Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 12th 2016 Contents Minimum wage still to be reviewed --- McLeod News --- Page A6
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Saturday, March 12, 2016 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
The jubilation that hun-
dreds of steel workers expe-
rienced on Thursday when
the Industrial Court granted
them victory over Arcelor-
Mittal turned to grief yes-
terday, after the company
terminated the employment
og its 700-plus work force.
The company made the
announcement during a
meeting with the Steel Work-
ers Union (SWUTT). It said
that after consultation with
its corporate head in Luxem-
bourg it was forced to take
the decision to shut down
business at its Point Lisas
plant and liquidate its assets.
The union said the company
revealed that it was $1.3 bil-
lion in debt.
In a press statement,
ArcelorMittal said that
despite efforts to avoid the
closure of the iron and steel
facility, local and international
challenges had put it under
severe financial distress since
the second half of 2015.
It said proposed increases
in gas and electricity rates at
a time of falling commodity
prices had rendered produc-
tion costs uncompetitive,
adding that proposed
increases to port rental fees,
announced property taxes
and business levies had fur-
ther contributed to the
"unsustainability" of the
"As an export-led busi-
ness, ArcelorMittal Point
Lisas has also been severely
impacted by the drop in
international steel prices and
global overcapacity in steel
production. Imports into
Central America and the
Point Lisas core markets for
its steel products---from out-
side the region, principally
China and Turkey, rose by
almost a quarter (23 per cent)
in 2015, compared with 2014.
"As a result of these fac-
tors, steel orders were
extremely weak in 2015 and
the company s financial posi-
tion deteriorated significantly,
with net losses of US$281
million compared with
US$44 million in 2014. Fur-
thermore, the company has
been recording net losses
since 2009," the release stat-
ed.Plant operations were shut
down on November 23, 2015,
and 480 workers were laid
off for six weeks. Workers
returned to duty for two
weeks but were again laid off
in February for another six
weeks. This included 18 more
workers from the accounts
Director Jefferson de Paula
admitted that the decision
was a painful one.
"Today is a very difficult
day for ArcelorMittal Point
Lisas, all its employees and
the community in which we
operate," de Paula said.
"Despite working extreme-
ly hard over recent months
to find a way to keep the iron
and steel plant open, includ-
ing a proposal to transfer
ownership to the Govern-
ment of T&T, maintain
employment and return it to
profitability, we have unfor-
tunately not been able to
reach a solution...
"I know this is very bad
news for all ArcelorMittal
Point Lisas employees and
their families and we recog-
nise that they will be looking
to us for support."
700 fired day after Industrial Court win
ArcelorMittal $1.3b in debt
Workers of ArcelorMittal outside the Steel Workers Union head office at the Southern Main Road,
California, yesterday, after the company announced its local closure. PHOTO: KRISTIAN DE SILVA
In a news conference at the George Camps Complex in
California yesterday, SWUTT president Christopher Henry said
workers were fired and told they would receive only one month's
Those who have unused vacation would be paid for it, but he
said the company gave no indication when these payments
would be made, adding there will also be no severance packages.
"You would remember that just yesterday we had a victory in
the Industrial Court against this company in terms of the illegal
industrial action taken by the company against our members in
laying them off. That joy was short-lived by the information we
received at this meeting," he said.
"We are talking about workers with 30 to 35 years' service,
we are talking about workers who gave their lives to this multi-
The company said employees would be paid what they were
legally entitled to and, in recognition of the impact of the
terminations, the ArcelorMittal Group is considering whether
workers could benefit from the liquidation proceeds that the
group is entitled to as a creditor.
He said when questioned about the company's pension and
savings plan that workers contributed three per cent to,
managing director Robert Bellisle had no answer and requested
the union send him a formal query.
The ripple effect of ArcelorMittal's shutdown also led to the
shutdown of Central Trinidad Steel Ltd (Centrin) and dismissal
of over 200 workers. Centrin depended on ArcelorMittal's direct
reduced iron (DRI) billets to make its products.
Yesterday, Henry said he feared that Tube City IMS, a
company that provides stevedoring services to ArcelorMittal's
port, would also permanently lay off their 200 workers.
Going further, he said T&TEC, WASA and the National Gas
Company, which are major providers to the steel plant, would
lose millions of dollars with the closure of ArcelorMittal. With
T&T's economy contracting, he said, this could lead to further
unemployment in those state companies with their profit
margins expected to drop. He estimated that 20,000 people
would be affected.
ONE MONTH'S SALARY FOR WORKERS
After working for 35 years at the Arcelor-
Mittal plant, single mother Joanette Pariag
is worried that she will no longer be able to
support her daughter s school expenses.
Pariag, 54, a former port co-ordinator in the
Port Operations Department, said yesterday
that her daughter Jade is a third-year University
of the West Indies student at the Faculty of
"I must be worried, because how many more
ports are there in the country that will hire a
port co-ordinator?" a worried Pariag, who was
with the company since it was owned by Iron
and Steel Company of T&T (ISCOTT), asked.
"I really don t know what to do. I don t have
any alternative work and as to how I am going
to take care of my child."
Although GATE covers tuition expenses for
Jade, the 2006 Top SEA Performer, Pariag said
the cost of books and medical equipment she
will need when she goes into rotation at the
various health institutions this year is very
high. In addition, she said she pays a $2,400
monthly rent for Jade to stay close to the Mount
Ricardo Balkaran, a millwright with his wife
and two daughters to support. He worries about
his mortgage, and how he would survive with
just one month s salary coming. He said while
he was not surprised by the termination, the
lack of payment and severance had left him in
Although the Joint Trade Union Movement
(JTUM) was having an emergency meeting
yesterday afternoon to discuss possible action,
Steel Workers Union president Christopher
Henry said the Government must intervene,
especially with legislation to protect citizens
from foreign companies operating in T&T. He
said the Government should mandate these
companies to have unemployment insurance
for instances like these.
He said ArcelorMittal made billions of dollars
in T&T and as soon as times got hard they
have bailed out on citizens.
Although part of ArcelorMittal s problem
was low steel prices driven down by an over-
supply of cheap Chinese steel in the global
market, recent international news showed that
several Chinese steel mills are also on the verge
of closure as they are unable to turn a profit.
China took a decision to increase production
as its economy contracted.
With the SWUTT eyeing a turnaround in
the steel market, the union s chief labour rela-
tions officer, Timothy Bailey, said they propose
that Government take over the plant as there
are many competent workers ready to work.
He said over time, many employees had devel-
oped expertise in the industry.
"We are saying that over the passage of time
we would have made experts, some of them
retired. We think that we have the competent
personnel in T&T to start up this plant, if that
possibility arises, for us to run this plant locally,"
"There are a lot of experts here in T&T and
we have the workers who produced in the past
and are willing to produce in the future.
"With the mixture of those two ingredients,
we think that it is a possibility and if given the
opportunity, we can make that plant a more
Bailey said cheap steel was being dumped
in this country, which was bad for the con-
struction industry. He said T&T needs to follow
the US in banning "inferior steel", so as to
develop a profitable local market while exploring
new ground in the Caribbean and US.
Hard times ahead for hurt workers
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