As UNC Chairman I am greatly concerned about the hundreds of citizens who are being affected by retrenchment and unemployment as a result of a slow in the economy.
In a recent news release BPTT confirmed that it currently undertaking consulting with its employees. As a result, the company anticipates that at the end of this process approximately 2.5 per cent of its national employees will be impacted and over 50 per cent of its expatriate staff in Trinidad will be re-patriated. Similarly workers at ArcelorMittal and Central steel have also been affected.
Ironically despite the Prime Minister’s pre-election statements that no citizen would lose their jobs, many contract workers in various Ministries and Government Agencies are being sent home on a regular basis.
At the first meeting of the Trinidad and Tobago Bipartite Forum held at the Kapok Hotel, University of the West Indies Professor Karl Theodore warned that this country’s unemployment rate could jump to as high as 15 percent during the present recession, given that employment is strongly dependent on the energy sector.
As hundred of workers face uncertainty they have been given the added burden of having to endure higher food prices.
As a nation we may look at the Global Community and use the ever falling oil prices as a reason for our economic slow and other Global Economic Condition.
However as a nation we must do all in our power to ensure that the bread winners of each home are given the opportunity to continue providing for their families.
One of the major points championed by Professor Theodore was the need for the cost of living to be made cheaper. Due to the current administration’s Vat Regime Cost of living has risen. Although Vat has been reduced but it has been re-introduced on many necessities that were VAT free.
It is my Humble View that Government and more specifically the Ministry of Labour should undertake a series of consultations with Business stakeholders, Company Representatives involved in the energy sector , Chambers of Commerce, Senior Economist and Unions to find ways in which to battle unemployment.
These Consultations must be used for three core purposes. The First must be developing a mechanism to educate the public on dealing with the repercussions of an economic downturn. The second must be an intense understanding between all stakeholders on the reduction of unemployment as well as ensure realignment of those displaced and retrenched. Government should consider increasing and providing training opportunities to assist in realignment as well as tax breaks for firms to ensure that employment is regulated.
Government must finally use this consultation and planning to ensure the age old discussion on Diversification is materialised. Under the former Peoples Partnership Administration diversification was well on the way via support for Many niche markets and industries.
Government must assess and renew its commitment to many small businesses especially the food producers as the major way to battle inflation is to reduce food prices by increasing supply.
This is a period in our Nations history where we must put aside differences in the different sectors to ensure the best for our Nations families.
In the past month one of the issues I held closest to my heart is the detrimental effects which the Foreign Used Car Industry is presently experiencing. If this industry is affected or downsized as is projected , over 15,000 workers face the breadline. These are workers who may find it difficult to obtain employment in other industries.
It is my hope that Government really does a close assessment of the current situation and undertake consultation so as to reduce the impacts on our Nation’s greatest resource – our human capital.