In the aftermath of what must be one of the world’s shortest-ever strikes, Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley has outlined the government’s intentions to introduce external capital investment into upstream oil production at stateowned Petrotrin. The strike, which was cancelled just hours after it begun, was called by the oil workers’ union to demand the settlement of wages for two three-year collective bargaining periods. The strike was called off after a deal was agreed for an interim 5% increase for the first bargaining period with negotiations to be continued for the remaining years and for a deal to determine productivity and production targets which would need to be achieved before any “back-pay” would be paid.
In an address to the nation, Prime Minister Rowley outlined the many challenges facing the company, including its high debt burden, falling oil production, ageing infrastructure and the high cost of its payroll compared to other integrated state-owned oil companies. Laying out a clear challenge to the trade union, Dr. Rowley made it clear that further debt backed by a sovereign guarantee was not an option for the company and that other sources of financing must be sourced for the investments needed to increase oil production. Dr. Rowley stated that new capital investment, from either local or foreign sources, was needed if oil production was to be increased. He also suggested that at some future date, a portion of the company could be listed on the local stock exchange and employees would be invited to participate as shareholders in the company. According to the Prime Minister, plans for the reform process and the introduction of equity investment into the company have already been drafted and will soon be presented to Cabinet.
No timelines for the reform process were given but the Prime Minister highlighted that the changes were urgent and could not be delayed.