August 30, 2018 / 9:37 PM / 8 months ago

Trinidad oil union to call general strike if refinery shuts down

PORT OF SPAIN (Reuters) - Trinidad and Tobago’s Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) on Thursday threatened a general strike if the island’s government does not rescind a decision to shut down the country’s lone oil refinery, operated by state-run Petrotrin.

The oil firm earlier this week disclosed it would halt refining operations in October due to recurring losses from crude imports in recent years. The 150,000-barrel-per-day Point-a-Pierre refinery was purchasing up to 100,000 bpd of foreign crude to produce fuels for the Caribbean island.

“We will be up and down the streets, this place will be shaking. The government is about to make a decision that would plunge Trinidad and Tobago into chaos and mayhem,” said Ancel Roget, president general of the OWTU, which represents Petrotrin workers.

The first protest action is set for Friday, Sept. 7. The OWTU, along with other trade unions, are urging their members including teachers to stay away from work that day.

Workers could even demand the resignation of the government and Prime Minister Keith Rowley, and “call elections now,” Roget added.

The refinery’s shutdown is expected to affect 2,600 permanent jobs, including 1,700 in the facility, according to Petrotrin’s calculations. Roget, however, said that 9,000 jobs were in jeopardy.

Petrotrin requires a cash injection of nearly $4 billion to remain in operation, upgrade its infrastructure and repay its debt, which has risen close to $2 billion.

Reporting by Linda Hutchinson; Editing by Sandra Maler

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