Petrotrin’s overtime bill stands at $22m

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Despite facing a financial bind, the monthly overtime bill at State-owned Petrotrin is $22 million, while its annual wage bill to its 5,000 employees amounts to $2 billion.

This was what was revealed before a Joint Select Committee (JSC) chaired by Finance Minister Colm Imbert on Energy Affairs, as senior management of Petrotrin was yesterday interrogated into the operations of the energy company at the ANR Robinson Room, Tower D, Port-of-Spain.

Vice chairman Stuart Young asked if anyone at Petrotrin could say what was the company’s monthly or annual overtime bill compared to payments of salaries.

In response, the company’s vice president of Human Resources and Corporate Services Neil Derrick responded saying “it’s about $22 million a month in overtime for the entire company.”

Young questioned what was Petrotrin’s annual salary bill. Derrick answered, stating that it was $2 billion, which included overtime.

“So the ratio of your $2 billion salary a year how much of that is overtime?”

Petrotrin’s outgoing president Fitzroy Harewood said the figure was about 18 per cent.

“So near to 20 per cent of our salary bill at the end of the year is overtime? “Young asked.

That figure amounts to $400 million in overtime.

Imbert read from the Lashley report which stated that Petrotrin’s cash flow was currently tight, its working capital eroded, margins negatives and salaries were estimated at 50 per cent of operating costs, while the company had an over leverage system.

“If there is a statement such as this that 50 per cent of operating cost being paid to salaries is too high, what is the correct figure? What should it be 25, 30, 40 per cent? Somebody must know what is the standard international benchmark for salaries in terms of operating cost,”Imbert said.

Petrotrin chairman Wilfred Espinet, in response, said it was “twice as much as it should be,” stating the Petrotrin cannot exist in its present form with its high operational costs.

Member Gerald Ramdeen asked Espinet how the board intended to reduce the company’s huge salary bill.

“One of the proposals that has come out of it is to separate the operational activities and to focus our management and employees in their specific operational activities rather than as we have them now as an integrated company where we have operational and a super structure that manages it. That, we see as being an opportunity to reduce the labour force, for sure,”Espinet said.

Espinet said he was not sure if they can convince employees to reduce their salaries down “that you may be able to work four days a week or three days a week rather than five days a week if you want to keep numbers.”

These are issues, Espinet said would have to be discussed.

The chairman said to reduce the labour force and for employees to work less days would have to be part of a negotiated process “because I think there is about six ways to skin the cat.”