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More likely to shut doors in recession—PM
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley believes the closure and retrenchment of 644 workers of ArcelorMittal may not be the only company to go belly up with the country’s recession and economic downturn.
“So let us not get carried away with trying to think that this is a one-off situation. Rest assured that company (ArcelorMittal) may not be the only one that is thinking of handling its situation like that,” Rowley said, while speaking on TV6 Morning Edition programme yesterday.
He said last week a plant was closed down and 60 employees faced the breadline because they were having difficulty getting gas since 2014. The PM did not name the company.
Asked if the PNM Government was prepared to deal with a domino effect with other businesses shutting their doors and terminating workers, Rowley said: “At the end of the day businesses do not tell you what goes on in their boardrooms.”
On Friday, steel giant ArcelorMittal informed its workers the company would be closing its operation in Trinidad and terminated their employment with immediate effect.
The company claimed it was operating while under a $1.3 billion debt.
Responding to the closure, Rowley said he did not want to speak much about the issue.
“That far-reaching announcement...really, I am sure, was on the cards before. The Government and the people of Trinidad and Tobago have to deal with this thing.”
The PM said it did not look good that one day after an Industrial Court ruling in favour of the workers, they were fired.
He also defended Minister of Labour Jennifer Baptiste-Primus for failing to meet with officials of the company last Thursday since it was clear certain developments were taking place.
“She (Baptiste-Primus) has to be careful...not to have the Minister of Labour replace their (ArcelorMittal) legal requirements in meeting and treating between the company and the union. If that attempt was being made she had to be careful not to end up in that situation. Remember, the company invited the minister into the process as part of the legal developments. Let us not be too judgmental.”
Rowley said the process was not simple.
“The calling of the minister into a process like that...there are legal implications...the minister has to be guided by certain things.”
Rowley said when the company decided to close its door temporarily last December, they heard that the decision was based on proposed increases in water and electricity rates by the Government.
“Even before this happened, certain kinds of conditions existed to allow that steel company to continue in T&T. It’s the largest user of electricity.” Rowley said there were certain considerations and discussions to take place. “It’s a whole complex issue,” he added.
The PM said he had to maintain the economy on an even keel to ensure there was no job loss and to preserve sustainability.
He said his Government was picking up the pieces left behind by the last administration.
“We expect there would be persons who would not be pleased and they would make comments,” he added.
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