PRESIDENT General of the Steel Workers Union (SWUTT) Christopher Henry is calling on government to amend the industrial relations (IR) legislation, including the Severance Benefits Act, to ensure companies cannot retrench workers without paying retrenchment benefits.
He made the call while addressing the proposed liquidation of Tubecity IMS Trinidad Ltd, where approximately 257 employees are expected to be put on the breadline. Henry said the issue of Tubecity could be traced back to the closure of ArcelorMittal in 2016, which resulted in the closure of several downstream companies and a knock-on impact on related sectors, including local steel processors and specialist suppliers.
On Tubecity, Henry claimed the company had not paid severance benefits to a number of workers and the union had taken them to the Industrial Court.
“And what they did was put the company in insolvency to deny the payment to these workers, so they followed suit to what ArcelorMittal did, because the legislation allows for that. It hasn’t been addressed by this government,” Henry said.
“The Severance and Benefits Act and the Companies Act doesn’t cater for voluntary separation and therefore the change in legislation would have prevented this company from taking this sort of action to deny citizens of TT their just due.”
Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh said the pending liquidation of Tubecity is a direct result of the PNM administration’s “systemic failure to provide any type of protection to the workers of the country.” Indarsingh said government had failed to anticipate the effect of ArcelorMittal’s closure and had done nothing to engage ArcelorMittal in discussions to stave off its closure.
“How many times has Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus promised that her Government will be introducing amendments to the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act and the Industrial Relations Act in Parliament?
“Yet after 31 months in office, this continues to be another failed promise,” he said.
Indarsingh said the reality is that “both the private- and public-sector workers have no assurances or confidence that the Government will protect the terms and conditions of their employment.”
He called on Baptiste-Primus to “adopt and implement swift measures to reverse its non-adherence to enforcing labour laws and protecting workers.”