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Steel workers head to Industrial Court
Members of the Steel Workers Union who were retrenched and have been on the breadline for the past month yesterday went to the Industrial Court, St Vincent Street in Port-of-Spain to file an Industrial Relations Offence against a Point Lisas-based company.
President of the union Lex Lovell, said Central Trinidad Steel Mill (Centrin) had initially told workers that they would be laid off for a month between June 15 and July 17. However, they recently received notice that the retrenchment would continue for the month of August. “The courts should intervene first and foremost. It is a breach of the collective agreement and secondly, it is about laying off workers with no set determination as to when they will be rehired or even propose some form of relief,” Lovell said.
The union leader said he fears there are plans to make the retrenchment of the steel workers permanent and this would affect the other hourly, daily and weekly paid workers of the company. “Sometime week before, they come and say they extend it by another month, till August month, and they can’t give a clear date or when they will start to re-employ the workers. As far as we see it, it heading for a permanent lay-off,” he said.
He said the retrenchment is affecting over 100 employees and he is hoping that the Industrial Court will give the workers the justice that they deserve. “At this point in time when the country is talking about productivity and yet these workers have overproduced because they have been called upon to produce and when they produce they are being laid off. Is this a sign of things to come?” he asked.
Even though the company has told the workers that the lay-off is due to over-productivity, Lovell said he suspects there is more going on than the company is willing to reveal. Lovell called on the appropriate authorities to intervene as he said many of the workers had families to maintain. “These workers have families, they have schoolbooks to buy just now and they have to eat, so something has to be done,” he said.
He said that over the last two months the union had tried to work something out with Centrin but they are yet to get any positive feedback. “We believe that the Ministry of Trade and Investment as well as the Prime Minister and the Caricom Secretariat have to deal with the dumping of steel from other countries,” he said. Several attempts to contact Centrin officials via telephone proved futile.
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