Steel company defends move to cut 480 jobs in T&T

(Trinidad Express) In the face of calls to reinstate employees, steel producer ArcelorMittal is defending its decision to cut its staff by 480 workers.

The Point Lisas company said late on Friday night that there has been misinformation in the public domain by leaders of the Steel Workers Union of Trinidad and Tobago (SWUTT) and others.

In particular, the number of staff it has had to shed.

That number is 480 and not 600.

On Friday, Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) members said it was not willing to accept the reasons given by the steel company for sending home the workers until January 15, with a $2,000 stipend.

But ArcelorMittal contends that’s a “completely un- true and misleading” picture.

With regard to managers, ArcelorMittal explained that those with accrued vacation dates took up the company’s offer to proceed on paid vacation leave while those without accrued vacation leave have been engaged to do alternative work at the Point Lisas plant.

The company said it has suffered major financial losses for seven of its ten years of operation.

“With all the turmoil and uncertainty in the international steel market, the company has not laid off or retrenched any of its permanent workforce in recent times, and has only laid off workers in December as a last resort, as emphasised by the Minister of Labour, while resisting exerting additional pressure on the local economy,” it said.

ArcelorMittal said it had initiated discussions with the union since February 2015, “with numerous exchanges continuing on issues relating to the company’s cost of production and the key drivers in this regard before the company was forced to make the decision to revise its footprint in May 2015, to reduce its operations to two DRI plants from three and to one-line operation in the rolling mill and steel plant”.

ArcelorMittal said these footprint changes were made without laying off or retrenching its permanent manpower levels, and the company engaged SWUTT in discussions at every step of the way.

“The lay-offs came only after the SWUTT was asked to present to workers a proposal from the company to proceed on accrued vacation days till mid-January with pay, as they are entitled to in their industrial agreement, and any worker without sufficient holidays would be employed in alternative duties,” it said.

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