Steel Mills

ArcelorMittal Shuts Down Trinidad Facility

Written by Sandy Williams

Steelworkers at ArcelorMittal in Trinidad and Tobago were fired one day after winning a wage dispute in the Industrial Court. ArcelorMittal said it is closing the Point Lisas plant and workers would receive one-month’s salary and payment for any unused vacation time.

In November 2015, 480 workers were laid off for six weeks and then again in February after resuming work for just two weeks. Point Lisas’ workers would have returned to work on Sunday, March 13.

A press statement from the company blamed low steel prices and global overcapacity for the closure. Despite attempts to avoid closure of the plant, domestic and international challenges had resulted in severe losses and left the company with $1.3 billion in debt.

Proposed increases in gas and electricity rates at a time of falling commodity prices had rendered production costs uncompetitive, said the company, adding that proposed increases to port rental fees, announced property taxes and business levies had further contributed to the “unsustainability” of the business.

“As an export-led business, ArcelorMittal Point Lisas has also been severely impacted by the drop in international steel prices and global overcapacity in steel production. Imports into Central America and the Caribbean—ArcelorMittal Point Lisas’ core markets for its steel products—from outside the region, principally China and Turkey, rose by almost a quarter (23 per cent) in 2015, compared with 2014.

“As a result of these factors, steel orders were extremely weak in 2015 and the company’s financial position deteriorated significantly, with net losses of US$281 million compared with US$44 million in 2014. Furthermore, the company has been recording net losses since 2009,” the release stated.

ArcelorMittal said it will comply with the Industrial Court ruling and promised to pay whatever monies are owed to employee. The court fined ArcelorMittal TT$24,000 (about US$3,840) and criticized the company’s handling of the layoffs.

President General of the Steel Workers Union (SWUTT) Christopher Henry called for immediate intervention by Prime Minister Keith Rowley, noting the burden closure of the mill will have on the local economy.

Henry said the move by the company is “the fallout of lack of preparation with having legislation in place to protect citizens… the working class, from the capitalist system that allows them (multi-nationals) to be able to come into your country, plunder and rape your country and leave.”

When the company was questioned about employee pension plan, Henry said no answer was given, a formal query from the union was requested by managing director Robert Bellisle.

The shutdown at Point Lisas created a domino effect leading to shutdown of Central Trinidad Steel which depends on ArcelorMittal’s DRI billets to make its products. Utilities that provided services to the Point Lisas plant are expected to lose millions, potentially impacting 20,000 jobs.

ArcelorMittal’s Point Lisas facility in Trinidad is located in the Point Lisas Industrial Estate, approximately 10 miles north of the coast of Venezuela. The facility is a DRI, billet and wire rod producing plant.

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