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Depression hits former ArcelorMittal workers

Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, weight changes and self-loathing are becoming the norm for former steel workers who were left jobless when ArcelorMittal, Point Lisas, closed its gates last March.

It is a worrying but expected outcome for the Steel Workers Union (SWUTT) who warned of the social impacts when the multinational iron and steel producers left workers with only a month’s pay.

SWUTT general secretary Lancelot Smart said the depression was so “terrible” that an executive member recently resigned, gave up his union phone and has not been heard from for the past week.

Smart said many of the 1,000-plus former workers depend on handouts to eat and send their children to school. While they have been able to distribute hampers through sponsors and find some jobs through an employment agency they recently started, he said some former workers were too ashamed to ask for help.

He said many of those who found work are being exploited by employers paying between $15 and $20 an hour for skilled jobs.

“Some workers have been fortunate, but the workers that are suffering the most are those between 45 to 50 years old. That is over 100 people. I think people seem to want to take advantage of the former steel workers. They see their situation and feel that they can work them for next to nothing.

“A lot of the ex-workers said they were getting jobs, but people want to pay them $15, $16 and $20. Some were getting the same kind of jobs they were doing at the plant, like mechanical and maintenance type jobs and people want to take advantage of them,” Smart said.

Last March, ArcelorMittal was instructed by its corporate head in Luxembourg to shut down the plant and liquidate its assets as it was burdened by $1.3 billion in debt. The company said despite efforts to avoid the closure, local and international challenges had put it under severe financial distress since the second half of 2015. This led to the closure of downstream companies, Central Trinidad Steel Ltd (Centrin) and Tube City IMS.

In April, David Francis, 48, committed suicide. His relatives said he was frustrated at not being able to provide for his family.

Several large protests were held by the Joint Trade Union Movement, who called on the Government to amend the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act.

Source Guardian

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