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PRIME Minister Dr Keith Row-ley has described the decision by international steel company Arce-lorMittal to close its operations locally and let go more than 700 workers as disappointing and the lack of consultation with Govern-ment as “disrespectful”, but has ex-pressed a willingness to re-engage the company.
On Friday, the company made the announcement that it was shutting down operations, one day after the Industrial Court fined the company $24,000 and criticised the procedures used in laying off an estimated 700 of its employees. “It is with a sense of sadness and deep disappointment that the Government and people of Trini-dad and Tobago have received the news of the actions of Arcelor-Mittal’s decision to close the steel producing business in our coun-try, particularly as it was done on the heels of a decision where the workers had their rights defended in a Superior Court of Record in the state of Trinidad and Tobago,” Rowley stated in a release. He continued, “This far reaching action, taken without reference or discussion with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, affecting thousands of our citizens, we view as punitive and disrespectful in the extreme.” Rowley noted that the Govern-ment is “very cognisant and mind-ful” that it is a period of economic hardship and challenges in many industries all over the world.“It is precisely because of this understanding, that we as a peo-ple, have appealed to all our stake-holders to be resilient and caring for the people and their families who were there contributing in the good times and who now require respect, support and even the milk of human kindness as the ravages of worldwide recession negatively affect us all,” he commented.“This action is even more pain-ful when one remembers that it was precisely in an earlier period of cyclical recession that a local steel industry, which was fund-ed and nurtured by local taxpay-ers, then fell into the investment hands of Mittal, which with our continued support and sacrifice, went on to become a world power in the steel industry,” he added.Rowley said that whilst the Government cannot dictate how any company should view its in-vestments or how it should con-duct its lawful business, “we fully expect that all such decisions will be made within the confines of the relevant laws of Trinidad and To-bago, and as a corporate partner in our national development, it is our expectation that this is not the end and that there is still room for the country and the investor to talk and work our way out of these very real difficulties”. Labour Minister Jennifer Bap-tiste-Primus in a media report de-scribed the decision as a “tragedy” and reported the company had written her requesting a meeting on March 10 but she was unable to attend with such short notice.
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