Daily Brief - Tuesday 10th January, 2017

NEWS

OWTU Takes 5

The strike at State oil company Petrotrin, threatened by the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) was called off yesterday - the day it was supposed to begin - with Petrotrin President Fitzroy Harewood saying the company has enough fuel in storage to keep the local market supplied and deliver on exports. The OWTU called off the strike after Petrotrin offered a five percent interim wage increase, for the period 2011 – 2014, half of what was demanded by the union. Both sides will meet on February 28 to continue negotiations for the 2011 – 2014 period. Harewood said the five percent salary increase award would cost the company an additional $80 million a year, which would be made up through operational efficiencies. OWTU President General Ancel Roget said there was a written agreement signed by the company and the Corporation Sole – the Minister of Finance – that negotiation for the period 2011 – 2014 would be completed by February 28, and the first interim payment of the five percent increase would be implemented immediately with workers seeing that increase in their pay packets. Read more here

CAL chairman tells JSC: T&T airbridge not profitable

Had the strike gone ahead at state-owned Petrotrin, Caribbean Airlines (CAL) had a contingency plan, the airline’s chairman Shameer Mohammed told a Joint Select Committee meeting at Parliament in Port-of-Spain yesterday. In response to a question from Opposition MP Fazal Karim hours before the strike was called off by the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU), Mohammed said: “We have made contingency plans to ensure that we continue to operate our schedules. We do have arrangements in place with NP and we do have arrangements in place with the various airports that we fly into.” During the JSC session, which lasted two-and-a-half hours, Mohammed also said there was need to increase add on costs on the air bridge between Trinidad and Tobago because it is not profitable. He said the existing $300 round trip price of a ticket is not economical, adding that the more appropriate would be about $600 or $700. Read more here

Taxi and maxi drivers relieved

Though relieved that there will, for now, be no strike action by workers at State-owned Petrotrin, some taxi and maxi drivers yesterday accused the Government and the Oilfields Workers' Trade Union (OWTU) of “playing games” with citizens' lives. Strike action intended by the OWTU was called off hours after it was legally due to start yesterday when the union, under president general Ancel Roget, settled at a five per cent increase offered by Petrotrin on negotiations for the 2011-2014 collective bargaining period. The union's decision was met with relief by some of those who make a living from providing transport for the public, some of whom said they were, up to yesterday afternoon, deeply worried about losing much-needed income. Read more here

 

POLITICS

Rowley Told, Deliver on Promises

The three associations representing officers in the protective services yesterday called on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to deliver on promises made to the associations. Fire Service Association (FSA) President Leo Ramkissoon and Prison Officers Association (POA) President Ceron Richards held a joint press conference at the Besson Street Police Station in East Port-of-Spain to advance this position. Ramkissoon stated that the promises referred to involved the settlement of arrears owed to officers of various arms of the protective services namely police, fire and prisons. He said although union heads have already agreed with the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Housing, for certain considerations, the government has not kept up their end of the bargain. Read more here

Former minister: Good sense prevailed

Good sense has prevailed. That was former Energy Minister Conrad Enill’s reaction to the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) calling off the strike at state-owned Petrotrin. Following 30 hours of conciliation talks at the Labour Ministry yesterday, the union has agreed to a five per cent wage increase for the period 2011 to 2014. “The settlement has relieved a lot of tension in the society. What this does is bring stability back into the country which I think is a good thing. The whole question of cost . . . it has, in fact, carried up the cost like any other company. They are going to have an expenditure profile which they are going to manage,” he said. Read more here

 

BUSINESS

Chamber Head: Revisit Executive Salaries at Petrotrin

A national conversation surrounding salaries, particularly those at the executive level, at Petrotrin needs to be made top priority in order to ensure the State-owned company’s future viability. This was the position of President of the Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce, Richie Sookhai, yesterday in the wake of the announcement that strike action by the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) had been averted. The OWTU’s threat of strike action against Petrotrin was called off yesterday when the union accepted a five percent offer from Petrotrin for the period 2011-2014/2015. The threat of strike inspired many to criticise the OWTU’s demand for a wage increase as untimely as the nation is experiencing an economic downturn and Petrotrin is operating at a loss. The OWTU responded to that critique citing corruption and mismanagement as the cause of Petrotrin’s unprofitability. Read more here

Cemex increases offer for TCL

Mexican cement giant Cemex yesterday increased its offer to Trinidad Cement Limited (TCL) shareholders as it moves to take over control of the local company. In a media release, Cemex announced that through its indirect subsidiary Sierra Trading, it had increased its takeover offer from $4.50 to $5.07 per share. As part of the amended offer, the company also gave TCL shareholders, with the exception of those in Barbados, the option to be paid in US dollars. Full acceptance of the amended offer would result in a cash payment by Sierra of approximately $672 million, Cemex said. Read more here

Time runs out for Venezuela to elect new president

The opposition spent 2016 calling for a referendum against deeply unpopular President Nicolas Maduro. Courts and electoral officials friendly to the administration blocked that campaign at every turn. A recall is still legally possible. But Tuesday marks the start of the last two years of Maduro's term. The constitution says any successful recall vote after this date would have Maduro replaced by his hard-line vice president rather than prompting a new election an opponent would likely win. With food shortages worsening and inflation running in the triple digits, Maduro's approval ratings have recently fallen below 20 percent. The opposition-controlled congress is expected to restart a symbolic political trial of Maduro Monday. Congress adopted new leadership last week widely seen as more moderate, but the return to the political trial suggests that the opposition will continue to follow the same playbook as last year. Read more here

 

REGIONAL

Crucial year for reform process, says CARICOM secretary general

The thirty-ninth meeting of the Community Council of Ministers opened on Monday at the CARICOM headquarters in Guyana, under the chairmanship of Guyana’s vice president and minister for foreign affairs, Carl Greenidge. In his remarks to the official opening, secretary-general of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Irwin LaRocque, told the gathering that 2017 was “a crucial year for the Community’s reform process”, as it was the mid-point of the five-year (2015-2019) strategic plan for the Community, a foundational element of the process. He said that the operational plan for achieving the goals of the strategic plan was designed and that a system to measure progress, based on the principles of results-based management, was being established with financing from the Caribbean Development Bank. Read more here

Mission Clarendon Rescue| Clarendon Bleeding

With just over 130 persons murdered in the parish last year, Clarendon earned the dubious distinction of recording the second-highest number of murders in the 19 police divisions across the island. 'Police seek husband after wife is murdered in Clarendon', 'Double murder in Clarendon', 'Clarendon man chops brothers to death' and 'Taxi operator killed in Clarendon' were just some of the headlines that told the tale as the crime monster stalked the parish last year. This year has started just the same, with the headlines out of the parish eerily similar to those of 2016. Already, 46-year-old Owen 'Chiney Man' Oxford has been added to the murder statistics in a parish which was once known as peaceful and quiet.  Last Thursday, Oxford was fatally shot by a lone assailant beside the premises which houses the May Pen Police Station and the Clarendon Police Divisional Headquarters. Read more here

 

INTERNATIONAL

Jared Kushner to be named senior adviser to the president

Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will be senior adviser to the president, a senior transition official told CNN Monday. The 35-year-old businessman-turned-political strategist played a key part in his father-in-law's presidential campaign and his new position is expected to test the limit of federal anti-nepotism rules. The move comes ahead of a Wednesday news conference in which Trump is expected to detail how he plans to manage his company's potential conflicts-of-interest after he enters the White House. Kushner plans to resign from the management positions he holds at his companies, including as CEO of Kushner Companies, publisher of The Observer and positions with other organizations, and will divest from a "significant number" of his assets to comply with government ethics rules, Kushner's attorney Jamie Gorelick told CNN on Monday. Read more here

Jeff Sessions, new US attorney general, faces rough ride

President-elect Donald Trump's pick to be the new attorney general is poised to get a rough ride when he appears before US senators. Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, 69, will face questions about his past record on civil rights at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday. Senate Democrats will also challenge him over his tough immigration stance. But they do not have the power to block his nomination because Republicans control the Senate. All the president's Cabinet appointments go to a vote in the Senate, where they can be approved by a simple majority. Appointments cannot be confirmed until after Mr Trump's inauguration on 20 January. But first Mr Sessions must face questions on Tuesday and Wednesday from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Read more here

 

10th January 2017

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