Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 13th 2016 Contents A3
March 13, 2016 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
The Steel Workers Union (SWUTT) is
not accepting ArcelorMittal s claims that
it was incurring losses since 2009, which
subsequently led to the company being
forced to close its Point Lisas plant on
The union has labelled the company s
move as a "strategic" way to wash its hands
of its obligations to workers.
Only on Thursday, workers celebrated
having won at the Industrial Court, in a
case against the company for laying them
off twice between December 2015 and Feb-
ruary this year.
Their short-lived jubilation turned to
immediate sorrow, after they were informed
that the company had incurred a $1.3 billion
debt and could no longer continue to oper-
ate. Over 700 workers had suddenly lost
According to SWUTT s vice-president,
Ramkumar Narinesingh, the company s
managing director, Robert Bellisle, indicated
in a meeting on Friday that last December,
the company had sent a proposal to the
Government offering the plant for sale for
"He did not say whether it was a TT or
US dollar. It could have been a single dollar
or a nominal fee, he did not elaborate."
This means that if Government purchases
the company, it will automatically inherit
the $1.3 billion debt.
Narinesingh said when the liquidators
take over, the company will no longer be
obligated to settle outstanding payments to
people who would have won in court. Addi-
tionally, matters before the courts will be
deemed null and void.
He said what this country was facing was
the actions of a shrewd businessman and
Steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal was once
listed by Forbes as the third richest man in
Britain, with a net worth of over $45 bil-
According to Narinesingh, the union
believes that ArcelorMittal s main creditor
is Mittal himself. Mittal, he added, mines
iron ore and sells back to ArcelorMittal.
Government, he noted, has called on the
company to provide a list of their creditors,
which they are not obligated to do.
The union is now calling on Government
to step in, "and not diplomatically," to protect
the rights of its citizens.
"Where were their austerity plans? We
just cannot see that a company with knowl-
edge that it was heading into a bleak financial
situation would continue wanton expendi-
ture as it did in the years since 2009. This
man (Mittal) bought this company for $70
million and in one year paid back that loan.
He was recorded as one of the richest men
in England and just allowed the largest steel
producing company in the world to suffer
cash haemorrhages, while executives here
replaced their upgraded vehicles annually.
"They kept lavish Christmas parties for
several years now, after 2009, rented out
entire venues and engaged top entertain-
ment and the company was in debt? We,
the union, as the social partners, were never
told that. In fact we had the largest union
settlement of 14 per cent and hefty upgrad-
ed benefits in our last negotiations and all
the while the company was incurring huge
debts?" queried Narinesingh during a tele-
phone interview with Sunday Guardian
He said there were just too many ways
to have curbed expenditure if the company
knew it was that strapped for cash and
Additionally, there was the issue of final
settlement of share payments from after
the period 2008, which was made manda-
tory during Mittal s buy-out years ago. He
said workers had already been paid $150,000
each for the period up to 2008 after Mittal
continued to refuse to place the shares on
the local open market, but agreed to pay
The previous government, he stated, is
aware of discussions to finally settle these
Narinesingh said they anticipate that Mit-
tal (Lakhsmi) will allow the company to be
liquidated and "wash his hands of all obli-
gations the company has to its local work-
He also speculated that Mittal would
return in the near future, repurchase the
company and return to these shores under
a different company name, continuing oper-
ations in some form or fashion.
Narinesingh queried, too, the valuation
of the company after an audit by Pricewa-
He said what they understood occurred
was that the company was devalued by its
executives who stated that its assets would
have to be replaced rather than repaired.
Calls to the mobile of Labour Minister
Jennifer Baptiste-Primus yesterday went
Calls to the mobile of the head of legal
at ArcelorMittal Vijayalakshmi Jaigopal also
Finance Minister Colm Imbert, when
reached on his cellphone, said he will com-
ment on the matter next week.
ArcelorMittal offers Govt
its $1.3 billion debt for $1
LAKSHMI MITTAL---STEEL TYCOON
Steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, once
labelled by Forbes as the third richest man
in Britain, attempted to buy out Arcelor in
Luxembourg in 2006 for $18.6 billion
pounds cash and shares. The offer was
rejected by Arcelor's directors as hostile.
Arcelor, created in 2002 from a merger of
French, Luxembourg, Belgian and Spanish
steel interests, warned against Mittal's
"irregular" profitability, pledging to
consider "all options" to foil the hostile bid,
according to an NBC news report in 2006.
Two days later, prime minister Jean-
Claude Juncker of Luxembourg, which held
5.6 per cent share in Arcelor, vowed to use
"all necessary means" to fend off Mittal's
After a couple months of negotiations,
Arcelor finally agreed to the merger for
$33.5 billion from Mittal.
Amidst rumours that the management
of ArcelorMittal has offered to sell the
Government the Trinidad leg of their
operations for $1, economist David Abdu-
lah says the offer may be a trap.
In an interview yesterday, Abdulah said
if a condition of the sale is that the Gov-
ernment has to assume Mittal s $1.3 billion
debt, the company could be "setting up"
"It doesn t make any sense to purchase
the company and assume the debts," Abdu-
lah said. "Because we don t know whether
the debts are intra-company. It might look
like a good deal to the people of T&T but
it may just be a good deal for Arcelor."
Abdulah said if the company was suc-
cessful in filing for insolvency, the workers
will be the last to receive any payment.
The company has applied to the Inspector
of Insolvency at the Ministry of Finance
"A liquidator is appointed and seeks to
sell and pay off creditors. The problem is
the workers who are owed, their debt is
considered the last of the debt to be paid.
"All other creditors would be paid off
first as severance pay is last in the list."
Sale offer 'a trap'---Abdulah
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