OWTU slams Government on wages, property tax, energy

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Finance Minister Colm Imbert

THE Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) is not impressed by Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s announcement that Trinidad and Tobago achieved a surplus of $1.98 billion at the end of April, instead of a projected deficit of $5.7 billion.

The union wants Imbert to ensure some of that money is used to settle outstanding collective bargaining agreements with workers

Imbert spoke about the surplus when he opened debate on the Variation of Appropriation) (Financial Year 2022) Bill, 2022, in the House of Representatives on Monday. The House passed the bill the same day The Senate is to debate the bill on Friday.

Imbert said Government will do several things with the increased revenue. One was paying increased wages to public servants, once agreed between the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) and the respective trade unions.

At a news conference at the OWTU’s Paramount Building office in San Fernando on Friday, OWTU president general Ancil Roget said the arrears owed to workers must be paid

“Settle them now. We are not going to accept zero-zero-zero.”

In a statement on Thursday, the Public Services Association (PSA) said it had received an offer of zero-zero-zero-zero-one for salary increases for public officers for the period January 2014-January 2018. The CPO also offered zero-zero-one for salary increases from January 1, 2019-January 1, 2021.

The PSA said it would meet on Friday to discuss this.

Roget, who is also Joint Trade Union Movement president, said another news conference will be held at a later date on this matter

He also criticised plans to implement the collection of property tax later this year, saying this was an example of Government’s failed economic policy.

“They are going downhill, blindfolded, in reverse.”

He also dismissed statements by Energy Minister Stuart Young in the House on Monday about the now-defunct state oil company Petrotrin losing more money than it was earning. Young said there was no evidence to suggest the company could cover its own operating costs, as lines of credit were set up with banks for the necessary foreign exchange to meet monthly requirements.

Roget said while Petrotrin imported crude oil at a cost of US$950 million per year, Paria Fuel Trading Company (one of Petrotrin’s successor companies) imported fuel from December 2018 to January at a cost of US$3.5 billion.

He also asked how Trinidad and Tobago could supply natural gas to Europe when only three of Atlantic LNG’s four trains are in operation. Roget wondered if Train One, which has been out of service since November 2020, would be mothballed if there was no gas to supply it.

In January, Government and ALNG shareholders reached a heads of agreement to guide the company’s restructuring.

Sources told Newsday the objective is to restructure ALNG so its shareholders would own certain percentages of the new entity as opposed to having ownership in its four trains. In the current arrangement, Government, through NGC, only has shares in trains One and Four. A restructured ALNG.could allow Government, through the NGC, to access a portion of the revenues from trains in which it currently has no shares.