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They win, we all lose

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Industrial Court has decided that Petrotrin workers deserve a pay increase but they do not seem to mind that the rest of the citizens of T&T are not getting one cent in revenue from a company we own.

Last week’s judgment settled the final year of the 2011 and 2015 bargaining period at a 1 per cent, on top of the 5 per cent agreed between the OWTU and the Government last year. The Industrial Court announced that this was “fair and just.”

The Industrial Court was unequivocal that the workers deserve an increase and the only question was how much.

The ability of the company to afford the increase was not considered.

Petrotrin is a company which is wholly owned by the State and belongs to all of us.

Yet it was revealed at the recent Parliamentary Joint Select Committee that Petrotrin has failed to pay its taxes and royalties.

Royalties are our basic financial entitlement when any company exploits our resources.

Petrotrin is a company that we own who is not paying us, the citizens, our most basic entitlement. All foreign-owned companies are paying us.

It is not right that one privileged group of citizens gets paid handsomely from the exploitation of our resources, while the balance of the population gets not one cent.

The Industrial Court judgment fails to recognise that OWTU workers at Petrotrin are already paid significantly more than workers doing similar jobs in other energy sector companies.

Last year, the Energy Chamber showed that Petrotrin workers were getting as much as double the going rate.

This does not even consider the wage increases that these privileged workers will demand for the period 2016 to 2018.

Other citizens working in the energy sector have lost their jobs and many others have had pay cuts or reduced working weeks.

Any SEA student could work out that Petrotrin is unable to meet its current wage bill, unable to meet its future wage bill, and certainly cannot meet what it owes the people.

That SEA student can also deduce that we are inevitably going to have to bail out Petrotrin and it will be a whopping bill.

While these few privileged workers tuck into their “just desserts”, the Industrial Court wants us to take comfort in the fact that they deserve it. The only problem is that the rest of us will have to pick up the tab.


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