THE Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) has raised concerns about more workers being retrenched at Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL).
OWTU chief labour officer Lindon Mendoza outlined the union's concerns to reporters at a news conference outside TCL's plant in Claxton Bay.
Mendoza said in a letter dated January 6, TCL said it planned to retrench 12 workers. He recalled that from 2018 to the present, the company has retrenched groups of 24, eight and 18 workers.
Mendoza also claimed the OWTU received information that TCL was considering retrenchment at its subsidiary TCL Packaging Ltd (TPL). He warned that if this happens, this would place 28 permanent workers and 12 temporary workers on the breadline. Mendoza said there are plans to contract out the work of TPL to another company and import cement bags from Brazil.
In the case of the 12 workers targeted for retrenchment, Mendoza said they are skilled staff from various departments in TCL, with periods of service from five-15 years. Saying the decision to retrench workers is being driven by Mexican company Cemex, which has control of TCL, Mendoza said, " It's a corporate decision made to favour contract and contractor workers. We are seeing the systematic dismantling of the permanent work force in favour of casual and temporary workers."
He estimated TCL's current workforce to be over 400 workers.
While Government is giving incentives to companies like TCL to give them a competitive advantage, Mendoza charged, "These companies in the backdrop now retrench workers and outsource aspects of their workforce both locally and internationally, to the detriment of the people of TT."
The OWTU has filed several trade disputes with the Labour Ministry on other retrenchment matters, is prepared to do so in this case and progress the matter to the Industrial Court, But Mendoza said the union is not seeking Labour Minister Stephen McClashie's intervention at this time, but added, "We would want the Minister of Trade to take careful note of the practices of this organisation."
The OWTU has requested a meeting with TCL to discuss the proposed retrenchment on Friday, he said, but the company had not yet responded.
He did not think TCL was using the covid19 pandemic to retrench workers.
Roxanne Holder-Simons, who has worked in TCL's accounts department for the last 25 years, was one of the 12 listed for retrenchment.
"It is never ideal to leave a company in this manner," Holder-Simons said. She has five children and said she may have to access her pension earlier than planned if she is retrenched.
Kerron Whiskey, a welder in TCL's engineering department, said he has been with the company for the last 11 years. Whiskey, who was served his retrenchment letter last Wednesday, said, "This notice came at an inappropriate time during this covid period. I have a young son, he's eight years old, to send to school."
Whiskey agreed with Mendoza about contract labour at TCL.