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Thousands on the breadline in T&T since 2015

By Trinidad Guardian

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(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.

This article was posted in its entirety as received by This media house does not correct any spelling or grammatical error within press releases and commentaries. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of, its sponsors or advertisers.

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