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Workers fear more job cuts

Published: 
Sunday, March 19, 2017

Workers, particularly in the public service, are bracing themselves for the announcement of more job cuts or the decision by the Government to not renew contracts in the coming months.

The fear comes amid a second quarter 2016 report from the Central Statistical Office (CSO) that the labour force had decreased by 16,200 people since 2015, when the Central Bank announced the country was in a recession.

This figure cannot be attributed solely to retrenchment or job loss, however data shows ArcelorMittal closed its doors in March 2016, resulting in about 700 workers being sent home; Centrica terminated 200 workers last year; Repsol sent home 11 workers in January; and OAS Construtora laying off over 900 workers in April 2016, would have contributed to those figures.

Other companies across varying sectors of the country sent home workers as the contraction in T&T’s economy tore into the bottom line of many companies.

With less than three months gone in 2017, the estimate of workers, mostly in the private sector, who faced job cuts is over 300.

At the end of January, in the banking sector, RBC had sent home 20 employees from its business development unit. Digicel also signalled its intention to cut staff from its global workforce, and was expected to begin discussions with local staff.

At TDC, following the announcement by Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe that the state agency would be dissolved, the Communications Workers Union (CWU) estimated that approximately 200 jobs were on the breadline.

In February, Industrial Plant Service Ltd (IPSL), the company that operates the five methanol plants at the Point Lisas Industrial Estate for Methanol Holdings (Trinidad) Ltd, wrote to Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus indicating its intention to mothball two of the methanol plants and send home over 100 employees who were deemed “aggregate surplus”.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced that the Government Human Resources Services (GHRS) and Caroni Green Limited would be closed down in the coming months.

He said there were other state enterprises which would also face closure. He said some of the agencies were guzzling state funds.

On Friday, Minister of Public Administration Maxie Cuffie, in a sympathetic release, announced that GHRS had been closed, a decision that would see 35 employees displaced.

Rowley said a few dozen workers would be affected by the closure of Caroni Green, but former agriculture Devant Maharaj said the actual figure will be 100 employees—20 administrative staff and 80 daily-paid labourers.

Manpower audits on state agencies

On Friday, Works Minister Rohan Sinanan, who said in Parliament that some contracts would not be renewed at National Infrastructure Development Company Limited, said it was likely that manpower at other enterprises would be adjusted as well.

“I have no figure for Nidco,” told the Guardian.

“I was quite clear. We are doing a manpower audit and based on that audit, we will determine what is needed going forward.”

Asked which other agencies, divisions or enterprises were seeing similar audits done, Sinanan named Licensing Office and the Public Transport Service Corporation.

“It’s about rightsizing,” Sinanan said, adding that the manpower audit in some cases should indicate an increase of staff was needed, as expected in the case of the Licensing Office.

“Licensing Office will have to increase staff. PTSC board will make sure we are rightsized. We are looking at staffing. If we have to be efficient, we must have the right amount of staff. Certain areas we have an abundance of staff and certain areas there are shortages.”

Browne: More to come

In an interview on CNC3’s Morning Brew on Friday, former finance minister Mariano Browne said the critical issues in an adjustment process was equity, longevity and benefits. “This is not the first time we have gone through this type of drought. It’s very much like the 1980s.”

Browne said Government needed to tell people what the hard decisions were that needed to be made.

He said the country was now waking up to the fact that this was a difficult exercise and this was the new reality.

He said though the state of affairs were difficult, the country had been in this position for a little while.

Browne also spoke about Petrotrin, indicating that it may be heavily overstaffed.

Petrotrin itself has more than 5,000 employees, with an annual wage bill of $1.9 billion. Government has appointed an oversight committee to make recommendations at Petrotrin.

Workers worried at NGC

At National Gas Company (NGC) employees said the air of uncertainty was troubling. An employee, who spoke to the Guardian on Friday under condition of anonymity, said he had seen at least 20 of his colleagues lose their jobs in the past year, mostly administrative staff and technicians.

“I’m not personally worried but I know a lot of people who work with me are. It’s something that is discussed often,” said the employee.

“The company isn’t really saying anything to staff. Internal communications are poor but people hear things and it affects them.”

Sheldon Richards, who has been unemployed since last year, after the company he worked for laid off workers, told the Guardian the uncertainty of being able to find a job soon was frustrating.

“My wife moved in with her mother in December so that my mother-in-law can help out with our children. It’s hard for me to know I am not working and doing what I can to help them.”

Richards said he had invested his money in a car, with the intention of working as a PH driver, but shortly after purchasing the car, parts started malfunctioning.

“I’m trying, but it hard out here.

RETRENCHMENT REGISTER COUNTS 587

The National Retrenchment Register was launched in March 18, 2016, in response to a number of job losses, including those which resulted from the closure of the ArcelorMittal steel plant.

The register, which operates under the remit of the Manpower Unit, works in tandem with the National Employment Service (NES).

According to Communications Manager at the Ministry of Labour, Bobbi Jeffrey, the NES’s mandate is to optimise the country’s workforce through the provision of multiple services to job seekers and employer.

The NES provides an environment where both job seekers and employers with vacancies can make the “job connection”.

Employers who register with the service are subject to due diligence and once their application is approved, they too are given credentials that enable them to post their company’s vacancies on this site. The NES will also forward resumes of suitable registrants to companies with vacancies. In instances where the employer requests, the NES also conducts the interviews.

Since the launch of the register, 587 people have signed up.

Of people registered—123 came from the manufacturing sector, with some 104 coming from the oil and gas sector.​