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Union alleges deceit

Published: 
Sunday, March 13, 2016
In wake of ArcelorMittal’s closure
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley

It’s a day later and the Steel Workers Union (SWUTT) is still trying to determine how iron and steel company ArcelorMittal closed its operations, but it believes deception played a part. 

The union feels the company should have stated its financial woes in advance.

The union has since issued letters to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus. It also met with the Joint Trade Union Movement on Friday night. 

SWUTT’s second vice-president, Ramkumar Narinesingh, who worked at the company for 13 years, since he was 17, said the union had no idea that at Friday’s meeting it would have been informed of closure. He said there was a feeling of hopelessness among workers. 

He said: “There is no sense in what is happening here right now. We see this as deception. This company’s intentions appear to be deceptive. There seems to be some underlying, despicable intention.”

He claimed the company, which set up in 1989, enjoyed experimenting so it could beat the system to get its way. He said the manner the company dealt with the workers by first laying them off in December was also questionable.

Narinesingh said: “It is clear that the company was making their workers believe that they were using lay off as a temporary process to help secure the future of the company but it is even clearer now that they were misleading the workers and that their intentions were spiteful and heinous.”

He said contrary to how the company viewed the term lay off, it did not mean with the intention to terminate. 

By utilising lay off, he said the company gave workers the impression that they were being sent home for six weeks without pay but a job would be waiting when they returned. 

“That was where the deception was.”

He said workers were given false hope and could have used the time away to find other jobs. 

Narinesingh said: “In retrospect, this company always seems to have some kind of an agenda and in doing what they have done...they lost cases to the union...it may very well be that the company is using this system to sidestep its obligations. 

“When you look at it, they are claiming $1.3 billion in debt and have been able to dispose of their 700 workers without paying the severance and benefits.”

Workers issued letters

Sunday Guardian saw a copy of the termination letter issued to one employee on Friday by ArcelorMittal’s managing director and chief executive officer Robert Bellisle. The letter’s heading was “Termination of Contract Consequent to Winding Up of Operations.” Bellisle’s letter indicated that the company was constrained to wind up its operations in T&T and would no longer require the employee’s services. 

It added that payment of one month’s salary, along with any other dues including accrued vacation would be made on or before March 31.

Bellisle stated: “The company has not reached this decision easily. However, we have no alternative. The company will respect its legal decision and will endeavour to do all that it can in this difficult period.”

 

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