Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 18th 2017 Contents MAY 18 • 2017 guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
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Trade unionists, economist dispute Colm's claim:
More than 4,000
2015 and 2016
Questioning the Central
Statistical Office figures
(CSO) figures quoted by
Finance Minister Colm
Imbert that less than
4,000 people lost jobs
between 2015 and 2016, an economist, an
industrial relations consultant and trade
unions are saying it does not reflect reality.
They are saying more people than that
were retrenched and the actual number of
people laid off could be double the amount
outlined in the CSO report for the fourth
quarter of 2016.
Imbert, in his mid-year budget review
last week, said the unemployment rate at
the end of 2016 rose by just over half of a
per cent from the previous year.
"The number of unemployed people rose
to 25,500 by the end of 2016 from 21,900
the year before, or by less than 4,000. This
is a far cry from the wild figure of 25,000
job losses being bandied about by Members
opposite," Imbert said.
Gregory McGuire, retired University of
the West Indies economics lecturer and
member of a former PNM government's
2003 Vision 2020 committee, said the
CSO figures quoted by Imbert "were at
Based on the current economic climate,
the figure, he said, could be more.
"Inaccurate data has often been used by
politicians when it suits their purpose."
McGuire said there was an urgent need
to modernise the CSO.
"There were concerns with the CSO over
the last ten years which the last government
and the one before knew about and didn't
do enough to address."
McGuire said the conversation, however,
is much larger than who is right and who is
wrong about unemployment figures.
"It has to be about how do we get out of this
mess. The country is in a very difficult sit-
uation, just as bad as the 1980s' recession."
He warned "sterner measures" may be
coming from the Government.
Industrial relations consultant, Lindhurst
Murray of MCM & Co, said he did not know
where the CSO got its figures from but he
believes unemployment between 2015 and
2017 has to be more than 4,000.
Murray, who has been busy with the
number of retrenchments taking place,
said, "For instance, in just one state-funded
NGO alone, whose subvention was cut by
$10 million, 70 people were retrenched in
Murray said companies have also been
finding ways to avoid reporting the true
number of people they are retrenching to
the Labour Ministry.
"If you retrench more than five people
you have to report it. Some companies are
retrenching four, waiting 45 days and then
What the unions say...
Couva South MP Rudy Indarsingh, former
labour minister in the last People's Part-
nership administration, has taken Imbert
to task over the 4,000 figure, saying he did
not know if it was a deliberate manipulation
of the figures.
Saying unemployment figures between
2015 and 2016 were higher, he listed a num-
ber of companies that, in total, retrenched
hundreds of workers, including Arcelor Mit-
tal in January 2016 and service providers,
Centrin and Tube City, Cariflex, One Carib-
bean Media Company, Guardian Media Ltd,
RBC, different ministries, the Tobago House
of Assembly, Caroni Green, Seafood Indus-
tries Ltd and Community Comfort Patrol.
Indarsingh said a number of service com-
panies contracted to Petrotrin and other oil
companies also downsized.
"And there are a number of major com-
panies in the construction sector who have
been sending home hundreds of workers
"Even supermarkets in little communities
are sending home two and three workers. I
also know of a number of gas stations that
have been closed."
He said apart from high unemployment
there is a lot of underemployment in the
"They are workers who are getting one
and two days work for the week, Indars-
Christopher Henry of the Steel Workers
Union said of the 2,000 or so people re-
trenched when Arcelor Mittal closed down
in January 2016, just ten per cent got back
"Twenty per cent have been working on
and off jobs and another eight per cent have
been doing their own thing. If you include
driving taxi that would take this figure to
ten per cent.
"But the majority of the 2,000, many 50
years and over, do not have jobs to this day."
Henry said they have been living on their
National Trade Union Centre (Natuc)
president Michael Annisette said their
information is that more than 4,000 lost
jobs between 2015 and 2016. "It can't be
4,000. It's got to be more."
He questioned the CSO's methodology in
interviewing people about unemployment
and said there was a need to modernise it's
Annisette said Natuc does not consider
make-work jobs real jobs.
Federation of Independent Trade Unions
president (Fitun), Joseph Remy, said Im-
bert was happily quoting the CSO which the
PNM in Opposition lambasted as outdated
He said Fitun totally disputes the 4,000
unemployment figure. "It's an error. It can't
be that. It's not an accurate reflection of the
actual reality on the ground."
Remy said the number of retrenched
people between 2015 and 2016 "could be
President of the
Communication Workers Union
general secretary, National Trade Union Centre
Couva South MP
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