Roget: Petrotrin putting workers at risk

The Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) is questioning the validity of a Petrotrin newspaper advertisement last month that outlines the company finances.

At a media conference at the OWTU’s Paramount Building headquarters in San Fernando yesterday, president general Ancel Roget provided excerpts of a Petrotrin audit by KPMG Chartered Accountants for the year ended September 30, 2017, to support his challenges of the energy company’s latest financial statements.

He is questioning several figures contained in a full-page advertisement by Petrotrin which states that for the quarter ended June 30, salaries and wages accounted for 52.8 per cent ($2.2 billion) of the company’s operating costs of $4.1 billion. The ad said the workforce comprises 3,437 permanent employees who each collect approximately $45,000 a month, as well as 1,229 non-permanent employees each receiving approximately $21,000 a month. The company said its average monthly overtime bill for 2016 and 2017 is $22.7 million a month.

However, Roget said Petrotrin workers do not earn $45,000 a month and are required to work overtime because of the more than 800 vacancies in the company.

“This misinformation being placed in the public does a number of things, not the least, putting workers and their families at severe risk of being butchered and murdered in this high crime environment, making them targets,” he said.

“It also attempts to put the public against the Petrotrin workers by labeling the Petrotrin workers as those who are really getting much more than they deserve.

“We want to state from the onset this morning that the information is totally false, it is malicious, it is dangerous and we want to condemn it outright. Petrotrin workers do not earn $45,000 a month.”

The OWTU leader referred to the company’s consolidated financial statement for the year ended September 30. If the union’s figure for 2017 and Petrotrin figures for the first two quarters of 2018 are correct, it suggests there has been a shift in Petrotrin’s expenditure.

The statement showed that purchases amounted to $13 billion or 62 per cent of the $20 billion in operating costs. Roget said this included importation of crude oil.

Employee remuneration was $2.3 billion, accounting for 11 per cent of total operating costs as opposed to the 52.8 per cent claimed by the company this year. Roget said from 2013 to 2017, purchasing as a percentage of operating costs had ranged between 55.5 and 5.7 per cent. Between 2013 and 2017, wages and salaries increased from 6.7 to 11 per cent of operating costs.

Roget said because Petrotrin pays salaries through a secret payroll, they could not list the various salaries. He said what the company failed to disclose was that the $2.3 billion included hefty salaries for senior personnel and vice presidents, allowances, overtime, medical services, travel plan, housing aid and national insurance.

While the board expressed concerns about debts to be repaid, Roget said they continue to hire expensive consultants. Meanwhile, nothing is being done to increase production. He said the Pointe-a-Pierre Refinery throughput target is 140,000 barrels per day (bpd) but as of yesterday, it stood at 95,000 bpd. Crude production is 30,000 bpd and the company purchases 100,000 bpd at a cost of $15.4 billion.

According to the OWTU’s projections, if the company increases production by 10,000 bpd that would lead to less crude being needed and could result in savings of $1.6 billion s year.

Roget said for the company to progress, chairman Wilfred Espinet, director Anthony Chan Tack and consultant Robert Riley have to leave.

In response, Espinet said it was to waste of time trying to explain the company’s financials. He said the importation of crude oil does not fall under operating costs.