With her 11-month-old son in her arm, Penny George’s voice trembled as she questioned whether there would be enough counsellors available to help families through the upcoming turmoil they expect with the impending shutdown of Petrotrin.
George, the wife of Daniel George, a casual labourer at Trinmar Offshore Operations, told her story to those gathered at the Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies’ public forum on Petrotrin at the San Fernando City Hall auditorium yesterday. It was just one of the few stories on the hardships that casual workers are expecting as Petrotrin prepares to close its marketing and refinery operation and terminate its entire workforce as it restructures.
At Trinmar, 1,700 permanent employees are expected to be retrenched and 800 rehired for its revamped Exploration and Production operation.
“The thing is, we have two daughters, one is six and one is four and they have bad seizures. Then we have our son. My question is, will it have enough counsellors to deal with this situation with families who have children that are sick and may not be able to get grants?” George asked.
In addition to the seizures, the girls also suffer from asthma, she said.
Following the meeting, Daniel said he has been working at Trinmar for the past four years and four months and was a junior compared to many of the other casual workers. He said while Government has promised attractive separation packages for workers, nothing has been offered to the casual workers who depend on the company to sustain their family.
“The persons whom they have put out the invitation to reapply, I don’t fall in that bracket. They only referred to the permanent workers for reapplying,” Daniel said.
“If it comes to Petrotrin shutting down I will be unemployed and that new system they are introducing will not be an option for me. It means that my family will not have an income unless I find some other means.
“However, the market will become tougher as other companies will be looking to send home workers instead of taking on workers because of the ripple effect that is expected.”
While Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is putting his faith in the construction of a new port in La Brea to provide 5,000 jobs for citizens in South West Trinidad, Daniel said he and many others would not be guaranteed employment because with thousands of workers being laid off, it means many people will be competing for jobs. He added that there was also no timeframe for when workers will be hired for the project.
Temporary clerk shows $7,400 payslip
Erin mother of four Crystal Bernard yesterday took umbrage with claims that the average casual Petrotrin worker was taking home $20,000 per month.
Bernard, a clerk at the company’s office in Santa Flora, shared her payslip which showed that as a temporary clerk, she took home around $7,400 per month after deductions, which she said had to cater to payments for her house and car.
She said permanent and temporary workers have the same rate of pay in each job category. The difference was that casual employees can work for six weeks and be without a job for the next six weeks to four months.
“In essence, what I work for is really what my counterparts in the government offices work for if you calculate it. But the public was made to hate me and be jealous of me because someone said this average clerk works for $20,000 a month, when in reality my general expenses are about $4000-$5000.
“I still have to pay my light bill, school fees, face the grocery and buy a birthday gift for each of my four children when that time comes.,” Bernard said.
She added, “There is a story within this Petrotrin story that is not being told. The story of the single mother. The story of the woman who is the sole breadwinner in her family, the story of the woman who was betrayed on that day in the middle of the back to school season, with one week to go and being told she will no longer have a job.”
Since the announced of retrenchment, Bernard said mothers at the company have been reaching out to each other, crying on each other’s shoulders. She said there were those who have HDC houses to pay for, as well as car loans and are doing so without a husband.
She called on the “powers that be” to have a public discussion so that all who will be affected by the shutting down of the Petrotrin refinery can understand their fates so that they can prepare better.