Confusion and chaos surround the case of almost 5,000 Petrotrin employees after the Trinidadian state oil company closed its doors Friday, leaving billions of dollars in severance, salary, and benefits unpaid.
“We are just being screwed all around,” one former employee told Newsday Monday.
An internal release notified Petrotrin’s 3,400 permanent and 1,229 temporary employees of the company’s closure, with assurances of a timely delivery of salaries, severance packages or outstanding back pay.
However, due to the size of the hefty sum, delays followed and with it panic among the thousands of unemployed oil workers. In an attempt to facilitate speedy a payment, the company deferred any applicable taxes to an escrow account, requiring its former employees to confirm their status for the 2017 tax year in order to access their tax exemptions. Without the documented proof, the money would be returned to the Board of Inland Revenue (BIR), Petrotrin officials said.
The ex-Petrotrin workers stood outside the BIR offices for hours Monday only to find the state agency was unequipped to administer to the demand.
“They have been going back and forth from the BIR office to (Petrotrin Pointe-a-Pierre branch) but no one is there to receive the documents. The workers gathered at the Sports Club this morning hoping to get some answers,” said Pointe-a-Pierre’s Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) branch president, Christopher Jackman.
Some workers worry the company may not have the funds to manage the closure. The company’s ultimate failure has long been expected and feared due to the damage which would inevitably negatively affect the economy.
Trinidadian officials have assured the international business commitments to oil partners will be divided between a pair of new oil companies, Heritage Petroleum, an exploration company, and Paria Fuel Trading, an agency which will assume the fuel logistics and energy trade.
Due to its close association with the government, Petrotrin was wracked with corruption allegations and glaring inconsistencies in financial data and many fear the replacement agencies will only replicate the mistakes from before.
Crime Economist, Anselm Richards, told Newsday, “Petrotrin is the manifestation of the “underbelly” of the self-defeating politics and destructiveness of the corruption that has defined and shaped leadership and governance in Trinidad and Tobago for the last 56 years.
“It is a fact that the fiscal bomb at Petrotrin was politically supervised, for years, by many of the ministers and members of parliament who are today blowing that they have no choice and that they are doing it for the country’s children,” Richards said.
“These are same individuals who, at one time or another, presided over and sanctioned the obscene increases in wages and salaries for directors and managers across the company.
They are the same ones who used Petrotrin as a corrupt political feeding trough for their financiers, operatives and general supporters. These are the acts and events that are manifested in the “underbelly” that is Petrotrin today,” the economist said.