Oil Field Workers’ Union (OWTU) General President Ancel Roget is begging Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to address the $4.6 billion Petrotrin Employees’ Pension Scheme (PEPP) shortfall for “more than 5,000 retirees”. He also called on Rowley to put in place a medical plan comparable to the Petrotrin Medical Plan for retirees and former active employees and to reopen all former Petrotrin Medical Centers and Augustus Long Hospital to provide needed medical care to desperate retirees. need critical medical care.
Roget was speaking at a protest opposite Rowley’s Whitehall office in Maraval Road, Port of Spain on Friday. OWTU General Secretary Richard Lee, Education and Research Officer Ozzi Warwick, members of the ‘Blue Shirt Army’ and retirees Stephen Tang and Victor Joseph also attended. The consensus among them was that Rowley had disrespected them by not responding to a letter addressed to him on March 25.
During his remarks, Roget said: “It was good for Rowley to collect his pension. We accept that he is entitled to certain conditions. It is good for me, but not for pensioners. Our problem is the life over death. Retirement policies continue to be loss making. They are legally entitled to it.”
An excerpt from the letter read: “With the closure of Petrotrin and the dismissal of all its workers on November 30, 2018, the existing medical plan for workers and retirees has been terminated. All medical centers like Pointe-à-Pierre, Pt Fortin, Trinmar, Santa Flora, Forest Reserve, Penal, Guayaguayare and Augustus Long have been closed. An actuarial report indicates that as of December 30, 2019, the pension plan deficit was $4.6 billion.
He added: “At the time of Petrotrin’s closure, the government made a commitment to fund the plan’s existing deficit to ensure the preservation of all benefits for plan participants. Since there are no more workers to contribute, withholding funding for this deficit can only exacerbate the situation and threaten the plan’s future viability. This will result in the loss of pension for those retirees and deferred retirees who have religiously contributed financially to the scheme during their working years.
The troubles of retirees
Sharing his sentiments, Joseph, 75, a San Fernando resident who struggles with high blood pressure and diabetes, said, “I retired on May 30, 2007. The plan was closed in 2018. This been 15 years. Either they open the various medical centers and pharmacies. I have to pay $300 for a doctor’s visit and about $1,400 at the pharmacy. I don’t have a dentist or optician.
I have to pay $1,800 for blood tests. I have to pay $3,000 to the optician. It could double. My pension has gone down. I have to cut down on nutritious foods. I keep in shape with gardening. I used to travel to the United States and the Caribbean every year. I went to Poland and Paris. But I can’t travel now.
Joseph added: “I think the finance minister (Colm Imbert) should tell us where the money is coming from. We would get the COLA and that cannot happen now because the pension plan is not increasing. We don’t know how long this will last. By September, we must receive another actuary’s report. »
Seeking the interest of his colleagues and his wife, Joseph added: “There are people who buy drugs piecemeal. They are sick and bedridden. I signed my spouse should be able to take advantage of it.
If I were to die, my spouse should be able to benefit from 50% medical treatment. Nobody is working now. So no one contributes to it. With today’s standards, this is far from the case.