Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 13th 2015 Contents A8
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt December 13, 2015
OPEN ON SUNDAY
Was ArcelorMittal heartless to send home hun-
dreds of workers just before Christmas?
The families of the workers unsure about their
jobs may not like to hear this, but the company
made, what was in business terms, a rational decision.
The plant was idle, the wage bill was active, and the
steel industry is in trouble worldwide. ArcelorMittal
shareholders would have seen it as malpractice to
have done otherwise.
This isn t taking one side or another in this. The
company has its say (Page A10), and we ve been
reporting union reaction to the decision. It s to ask
questions about how we report business stories of
In reporting strikes and union disputes, journalists
often default to the point of view of the workers and
the unions. Not always, but often. Even business
journalists. These points of view are obviously valid
journalistically, but they are only a part of the story.
Hardship and strife copy sells, as do emotive, non-
objective terms such as workers being put "on the
breadline." Such actions do cause financial hardship
in the long run, especially if the company takes
further measures. But we the journalists have to ask
a number of questions about how we report labour
and industrial disputes. The first thing to do is to
examine the company s financial reports, and match
the corporate statement and forward strategies to
their current decisions---examine why they did what
they did versus the actual performance of the com-
pany, and what they said they intended to do at the
time of filing their financial reports.
Most companies today post their financial reports
online. They re not only for the business journalists
to access. General beat journalists reporting these
stories need this information for context. We shouldn t
avoid the other parts of the story---furious unions,
distressed workers, sound and fury, and even the
bland corporate statements from the companies that
don t do themselves any justice.
Why is it a journalistic reflex to take the workers
side? Because the profession is itself steeped in a
unionised, shop steward culture that can sometimes,
reflexively, see big business as being heartless actors.
I know brilliant, objective-minded journalists who
are hardwired in this way. People who go into jour-
nalism tend not to be cut from the same cloth as
people who end up on Wall Street. My MBA class
and my newsroom, which I spent some time flitting
between in 2009 and 2010, felt like Mars and Venus.
The bias towards sound and fury isn t just a T&T
thing. It s a weakness of general business reporting
that turns up, surprisingly, in more developed markets.
In 2000, the BBC recognised that it had a problem
with its approach to reporting business, and hired
Jeff Randall as its first business editor. A hard-nosed
operator who would never be mistaken for a flaming
socialist, Randall s brief was to bring more of a busi-
nessman s perspective to contextualising business
news. It hasn t been the same.
And what of Christmas? While it is an important
cultural and religious marker, it really is an artificial
one on which a company should be basing a big
business decision. Even as ArcelorMittal now says
that the Christmas period did enter into its reckoning,
the decision to do what it did when it did could in
a sense be seen as brave. That said, the human cost
of its big decision ought to come out too. We should
always remember to strike the balance between that
and a business acting rationally.
Balancing the rational
with the emotional
Former head of the
Police Service Com-
mission (PSC) Prof
Ramesh Deosaran says
it would be good if a
local person could be
found with the
knowledge to be
appointed as commis-
sioner of police.
If, however, a suit-
able local candidate
were not found, then the Government would have
to reconsider, he added.
He said T&T needed to come to terms with what
its independence was all about, one imperative
being that its "sensitive public institutions" should
be governed by its own citizens.
"How long would we depend on others from out-
side to do the work that we should be able to do,
especially with a responsibility like policing and
national security?" he asked.
He said it was the Parliament that decided on
the appointment of a CoP or deputy and that the
PSC merely followed the parliament s orders, making
it a "political appointment."
But Deosaran also questioned whether the PSC
was fading into irrelevance since a local firm would
be hired to advertise and screen applicants.
"Wouldn t it be more efficient, cost-saving and
constitutionally proper to have the PSC appropriately
staffed to do this?"
Deosaran was responding to questions over Thurs-
day s announcement that Cabinet had approved a
new order changing the process for the appointment
of a CoP.
He said changes were urgently need-
ed to the framework and process of
appointing and overseeing the CoP.
He said it was commendable that
the Government, in keeping with its
promise, was taking action to improve
"These changes should be both con-
stitutional and administrative if we
wish to have a more expeditious, cost-
effective and streamlined process."
He said while there was public focus
on the appointment of a top cop, it
should be noted that three deputies
have also been acting in an "in and
out" fashion with domino-like career
effects on the lower ranks.
Once certified and fleshed out, the
Cabinet note should be published for
public consideration and suggestions
before being sent to Parliament, he
"We should try not to repeat the
mistakes of the past. For this reform
exercise, building consensus is critical."
Deosaran said the Cabinet note, after
proper certification, would have to be
configured for parliamentary consid-
According to him, it was still uncer-
tain whether the Government would
bring the reforms as a bill, a motion
or whether it would require a special
majority as the previous reform exer-
"That is why it may be in the gov-
ernment s best interest to publish its
intention for public feedback and
"Further, we are yet to know the
extent to which the intended reforms
will increase or reduce the existing
constitutional powers of the Police
Commissioner or the PSC, or is it
going to tackle only the question of
advertising, interviewing by a hired
firm and recommending to the com-
mission for consequent passage to the
President and Parliament?"
Deosaran in favour
of selecting local CoP
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