Alta Student Stories Part III
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Centrin sends home workers
Central Trinidad Steel Limited (Centrin) terminated the services of over 200 employees yesterday, prompting the Steel Workers Union of T&T (SWUTT) to call for the intervention of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
Around 10 am yesterday, about 50 of the terminated workers gathered outside Centrin’s main gate on Mediterranean Drive in the Point Lisas Industrial Estate, Couva, to vent their anger over the decision, asking how they would now take care of their families.
The workers, led by union president Christopher Henry, showed their termination letters to reporters.
“We are again calling on the Prime Minister of T&T to step in here, to sit and have a meeting not only with the company but with the union together and let us have a discussion on the way forward,” Henry said.
“I am also saying some sort of discussion at the government level must be had with ArcelorMittal in terms of the company’s operations in our country.
“Since last year to now, we have approximately 2,000 workers that have hit the breadline. When you work that out it’s about 15,000 citizens of T&T being affected,” he added.
Henry said numerous efforts by the union to negotiate with Centrin to stay open had failed.
He added: “Comrades who have been working in this company for the last 20-25 years, today have been informed that because of the company’s inability to be serviced with raw material from ArcelorMittal they have to close their doors.
“The union would have sat with this company and reached out in regards to what could we do together to keep this company open.
“They would have said to us there are two things that can be done, either ArcelorMittal opening its doors once again, supplying the raw material or the opportunity for US currency to import the raw material to ensure these workers stay viable, that the company remains open and the workers stay employed.”
SWUTT, which also represents the hundreds of dismissed ArcelorMittal workers, said it also met with ArcelorMittal management to discuss the future of Centrin workers as well.
“We would have made approaches to ArcelorMittal as it relates to what is the future of the company here because the management of Centrin is saying their staying open depends on Mittal.
“To date ArcelorMittal has not made any statement as it relates to the future of the company.
“We would have met with them last Friday, indicating to them that we demand to know what is the future of the workers. They say at the end of February they might be able to say something on it,” Henry said.
Although the economic downturn has far reaching effects, Henry said workers should not be the ones to bear the full brunt alone.
“One suggestion is that the employers cannot just be looking at continued profit when we are in a recession. It has to be that we look at all avenues and everybody in the sphere of this whole challenge that we are facing...face some sort of cut and all the citizens of T&T will be able to survive the challenges and will be able to rally this challenge that we have until it turns around.”
He made a appeal to those in authority to recognise that the job losses were a national issue.
“We must now realise it is not just a matter of steel union workers being displaced, it is a national issue and it will continue to get worse. We have to come together to see how best we could stop the hemorrhaging that is taking place,” he added.
The T&T Guardian contacted Centrin for a response and was told to contact Centrin’s parent company, Bhagwansingh’s Hardware & Steel Industry Limited, to speak to the company’s director Vinoo Ramoutar.
However, a member of staff said Ramoutar was not at the office and messages left for him were not returned.
Temul Khan has been with Centrin for the past 32 years, since its inception.
Khan told the T&T Guardian yesterday that at age 53 he has no idea what he would do now to support his family.
“I started working here when I was just 21.
“None of the guys who work here come from any kind of wealthy background. It’s mostly the poorer class and we would have worked to build this company up to what it is today,” he said.
Khan started at Centrin as a machine operator and before yesterday’s termination was a production co-ordinator.
He blasted Centrin and its parent company, Bhagwansingh’s Hardware & Steel Industry Limited, for not absorbing the 200-plus employees in its other companies.
“They should have at least tried to absorb the workers in the other companies they own, instead of just sending people home. Most of us do not know if or where we will get another job. With all the job cuts facing the industry, who is going to hire us?” he asked.