While Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said that an average of $.5 million was paid as severance to each Petrotrin worker when the company was shut down, the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) has accused him of distorting figures.
Speaking at the People’s National Movement public meeting at the Pleasantville Community Centre, San Fernando on Tuesday night, Rowley said that “no one was tossed onto the pavement to suffer”. He said taxpayers paid out $2.7 billion to 4,626 workers, many of whom have since been employed somewhere. He admitted though that there were those who were still unemployed.
“But if you do some mathematics on that, the average, if you divide $2700 million between 4,626 workers, that is an average of about half a million per person. But of course, it’s not simple as that. The higher-paid persons with the longer service would have got more, which means the lower-paid people with the shorter service would have got less. But the average for the pool of people that you paid for, half a million apiece,” Rowley said.
He said that of the 4,626 workers, 3,400 were permanent while the remaining 1,226 were casual and temporary. Last year when Petrotrin restructured, the company’s Board of Directors said that 800 would be employed for Exploration and Production operations and another 200 to man the terminal facility.
Providing the current employment figures, he said that of the 800 positions to be filled at Heritage Petroleum, 147 people who were directly employed by the company and contractors accounted for 534, bringing the total count to 681. Of the 200 positions promised at the Paria Fuel Trading Company, 129 were hired of which 99 were employed by a contractor.
But in response yesterday, OWTU chief education officer Ozzi Warwick said the Rowley has again shown his disconnect from reality. Warwick said the statements also showed no concern for the suffering of thousands of workers who are yet to find jobs.
“The Prime Minister did not mention that 3,000 temporary and casual workers got absolutely nothing. The Prime Minister did not mention that none of the sport club workers got nothing at all. He seems very unconcern that the young workers, who were now starting their families, who had mortgages and loans, got next to nothing. So much so that their vehicles are being repossessed, some have had to seek help to save their homes and many of them have not got any job for all these months,” Warwick said.
He said the while Rowley threw out employment figures, Warwick challenged him to show how many were former Petrotrin works.
“You may have hired 681 at Heritage, but how many were Petrotrin workers? Don’t put that out there, give a proper breakdown and say how many were Petrotrin Workers.”
He added that because the government failed to honour payment to Petrotrin’s trustee, the bank is threatening to shut down the pension plan.