Thousands on the breadline in T&T since 2015

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Thousands on the breadline in T&T since 2015

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) – More than 20,000 peo­ple have lost their jobs in T&T since 2015.

One of the largest mass re­trench­ments was the ap­prox­i­mate­ly 5,500 Petrotrin per­ma­nent and tem­po­rary em­ploy­ees who were sent home when the re­fin­ery was shut down on No­vem­ber 30, 2018.

In part two of his na­tion­al ad­dress to the na­tion called “It’s Your Busi­ness” on Jan­u­ary 7, 2019, Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley said 20,000 peo­ple had lost their jobs in T&T since 2015.

Since then, more peo­ple have been placed on the bread­line.

The most re­cent was the 178 Unilever Caribbean Ltd (UCL) where work­ers faced a bleak Christ­mas when they were thrown on the bread­line in De­cem­ber 2019. Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est avail­able da­ta from the Cen­tral Sta­tis­ti­cal Of­fice (CSO) con­tained in the Cen­tral Bank of T&T’s Mon­e­tary Pol­i­cy Re­port of May 2019, the un­em­ploy­ment rate in­creased to 4.8 per cent in 2017—the high­est rate of un­em­ploy­ment since 2012—from 4.0 per cent in 2016.

Dur­ing 2017, the num­ber of peo­ple em­ployed fell by just un­der 10,000 while the labour force con­tract­ed by 4,600 peo­ple. This re­sult­ed in a small de­cline in the par­tic­i­pa­tion rate from 59.7 per cent in 2016 to 59.2 per cent in 2017.

In the ab­sence of of­fi­cial un­em­ploy­ment da­ta for 2018, re­trench­ment no­tices filed with the Min­istry of Labour and Small En­ter­prise De­vel­op­ment in­di­cate that re­trench­ments were high­er by over 53.2 per cent (ex­clud­ing the lay­offs due to the clo­sure of the Petrotrin oil re­fin­ery) in 2018.

In Jan­u­ary-May 2019 re­trench­ments con­tin­ued to rise—631 peo­ple com­pared with 412 peo­ple in the sim­i­lar pe­ri­od in 2018. Fur­ther, the av­er­age num­ber of va­can­cies ad­ver­tised in the print me­dia fell by 11.7 per cent (year-on-year) over the first five months of 2019.

Econ­o­mist: It’s a source of con­cern

Econ­o­mist Roger Ho­sein said “The lat­est of­fi­cial labour mar­ket sta­tis­tics from the CSO in­di­cate that the un­em­ploy­ment rate de­clined to 3.8 per cent dur­ing the first half of 2018 com­pared with 4.9 per cent dur­ing the same pe­ri­od of 2017.

“On a year-on-year ba­sis, to­tal em­ploy­ment fell by 900 per­sons, while the labour force con­tract­ed by 8,500 per­sons.

“This re­sult­ed in a de­cline in the labour force par­tic­i­pa­tion rate to 58.7 per cent over the first half of 2018 com­pared with 59.7 per cent dur­ing the cor­re­spond­ing pe­ri­od of 2017.”

“The con­tin­ued de­cline in the labour force par­tic­i­pa­tion rate is a source of con­cern since this has im­pli­ca­tions for fu­ture eco­nom­ic prospects.”

He said the 3.8 per cent un­em­ploy­ment rate in 2018 was a very low rate, as since 2003 it had been be­low ten per cent on av­er­age.

Ho­sein said since 2012 the un­em­ploy­ment rate on av­er­age per an­num had not crossed five per cent which was a very re­mark­able sta­tis­tic; on pa­per, it was one of the best in the world.

He said what was alarm­ing about the T&T econ­o­my case was the fall over time in its labour force par­tic­i­pa­tion rate which stood at 63.9 per cent in 2006 and col­lapsed to 58 per cent by 2018.

Ho­sein said the State made the tremen­dous er­ror in the last 15 years of be­ing too heav­i­ly in­volved in the labour mar­ket and ba­si­cal­ly starved the pri­vate sec­tor for work­ers.

He said while the pri­vate sec­tor was ex­pand­ing, it was ex­pand­ing main­ly in the ser­vices sec­tor. The State, he said, want­ed to ex­pand in the non-en­er­gy ex­port sec­tor, so the econ­o­my de­vel­oped se­ri­ous struc­tur­al im­bal­ances that need­ed to be ad­dressed.

Ho­sein said, how­ev­er, one of the most wor­ry­ing as­pects of the labour mar­ket da­ta trends in re­cent times was the sharp de­cline in the em­ploy­ment of pe­tro­le­um and gas sec­tor work­ers—this col­lapsed from 21,300 in 2014 to 12,600 in June 2018.

He said the pe­tro­le­um sec­tor was a high­ly com­pet­i­tive high hu­man cap­i­tal sec­tor and the loss of 40 per cent of the em­ployed labour force was a fright­en­ing even­tu­al­i­ty as these skills if they were lost or mi­grat­ed to near­by Guyana, Suri­name or else­where will take time to be re­built.

Ho­sein said pol­i­cy mak­ers would want to en­sure for ex­am­ple that by the time the Ru­by field comes on-stream with BHP Bil­li­ton in 2023, that the sec­tor was not fur­ther starved for work­ers with the rel­e­vant skill-sets.

Com­pa­nies that laid-off work­ers from 2015-2019

•Arcelor­Mit­tal sent home 600 work­ers on De­cem­ber 2015 and laid off 800 con­tract work­ers ear­li­er that year

•200 TMS In­ter­na­tion­al Cor­po­ra­tion work­ers were al­so let go in 2015

•Cen­tral Trinidad Steel Lim­it­ed (Cen­trin) sent home 200 work­ers on Feb­ru­ary 2016.

•Over 800 Con­stru­to­ra OAS work­ers were laid off on March 2016

•Caribbean De­vel­op­ment Com­pa­ny which pro­duces Carib beer re­trenched 15 work­ers on May 2016

•66 work­ers of roof­ing pro­duc­er, GGI Trinidad Lim­it­ed were sent home on Au­gust 2016

•Over 100 work­ers of the Tourism De­vel­op­ment Com­pa­ny were re­trenched on Au­gust 2017

•16 work­ers at the Trinidad Ce­ment Lim­it­ed (TCL) were put on the bread­line on Sep­tem­ber 2018

•Pe­tro­le­um mar­ket­ing and whole­sal­ing com­pa­ny Unipet laid off sev­en su­per­vi­sors in Oc­to­ber 2018

•Ap­prox­i­mate­ly 5,500 Petrotrin per­ma­nent and tem­po­rary/ca­su­al em­ploy­ees lost their jobs when the re­fin­ery was shut down on No­vem­ber 30, 2018

•TSTT re­trenched over 500 work­ers on No­vem­ber 15, 2018

•99 non-aca­d­e­m­ic staff at the Uni­ver­si­ty of TT (UTT) re­ceived sep­a­ra­tion let­ters on Au­gust 2019

•178 Unilever Caribbean Ltd (UCL) work­ers were thrown on the bread­line in De­cem­ber 2019.

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