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ArcelorMittal ‘meltdown’ roils Trinidad

Published:Friday | April 8, 2016 | 12:00 AM
The Point-a-Pierre harbour with the Point Lisas industrial estate in the background.

ArcelorMittal 'meltdown'

roils Trinidad

The Trinidad and Tobago government has hinted at amending legislation aimed at protecting workers to guard against what Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus has described as an ArcelorMittal-type meltdown from occurring again in that country.

"Within the next three weeks, I will be hosting a consultation and inviting all stakeholders to come and sit down and look at the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act, the Company Act, collaborating with the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago," said Baptiste-Primus.

"At the end the day, we would want amendments to the legislation that provided that kind of protection," she said.

ArcelorMittal Point Lisas, a subsidiary of the world's leading steel and mining company, is closing down its operations, putting nearly 700 people on the breadline.

The company said that for the last decade of its operations, it has suffered major financial losses for seven of those years and that, given uncertainties in the international steel market, laying off the workers was a last resort.

The Steel Workers Union of Trinidad and Tobago said its members were sent home without adequate compensation, and on Tuesday, the union led the dismissed workers into a meeting that the company was having with some of its creditors.

The workers stormed the meeting, pushing past the police and shouting "Don't shoot", with their arms up in the air.

Baptiste-Primus, speaking at the end of a meeting with the union and the dismissed workers, said she intends to introduce legislative changes in parliament by the end of the year to protect workers.

"They don't have a work, no benefits. They were not retrenched. If they were retrenched, they would have been eligible for payment of retrenchment and separation benefits. They have been sent home with one month's salary," Baptiste-Primus said.

"We will have to strike the right balance because we do not want to develop laws that it does not provide an inviting scenario for foreign investors, but certainly, we have the responsibility to provide more protection for the workers in this country", she added.

"This government will ensure that another ArcelorMittal does not take place in this country."