is difficult waking up one morning and not having a job," she said.

More than 1,000 workers had accessed psychological counselling before Petrotrin was officially shut down and the four new entities came on stream.

However, workers said it was important for social workers to reach out to staff as unemployment was taking a toll on the families.

Reporter: Radhica De Silva