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498 steel workers fired

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Two weeks after retrenched ArcelorMittal workers resumed duties at the Point Lisas plant, the company has sent home 498 employees from today with no pay.

The latest dismissals by the international steel producer saw 18 more people being sent home than the December 5 lay offs with the payroll department and port employees also receiving retrenchment letters yesterday.

According to the Steel Workers’ Union (SWUTT), the workers were given the letters yesterday, stating that from today, there will be no work for them until March 13. SWUTT are currently engaged in the judicial review of ArcelorMittal’s dismissal of workers in December and union president Christopher Henry said yesterday’s move was a violation of the order by Industrial Court president Deborah Thomas-Felix.

During case management two weeks ago, Thomas-Felix ordered that the conditions set out in the December 5 retrenchment letters be maintained for the duration of the case. That is that the workers should return to work on January 18.

“This was said by the president of the court, Deborah Thomas-Felix and we are surprised that the company would take such an action in that matter. Also, there was a long discourse as it relates to consultation.

“Consultation cannot be you telling me you are going to do this. It means that the union will have an opportunity to present its case, the company will consider and respond. Then in a compromise, the union and the company will come to a position,” Henry said.

However, scores of dejected employees gathered at the union’s office in California yesterday, waiting to hear union’s next move. Henry said workers were broke, as they could not recover from the December dismissals. Meanwhile, he said the expatriates who are paid large salaries remain at the company. 

With the union preparing to meet with Helen Bhagwansingh, the owner of Central Trinidad Steel Ltd (Centrin), where 200 workers were dismissed and the plant mothballed on January 11, Henry said this was a lot for pressure for the union.

In an interview yesterday, he said he has already contacted the union’s attorney and they will meet today to discuss their next move as it relates to ArcelorMittal. He said he also spoke with Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus and will pen a follow-up letter, requesting her intervention.

Saying it was strange, he said the union had agreed to meet with the company to discuss the global climate in the steel industry. He said because they had meetings with the Ministry of Labour and other companies, they scheduled a meeting for Friday, in which they wrote to Baptiste-Primus, requesting her participation.

However, he said they got a letter from the company at 10.38 am yesterday, giving an ultimatum that if they did not agree to meet at noon today, action would be taken. He said at 1.17 pm, they got another letter saying that the workers were being sent home.


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