ArcelorMittal has closed down its steel plant in Trinidad and Tobago after adopting a policy of temporary lay-offs during the last four months. More than 600 workers have lost their jobs and are working hard to find a solution.
Recent months have been an emotional rollercoaster ride for ArcelorMittal workers at Point Lisas in Trinidad and Tobago: many rounds of negotiations; lay-offs; a well-attended demonstration; and a Port of Spain labour tribunal ruling in their favour over a pay dispute. Despite their tireless struggle, 644 workers have lost their jobs with the sudden closure of the plant.
"The company has exhibited utter disregard and disrespect for the national interest by not engaging in discussions with the government and other stakeholders prior to the actual insolvency coming into effect," said the IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Steel Workers’ Union of Trinidad & Tobago in a press release.
The multinational company said that the fall in the world price of steel and the possible increase in the price of gas and electricity in Trinidad and Tobago were among the reasons why it decided it could no longer operate in the country. The closure took place only one day after the labour tribunal ruled against the company and ordered it to pay a large fine.
After an exchange of letters between Jyrki Raina, IndustriALL General Secretary, and the company’s president and CEO, Lakshmi Mittal, the company said it is “open to continue exploring all options while the liquidation is proceeding in order to maximize the results for all stakeholders. ArcelorMittal is therefore ready to help and cooperate with SWUTT”.
For the moment, SWUTT is trying to find an alternative that will allow the workers to keep their jobs. It is seeking investors who are willing to buy the company and take over its debts. It also called on the government of Trinidad and Tobago to intervene as soon as possible to find a solution.
Fernando Lopes, IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary said:
I visited the plant at the end of last year and it was clear that plant managers were behaving irresponsibly by not investing in the modernization of the factory and intended to close it to punish the union. Workers at Point Lisas are very skilled, so ArcelorMittal and the government should work with SWUTT to identify how to preserve a steel industry in Trinidad and Tobago.