The current impasse between Petrotrin and the OWTU with respect to a new collective agreement is uppermost on the minds of citizens of T&T at this time.
This comes at a time when another matter with respect to a prior collective agreement remains unresolved at the Industrial Court. It would therefore be remiss of me to comment on a matter that is sub judice/before the court and while negotiations are still ongoing with respect to the new agreement.
What I do have a problem with, however, is the fact that some segments of the population, obviously opposed to the OWTU, which is exercising its rights under the Constitution to threaten strike action, calling for the closure and privatisation of the company.
Privatisation is the act of transferring property/business operations from a State organisation to a privately owned entity. There are myriad reasons why certain persons opine that privatisation will be a cure-all for the current loss-making position at Petrotrin but the fundamental rationale is that the private sector’s main motive is that of turning a profit, cutting costs and being more efficient while that of the State is to further the public interest. This, in my own view, will be taking both a myopic and a pedestrian view of a complex situation.
There is no doubt that the Government will make a one-off profit from such a transaction but this will amount to transferring the patrimony from the hands of the many into the hands of the few. In addition, the Government will be losing out on future dividends, taxes and profits. In its quest to turn a profit a private enterprise will have no compunction about getting rid of workers; they will be the first to face the axe as the new entity pursues profits.
If the Government is foolish enough to fold to public pressure, take the easy way out, yield to temptation and privatise this important entity, it shall in effect be relinquishing control of a public monopoly, which should be seeking to protect the consumer’s interest, into the hands of a private monopoly which now has the potential to set exorbitantly high prices and exploit the consumer.
What I will recommend, however, is that the Government seek to wipe the slate clean by writing off the company’s debt as far as possible, while simultaneously cutting overhead costs in the form of obscenely high management costs/salaries. Put into effect a system of profit-sharing which should make employees more committed to ensuring the company turns a profit and install a system of pay-for-performance to ensure a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.