Labour leaders want to know Lake Asphalt’s future


OWTU president general Ancel Roget addresses the media on concerns about the future of Lake Asphalt during a protest in Pt D’Or, La Brea on Saturday. – Marvin Hamilton

LABOUR leaders called on the Government to say what is the future of state-owned Lake Asphalt 1978 Ltd. Making the call were Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) president Ancel Roget, Contractors & General Workers Trade Union (CAGWU) president-general Ermine De Bique-Meade and National Trade Union Centre (Natuc) general secretary Michael Annisette before a march by some of the company’s workers in Pt D’Or.La Brea.

Roget warned that decisions made on Lake Asphalt’s future could determine whether the ruling PNM could bank on La Brea being one of its stronghold constituencies in any future general election.

Agreeing with comments by De Bique-Meade about the challenges being faced by Lake Asphalt workers, Roget said JTUM and Natuc’s presence in La Brea was an expression of solidarity with all workers in TT.

“There is a playbook that the Government is working with, that would see the demise of Lake Asphalt and if they are given the opportunity, they would see the demise of many other state enterprises.”

Roget reiterated JTUM’s claims that Government was attempting to sell out the country’s assets, disrespect workers and pander to the whims of the elite one per cent in TT.

He reminded the gathering that Lake Asphalt was an integral part of La Brea’s community and economy. “It is the last bastion of economic survival for La Brea.”

Roget claimed Government was unconcerned about that. “When government blunders, people suffer.”

“Any government which takes away the jobs of the people who elected them, cannot remain in power,” he said. “You can’t allow them to remain in employment. You must be prepared to fire those who are causing you to lose your job.”

Roget slammed Labour Minister Stephen McClashie for failing to address the workers’ concerns, as minister and as La Brea MP. “We have to remind them how they got into office but more importantly, remind them how they are going to get out of office if they don’t put their house in order.”

Contractors and General Workers Trade Union members joint Lake Asphalt workers in a protest at Pt D’Or, La Brea on Saturday. – Marvin Hamilton

He told the gathering, “You can’t like the PNM more than you like yourself.”

Roget predicted the PNM will be in La Brea soon, campaigning for local government elections.

He declared that the days of blind allegiance to any political party were over. “We want real value for the real value that we put into that entity called Lake Asphalt.”

Roget demanded respect for the company’s workers and the CAGWU. The latter must be involved in discussions about Lake Asphalt’s future, he said. He warned, “No Lake Asphalt..No PNM in La Brea.”

De Bique-Meade said the company’s monthly-paid workers have not been paid for two months while the weekly-paid workers were not paid for five weeks.

“The workers of Lake Asphalt are crying out. Black man don’t get nothing easy you know.”

She said it was only because of a recent protest outside the Works and Transport Ministry’s office in Port of Spain “that a cheque was released (to pay the workers) for one month.” De Bique-Meade said more money was released on Friday to pay the workers’ salaries for another month.

“The workers cannot continue to live like this. They want to know what their future holds as it relates to Lake Asphalt.”

Recalling that the company was transferred from the Energy Ministry to the Works and Transport Ministry, De Bique-Meade called for a meeting between the union and Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan on Lake Asphalt.

De Bique-Meade said to date, Sinanan has not provided any details about the company’s future to the union. ‘Let the workers know what are the necessary classifications that will be required for the new restructuring of Lake Asphalt, so that the workers can re-tool themselves.”

At a PNM meeting in Diego Martin on April 5, the Prime Minister said the company was placed under the Works and Transport Ministry, with the National Infrastructure Development Company being its operating agency.

Dr Rowley said Lake Asphalt’s revenue was negatively affected by the closure of Petrotrin in November 2018, since much of that revenue came from selling bitumen from the Petrotrin refinery. Bitumen is a by-product of the crude oil refining process and is used as a binder to hold asphalt together.

Rowley also said a new business model will be created to make the company sustainable.

On April 17, Sinanan said Cabinet’s decision to transfer Lake Asphalt was done after a thorough review of the company’s operations.

“At the end of the day, Lake Asphalt has been under some sort of scrutiny within the last couple of years.”

Sinanan said the company has been challenged with delivering bitumen which the ministry needs for road-paving works.

With the ministry doing two-year projections for the amount of bitumen it needs, Sinanan believes the new arrangement will help the company improve its production to levels which would ensure the local market is not challenged in terms of bitumen supply.

Back To Top