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posted 9 Dec 2015, 11:26 by Gerry Kangalee

On 2015-12-09 the National Workers Union issued the following statement headlined SOLIDARITY WITH STEEL WORKERS:

The National Workers Union (NWU) stands in solidarity with the hundreds of workers who have been thrown on the breadline by transnational corporation ArcelorMittal and with their union the Steel Workers Union of Trinidad and Tobago (SWUTT) in these trying times when workers are being made to pay for the crisis of capitalism they had no part in causing.

ArcelorMittal is the top steel producing company in the world, producing 98 million tonnes of steel in 2014, more than double that of its closest rival Nippon Steel. Yet this transnational giant has demonstrated tremendous bad faith in its dealing with SWUTT and its treatment of its employees.

On Monday 7th December, less than three weeks before Christmas, it laid off six hundred permanent workers, one month after terminating 800 contract workers and after terminating 200 unionised Tube City workers in March and replacing them with non-unionised workers. The latest actions by ArcelorMittal should come as no surprise because their history of dealing with the workers and their union has been nothing short of repressive and barbarous.

The union had negotiated a memorandum with the company which made allowance for alternative employment during the downturn in the international steel market based on an article in the legally binding collective agreement negotiated between the company and the union. 

The company refused to renew the memorandum and instead gave the union a take it or leave it position. Despite the union asking for time to discuss the proposal with its members within minutes of the ending of the meeting where the non-proposal was made workers began receiving lay off letters. 

The company violated all procedure by not communicating with the union in writing, outlining their intention to lay off; providing a list of workers to be laid off and spelling out the criteria used to determine who were to be laid off. 

But this is not surprising; this transnational corporation has made billions of dollars in profit from its Point Lisas operation, it has enjoyed subsidised electricity, natural gas and water. When the billions were rolling in, there was no question of sharing with the workers, who had to fight for every benefit achieved. 

But when the commodity cycle goes into reverse, they are making sure the workers pay the price. This is how international capital operates. It is a salutary lesson for workers that capitalism has nothing to do with loyalty. It has to do with the maximisation of profit regardless of the human destruction it may engender. 

The National Workers Union supports SWUTT in its call to the government to intervene in the situation with a view to defending the interests of hard working citizens of this country from the predatory behaviour of this transnational corporation. But the nature and history of the relationship between governments of T&T and transnational corporations does not give us cause for comfort.


Gerry Kangalee (National Education and Research Officer.  Cell: 785-7637)