As Member of Parliament for the Constituency of Pointe a Pierre I am very concerned about the welfare and livelihood of the seven hundred employees who were retrenched due to the sudden closure of Steel Company ArcelorMittal last week. A large number of these former employees reside within the Constituency of Pointe a Pierre due to the close proximity of Mittal’s location in the Point Lisas Industrial Estate.
These are very “turbulent and uncertain” economic times for any individual to be relegated into the unfortunate realm of unemployment given the rising prices of food, gas and general cost of living as a consequence of the Governments change to the VAT Regime. Thus it is my sincere hope that Government undertakes all in its power via the Ministry of Labour to ensure these workers are fairly compensated proportionate to the number of years they have offered committed service to ArcelorMittal.
However the statements of the Honorable Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee Scoon were quite unfortunate, disrespectful and insensitive to those who are faced with this great injustice. Speaking to the Media over the weekend the Minister indicated that she was unfazed by the Company’s closure and suggested two pieces of information which were far from the truth or reality. The Minister stated that the displaced workers would easily find employment in other sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture, while the Company’s Closure didn’t reflect the state of the Trinidad and Tobago Economy.
It is quite bewildering that someone in a position of leadership would be unfazed by such a critical issue which presents many negative repercussions to the social and economic framework of Trinidad and Tobago. The national public will note this is not the first time the Minister has been involved in an insensitive issue, given her recent involvement in the draconian change to the Foreign Used Car Policy.
Over the past six months there have been over 1500 job losses coupled with a contraction in the manufacturing sector due to the change in the tax regime. Therefore it will not be easy as suggested for displaced workers to be absorbed into any of these sectors especially given the tedious task needed to change the skill set which they already possess.
The closure of Mittal is indeed a cause for concern as it relates to the Economy, given the fact that Mittal is the largest steelmaker in the Caribbean and the largest non-oil industrial complex in Trinidad and Tobago.
As Member of Parliament for the Constituency of Pointe a Pierre where many of the displaced workers reside, I call on Government to do all in their power to ensure justice for the former employees as well as assisting with further employment opportunities in an effort to protect the economic and social fabric of Trinidad and Tobago.