There are about three investors interested in purchasing the Pt Lisas steel plant, formerly owned by ArcelorMittal, according to leader of the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) Ancel Roget.
Roget yesterday called on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to meet with the umbrella trade union body as a matter of urgency and in the best interest of T&T.
He said potential investors are being denied the opportunity to meet with Government ministers to discuss terms of the sale.
Only Government can negotiate the price of natural gas, electricity, port charges and other taxes, an industry source said.
Any potential investor would seek an agreement of those charges before investing in the purchase of a steel plant, the source said.
Yesterday, Roget along with JTUM’s membership marched outside of the St Clair’s Office of the Prime Minister and shortly after 11 am hand-delivered a letter addressed to the PM requesting the meeting.
“The Steel Workers’ Union have done their work and gone out and secured investors. All we are asking for, just as we did in early December, is for the relevant Government ministers to meet with those investors and to do the due diligence as a Government,” Roget said.
“And of course to set the framework for the type of discussions that would allow for the investors to go forward and purchase the plant. If purchased it will benefit T&T by attracting more foreign exchange which is much needed,” he said.
Roget made it clear that JTUM was only making a request for the Government to do its duty and discharge their responsibility to the people of T&T and by extension, the workers of T&T.
He said there seems to be a disconnect among government ministers as a commitment made by two ministers back in December, following a protest outside of the PM’s official residence, fell short for some apparent reason. The commitment was made by Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister and Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General Stuart Young.
“Both ministers committed to taking the proper approach going forward and that they had committed to ensuring that all meeting with investors are properly held. Mind you that these two ministers said they were sent by the PM to represent him in that meeting and therefore we took that to mean, understandably so, that whatever commitment they gave they gave it on behalf of him (Rowley). Lo and behold, when as investors come in to the country and expressed interest in purchasing the plant to have it restarted there was absolutely no interest coming from the relevant line ministers,” Roget said.
“Investors come and go because they say the government not serious and we have an issue with that. There seems to be a major disconnect with the Government ministers and the PM. There seems to be a sought of, not harmony, in terms of the internal workings of this Cabinet. There seems to be some major division inside the Cabinet. Whatever the business concerns or whatever wrangling they have, pulling and tugging inside there, with the Minister of Finance going one way and another group going another, this is a cabal,” Roget suggested.
ArcelorMittal closed the Point Lisas steel plant on March 11, 2016, citing increased competition from lower-cost imports from China and Turkey, as well as net losses of $281 million for 2015 and increases in prices for natural gas, electricity, taxes and port fees. Some 644 workers were sent home, many of them unable to find employment to this date.
The operations were wound up through voluntary insolvency and at the time of the closure the company had an accumulated debt of $1.3b. The value of the plant was estimated at US$70m.