PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Oct 6, CMC – The Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) says it remains confident that a deal will be reached with the government before the month end deadline for the sale of the oil refinery.
The OWTU, through its company, Patriotic Technologies, has been in negotiations for the refinery, owned by the state-oil company, PETROTRIN, that was shut down a few years ago after the Keith Rowley government said had been losing billions of dollars annually over the years.
In September, Prime Minister Rowley, in an interview with the Trinidad Guardian newspaper, said that Patriotic Technologies “made us the best offer and was selected (and) we are currently working out contractual arrangements on which the outcome will depend. They are close, but it’s not finalised”,
But as he delivered the TT$49.5 billion national budget to Parliament on Monday, Finance Minister Colm Imbert described the negotiations as “protracted” but also issued a warning.
He told legislators that the government’s deadline for the completion of this exercise is October 31, this year “and if agreement cannot be reached on a viable or practical contractual agreement by that time, after giving Patriotic all possible opportunities to finalise the terms of the agreement, the process will be brought to an end, and the government will consider other options for the sale of the refinery”.
But Ozwald Warwick, an OWTU executive member involved in the negotiations, said he was confident that an agreement could be reached before the deadline.
“We are ready, Patriotic has always been ready. We were ready since before the general elections (held on August 10),’ he said, reminding radio listeners that the union had been calling for “us to sign off before the elections because we were very much concerned that when the elections take place, it would not be a priority.
“So in effect the government is showing a certain level of urgency which is what we wanted in the first place. We believe we have met the conditions that were given to us,” he said, adding that the company had submitted its proposals in keeping with the deadline given during the negotiations.
“We have had several meetings and we are of the very firm view that this process can be finished by the end of October,” Warwick added.
Last year, the government said that it was granting Patriotic a three-year moratorium on the US$700 million purchase price and interest, and a further 10 years to pay the US$700 million it offered for the refinery.
The government had said that 77 bids were initially received which were narrowed down to 25 of which eight then submitted non-binding offers.
Finance Minister Imbert said then that Cabinet had agreed that Patriotic had the most “reasonable” response.
Warwick insisted that the government’s deadline announced on Monday by Imbert “is one of urgency” adding “we need to have this thing closed as you could imagine we are spending money and we are also losing opportunity because the longer we take to close the process, the longer it would take for us to have boots on the ground”.