The cement shortage in Tobago is starting to affect the Tobago economy as a number of workers have been sent home and some hardwares in the sister island are closing their doors.
Building contractors in Tobago have also been affected by strike action at the Trinidad Cement Ltd manufacturing plant at Claxton Bay.
Hardware owners told the Express yesterday that sales were slow for Christmas and the market only recently started to improve but the impasse between TCL and the Oilfields Workers' Trade Union (OWTU) over wage increases for TCL employees have placed business owners back "square one".
"We have contractors sending home all their staff, because they can't get cement. So everything is on a standstill right now," hardware owner Demi John-Cruickshank said.
He said if the strike does not end within weeks, 50 per cent of his staff will have to be sent home.
"If there is no cement to sell and we can't get concrete blocks from the factories, we will have to send home people, there is no two ways about it," John-Cruickshank said.
Another hardware owner, Sunny Craig of CAJ Hardware at Carnbee, said every day customers were being turned away due to the lack of cement.
Only one bag of Arawak Cement Plus remained on his compound yesterday, to be collected by a customer. Now, some projects on the island are at a standstill.
"The dry season is fluctuating. It seems we have so much rain, and when you have a week of good sunshine and people want to work, there is no cement. So then it is affecting everyone across the board," Craig said.
President of the Contractors Association in Tobago Trevor James said the Tobago House of Assembly should negotiate with the government to ensure cement is stockpiled on the island.
"All efforts should be made to have the negotiation process started between the THA and the government, to ensure cement is imported directly to Tobago. At this time in Tobago one bag of cement is $80, and it is envisioned all concrete products will see significant increases," James told the Express yesterday.