30 Aug Trinidad unions threaten to shut country down on September 7
By Eve George
Caribbean News Now Senior Correspondent
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — Following Tuesday’s announcement that the state-owned Petrotrin oil refinery will be shut down, leaving some 2,600 workers without a job, unions in Trinidad have threatened industrial action on September 7 in solidarity with the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU).
At a media conference on Wednesday hosted by the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) at the Banking, Insurance and General Workers’ Union (BIGWU) headquarters, teachers were asked to stay away from classrooms on September 7 by Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) president Lynsley Doodhai.
“Next week Friday, parents please keep your children at home, teachers will not be in school on Friday 7,” Doodhai said. “Schools would be devoid of teachers come next week Friday. Do not waste your hard-earned money to send your children to school, the teachers won’t be there.”
“TTUTA would hope that good sense would prevail and that the government and Petrotrin board would reconsider the decision that they announced yesterday (Tuesday),” he added.
The trade unions said they are going to retaliate in response to the plan to shut down the Petrotrin refinery.
“Workers are no longer going to take it. There is a saying in TTUTA, if you touch one teacher, you touch all teachers, I say this morning if you touch one worker, you touch all workers,” Doodhai said.
Sheep and Goat Farmers Association president Shiraz Khan was the most outspoken in his condemnation of the government, in particular, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Minister of Finance Colm Imbert, saying they need to be “dealt with”.
Khan pointed out that Rowley met with the JTUM on ten occasions soliciting the unions’ support ahead of the 2015 general election.
“Today look what he doing to we. He is taking this country down a road, it may not have no return,” Khan said.
The announcement of Petrotrin’s closure comes just one week after minister of energy Franklin Khan claimed in a televised interview that the local media was publishing fake news in reporting that the government was planning to sell the Petrotrin oil refinery.
Many debates and online commentaries have been posted on social media on this issue. Here is an interview hosted by CNC3 reporter Urvishi Tewarie, with former chemical engineer at Petrotrin and management consultant, Gerald Emile Pinard, and former minister in the ministry of finance, Mariano Brown, on the issue of the government’s decision to shut down the oil refinery.