Are public education, health, and other systems ready to handle increased demand which will follow the sacking of Petrotrin workers?
“Unemployed people have no choice but to use public systems more,” said employee Chankar Teelucksingh.
Cries from Petrotrin workers inside the company rang out last week and tears from families flowed like water when the closure news hit—among them, Teelucksingh’s family.
“When I told my wife and two children that I didn’t know if I will have a job, everybody just broke down—the hardest thing I ever had to do,” said Teelucksingh, who has been with Petrotrin for 33 years since age 18. He has been a permanent worker for 28 years and casual worker for five.
While he’s attached to Trinmar, Teelucksingh said the way the word came out, it appears all areas will be affected in some way by the refinery closure. “We’re in the dark, doubt and fear on the true extent of changes especially where Trinmar and Santa Flora fields are concerned.”
Teelucksingh is worried about meeting his daughter’s university fees and his son’s school needs. “I have a mortgage, a car loan, and my mother to support. People say re-train or ‘re-tool’ to get work. At my age, I can’t get GATE help to try to get an education to change my field since GATE now has age restrictions on applicants. How is the education system going to help/adjust to meet people’s needs to retrain?
“Can the public health system, especially in South, handle the needs of all these people—2,700 workers plus their families and others affected—it now has to handle all at once?”
Teelucksingh was also concerned whether the State’s struggling National Insurance system will be able to cope without the contributions from axed workers and those who will have to be paid NIS benefits. “I saw the effect when Trintoc was closed in Point Fortin—a ghost town. What will become of the South now?”
Workers must plan
Former PNM energy minister and minister in the ministry of finance Conrad Enill—now a business consultant—said “If Government could have rescinded the closure decision, it wouldn’t have made it in the first place. At this point, focus by those affected must be on action: that they get the best package, training/re-tooling for transition, calculating financial obligations, interacting with credit unions, restructuring loans, budgeting more effectively for the next six to eight months.
“They would be skilled people but may get work in other areas or even in the same. What may not be available to them is the same revenue stream they got so adjustments and planning for what’s ahead are absolutely necessary.”
Enill said Petrotrin had a significant bond payment coming up and if that couldn’t be met, T&T would be put at risk regarding its rating. “Nobody will lend you money, cost of financing would increase, and faith in T&T would be shaken.”
“When former late prime minister Patrick Manning called the election in 2010, some 12,000 people—employed as advisers and other posts—lost jobs the same way Petrotrin’s 1,700 will. “This is a risk taken in employment.