Forty years ago, Linda McCartha Monica Sandy-Lewis, best known by her sobriquet Calypso Rose, won her first ever Road March title and took the country by storm with her song Gimme More Tempo.”
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ArcelorMittal wives breaking under stress
The devastated 30-year old wife of a terminated ArcelorMittal worker, overcome by money worries, tried to end her life recently by drinking poison and a bottle of rum before running away from home.
A number of other wives of workers who lost their jobs have also suffered mental breakdowns and are receiving psychiatric treatment at public and private medical institutions.
This was the shocking information passed on to the T&T Guardian yesterday about the terrible social fallout quietly taking place from the retrenchment of 1,800 workers from ArcelorMittal and its service provider, Tube City International.
National Security sources confirmed they were called in to assist in tracking down the suicidal wife via her cellphone.
“Her husband did not know where she was and asked us to help find her. We tracked her down using her cellphone.
“When we found her she was unconscious and she was taken to the San Fernando General Hospital where they pumped her stomach. But by the time relatives turned their back, she was out again.”
The source said the police, joined by union members, went on another manhunt in the San Fernando area around the hospital and found her wandering, disoriented, at the top of High Street.
He said when her husband lost his job they had no money to buy food, nowhere to live since they could no longer pay their rent and no money to send their three children to school. The eldest attends a “prestige” school.
“Apparently, the anxiety over their money problems overcame her and she just wanted to end her life.”
Medical sources confirmed the case and said several other wives of terminated ArcelorMittal workers were also receiving treatment for stress.
The T&T Guardian contacted Steel Workers Union president, Christopher Henry, who confirmed there was an ongoing high level of stress among the families of the retrenched workers but he declined to give personal details.
Asked about concerns the situation may also lead to a further rise in the already escalated crime rate, he said, “A certain kind of dialogue is already taking place among some of the terminated workers that is not nice.
“The situation is terrible and will get worse as time goes on. The social fallout has started. I don’t know how it will escalate.
“Every day that goes by it gets worse. It’s a hopeless situation. Right now, the workers are getting by on the two months’ salary they got from the recent court judgment.
“But when that is finished they will have no money and they are not seeing a way out. They have house mortgages to pay, car loans and utility bills, not to mention food and other living expenses.”
Henry said about 80 per cent of the terminated workers are facing the risk of losing their houses because they cannot pay their mortgages.
He said workers come from all over Trinidad, including Point Fortin, Siparia, Princes Town, Chaguanas, California, Gasparillo, Port-of-Spain and east Trinidad.
Giving a conservative estimate of how many family members may be directly affected by the retrenchment of these workers alone, he said it may be around 3,600.
Henry said he, too, has been going through his share of anxiety. “I lost my job at ArcelorMittal, too. I have a mortage to pay, too.
“My wife, parents and sisters are supporting me. And my faith in God. Jesus has promised He will never leave me nor forsake me and I am holding on to that. I have to be strong for the union members.”
Henry said the union has been trying to source jobs from security firms for the retrenched workers. About 40 of the younger ones have signed up to do Youth Training and Employment Partnership courses in welding and other areas to acquire new skills and they will get a stipend.
Henry said he could not understand the government’s lack of intervention in the matter. “Maybe they could dialogue with ArcelorMittal and tell them what they did was unbecoming of a corporate citizen. You are the Government. Who do we turn to?”
Hundreds of workers from different companies in other parts of the country were also recently retrenched.
In March, over 800 workers from Brazilian firm, Construtora OAS, were terminated.
Another 600 contract workers attached to the Water and Sewerage Authority were also sent home.