A Challenge for Comrade Roget

By Raffique Shah
April 16, 2017

Raffique ShahLet it be clear that I am not joining any chorus of condemnation of OWTU president-general Ancel Rouget for his remark on bpTT’s decision to have its Angelin gas platform fabricated outside of Trinidad & Tobago, “Take your rig and go!” As a former unionist, I fully understand and accept sloganeering, bravado, and even outrageous statements as legitimate tools of the trade.

I however want to use the furore that erupted in its aftermath to make some points that might well be lost amidst the cacophony of anti-labour tirades.

The only thing I’ll tell Comrade Rouget on the issue of the Angelin platform is however much he may rant against the oil giant BP being exploitative of T&T resources, the harsh reality is that today, and for many years now, this country needs all the oil majors more than they need T&T.

Why do I say this? T&T’s proven oil reserves have stagnated at approximately 800 million barrels for almost a decade, and our current natural gas equivalent has dipped below 10 trillion cubic feet. For many reasons, oil production has slumped to 70,000 barrels per day (bpd), and gas below the benchmark 4.0 billion cubic feet per day (bcf/d). If we manage to ramp up oil production to 100,000 bpd, and gas to the required 4.2 bcf/d, outside of any major discoveries, we shall have approximately 20 years’ worth of oil and eight years’ of gas.

In a world that is awash with oil and suffocating in gas, our reserves and production levels are piddling. To put them in graphic context, neighbouring Venezuela has oil reserves of 300 billion barrels and 200 trillion cubic feet of gas. And Guyana, where a few wells have been drilled in two reservoirs, has already declared recoverable oil of more than two billion barrels-almost three times ours.

So, were it not for having expended huge sums on exploration and development in T&T, and this country’s thriving, though currently struggling, downstream energy industries, especially petrochemicals and LNG, BP, BHP or any of the other trans-nationals could easily “take their rigs and go”.

None of these naked truths means that we should, as a sovereign nation, tolerate insults or other violations or exploitation from any of them. They must respect our laws, codes and safety regulations, which they seem to have done. Based on two Extractive Industries (TTEITI) reports, they appear to be paying substantial royalties and taxes. And although we are not privy to the numbers, we can assume they make healthy profits: after all, that’s why they are in business.

Regarding the issue at hand, bpTT said it will not have the Angelin platform fabricated locally, meaning at the TOFCO facilities in La Brea. It cited the timeline-first gas is scheduled for 2019-and competiveness. Since bpTT has had six similar platforms constructed by TOFCO, and only the most recent (Juniper, 2014-2017) suffered from setbacks because of work stoppages, strikes and community protests, we can assume these latter were the main deterrents.

Comrade Roget knows that only too well since the OWTU was involved in some of them. Timelines are critical in such projects, especially as the energy sector has suffered costly gas shortages over the last five years. The workers in the Juniper project cited low wages and health and safety concerns for their disruptive actions. La Brea residents, who comprised 400 of the 750-workforce, wanted more jobs.

Unless the issues they raised were manifestly life- or limb-threatening, the workers jeopardised their own wellbeing, and the La Brea community theirs, by their ill-advised or precipitous actions. Let me put this another way: if similar work began at the TOFCO yard tomorrow, wouldn’t the same workers and residents queue up for jobs? Would they then ignore wage rates and health and safety issues?

Comrade Roget, the loss of the Angelin project brings to fore the chronic work ethic and productivity plagues which, when combined with corruption at every level, but more so in the upper echelons of society, and gross mismanagement in the public sector and State enterprises, are taking us all down the fast lane to Hell, a failed State, and into the jaws of the IMF.

The OWTU, of which you are only the fifth leader in its 80-year history (isn’t that something?), has a proud tradition of producing patriots by the miles. I had the honour of battling in the trenches alongside George Weekes, who, for all his weaknesses (who among us can claim otherwise?), oozed patriotism.

He invariably put country before

Now, you have a great opportunity to lead the blue-shirt army in the do-or-die battle to make productivity not merely a watchword, but a creed; to inspire a work ethic that changes our laissez faire culture; and to instill patriotism in people such that they take pride their jobs.

It’s a tall order, and it calls for a giant-of-a-man (or woman) to even think of starting the revolution. But that’s the calibre of leader required when a nation is in crisis.

5 thoughts on “A Challenge for Comrade Roget”

  1. Trinidadians CANNOT WORK.–DONT LIKE TO WORK, DONT HAVE TO SKILLS TO WORK.—-BUT, Complain, Complain, YES. unions incorage this sh-. 9% of ALL JOBS come from abroad.—What do you produce at Home?? The WORLD know your Work ethics. In these Hard times, Get some DISCIPLINE,GET SOME EMPATHY.get some MANNERS. hospitality, YOU NEED badly as a Country, and People.—-WHERE ARE YOU GOING people???????????

  2. Unions are good, multinational organization rake in billions of the national patrimony and pay pittance to the citizenry who should be the prime beneficiary of black gold. They come in make the investments, take the risk at times destroy the environment and leaving the citizenry to suffer. No more is this real than in places like Africa. In Guyana they came in mined for gold created a huge resovoir of cyanide, the banks broke and all of that deadly cyanide released into the rivers. In Brazil there is pollution flooding once clean rivers.

    We cannot sell the national patrimony for a morsel of flesh. The failure of unions however is to make unreasonable and unrealistic demands whilst decreasing productivity and supporting laziness. This affect the psychological mode of multinational cooperations. They look for the lines of least resistance because delays, demands and low productivity affect the “bottom line”. Hence they just move their business elsewhere.

    As for Roget “rum shop talk” it could be over bearing. We saw it in the TCL matter where they engaged in an unreasonable bullying strike. Losing in the end. The juniper was the same thing losing Angelin in the end. Thousands of jobs lost forever because a hostile climate drives away investors. So it is not the one project but it is the thousands of others that does not come as a result of the one denied. That means seeing the big picture, in that way unions can be deleterious to the national economy. A good union leader does not have to win every battle, because some battles are best left alone in the grand scheme of things.

    Ultimately, the citizenry should win in the end, with globalization and economic down turn, TNT badly need those investors… Perhaps the union leader should rattle down his tone for the next little while.

  3. Why, of Late, Trinidad and Tobago population feel that they are the only Important folks, around the World. They act like STUPID America. They live in Denial. Most of the Goods and Services, and Companies,Come from Foreign Places. {T&T WORK ETHIC STINKS}. {Hospitality NONE EXISTENT}.DISCIPLINE, IS A FOREIGN langues. Unions have their place. BUT, This world is competitive, in so many ways. YES, Hold these Companies accountable, for their Action, by Good Contracts, —–And follow ups {Policing} what their should do. Again, Most of us DONT WANT TO WORK, LAZY RUDE,And GIMME, GIMME.And we hide behind these UNIONS.Funny, when the same folks go to other Countries, they Work like DOGS. And settle for nothing.—WHY??
    most OF US. So called EXPERTS includes, should SHUT UP.Think about COUNTRY FIRST.———{I may be Dreaming for that} BUT.—

  4. Here we go again.—With our STUPID THINKING. He died a long time ago. Did YOU not Learn? Did the Country not Learn anything?? PHONES, SCHOOLS, NEW TECHNICAL THINGS, LOTS OF DUMB INFORMATION’S, The year is 2017 .makes, lots of DUMB PEOPLE.} mouth OPEN STUPID THINGS COME OUT.————sad. people of T&T—-????

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