Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 14th 2016 Contents SHARLENE RAMPERSAD
A glimmer of hope for 644 former work-
ers of ArcelorMittal as Labour Minister Jen-
nifer Baptiste-Primus agreed yesterday to
take their suggestions to keep the plant
running to the Prime Minister for consid-
Following a four-hour closed-door meeting
at the Steel Workers Union of T&T (SWUTT)
headquarters in California yesterday, Bap-
tiste-Primus says she will also share the
union s suggestions for the future viability
of the plant with company officials at a meet-
ing scheduled for today.
"The union has also shared with me sug-
gestions regarding the future, from their per-
spective, the future viability of the plant,"
"Information that I cannot share with you
at this time, but information I have agreed
to share with the Minister of Finance (Colm
Imbert) and the Prime Minister (Dr Keith
"There appears to be other variables
involved in this situation that requires the
Government to attend to with a sense of
urgency," she said.
On Saturday, SWUTT s vice president,
Ramkumar Narinesingh, told the T&T
Guardian Mittal was offering its company
in T&T to the Government for $1 but the
Government would have to assume the com-
pany s $1.3 billion debt.
Baptiste-Primus is expected to meet with
the management of ArcelorMittal today at
her office in Port-of-Spain at 1 pm.
Asked if the Government would be willing
to purchase the steel manufacturing plant,
Baptiste-Primus said, "I am not at liberty
to engage in discussion about that issue. I
would, however, direct you to the Minister
of Finance. In that regard, he would much
more information than I would have." Finance
Minister Colm Imbert said on Saturday that
he intended to speak on the issue later this
Baptiste-Primus also outlined measures
she is putting in place to help the workers
deal with debt.
"The most critical point of that plan is a
conversation with the financial institutions
of the country to adopt a more human
approach in addressing retrenched workers
financial liability, in terms of loans and mort-
gages. Because workers paid their loans and
mortgages religiously and, at the point they
are "taken" low, one would expect that while
the financial institutions have a responsibility
to ensure that loans and mortgages must be
serviced, there must be a humane approach."
She said she had already met with president
of the Credit Union League, Joseph Remy.
"On Friday, my team and I met with the
Remy and we discussed various windows of
opportunity can be made available to the
workers. I am very pleased to say discussions
Meetings with the Bankers Association
and the T&T Mortgage Finance Company
(TTMF) are also scheduled for later this week,
Speaking to members of the media after
the meeting, president of SWUTT, Christo-
pher Henry, urged workers not to give up.
"All I could tell the workers that discussion
to get this plant running or convince this
company through the Government to open
the doors is one that will take quite awhile,"
"This union will continue to fight to the
end to ensure just due is paid to them or
that the plant reopens."
Henry said the workers, along with expa-
triate workers who were recently dismissed,
have the capability of running the steel plant,
if the Government decides to purchase it.
"We have the expertise right here. We have
been telling the company that for months
now. And, even if we have to get foreign
labour, there are expats right here who are
ready and waiting to come back to work. We
have the expertise, we can do it."
He accused the ArcelorMittal s manage-
ment team of engineering its own end.
"When challenges came to our doorstep,
they started making low-grade products,
making it harder for us to compete in the
global market. They took the orders we had
and sent it to Costa Rica and to Brazil, reduc-
ing our production. Every decision that had
a negative impact on workers and on the
company was taken by the company.
"That is why we are saying it was an
orchestrated plan by the company that led
to this," Henry added.
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Glimmer of hope
for steel workers
On Friday, ArcelorMittal informed its
workers via letter that the company
would be closing its operations in
Trinidad and terminated their
employment with immediate effect.
During meetings with the union,
company executives claimed the steel
giant was bankrupt and operating while
under a $1.3b debt.
Last Thursday, the union was
successful in a court matter against the
company for laying off workers in
December and again in February.
ArcelorMittal was ordered to pay the
However, the company filed for
insolvency on Friday and, if successful,
any court orders for compensation will
become null and void.
Any other matters before the court
against the company will also be null
Chairman of the
Board to the Govern-
ment, Dr Terrence
Farrell, said it would
not be prudent for the
acquire the Arcelor-
Mittal steel plant.
He said even if the
company did not have
the $1.3 billion debt, it
would still be "impru-
dent" for to acquire
Justifying his state-
ment, Farrell---an economist and former Central
Bank deputy governor---said the Government has
no resources with which to acquire that company
or any company.
"The Government does not have the management
expertise to successfully manage this company in
what is an extremely challenged marketplace for
its output in the foreseeable future. It is not enough
to have skilled labour to successfully run a globally
competitive business. You need capital, management,
international marketing, logistics and supply chain
management and deep knowledge of the technol-
Last Thursday, the Industrial Relations Court
ruled in favour of 700 workers who were laid off
between December 2015 and February 2016. But,
on Saturday, the workers were informed of the
company s decision to close its doors because it
had racked up a debt of $1.3 billion since 2009.
The company also offered the Government to pur-
chase the company for $1.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has described
the decision to close the company as punitive and
In emailed responses to the T&T Guardian yes-
terday, Farrell said even if the company was acquired
for the purpose of saving jobs, it would be a "mis-
take." That mistake was made previously, he said,
and should not be repeated. Referring to Arcelor-
Mittal s financials he said acquiring a company
with such a large debt may mean that T&T s external
debt "will increase precisely when we would not
want it to."
Farrell said when it comes to the global market-
place the outlook for oil, gas, and other commodities
remain "dire" and this country cannot change that.
"We have to adjust to it (the global reality) by
taking decisive action with our macroeconomic
policies to meet the challenges. Wishful thinking
and hoping for miracles will not help. Our Trini
God will surely help us, but only if we help our-
Not prudent to
ArcelorMittal workers at the Steel Workers Union T&T office, California, during the union's meeting with Labour Minister, Jennifer
Baptiste-Primus yesterday. PHOTO: KRISTIAN DA SILVA
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