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TCL power supply 'sabotaged'

By Carolyn Kissoon carolyn.kissoon@trinidadexpress.com

CEMENT production at Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL) was stalled last weekend, when electrical lines supplying power to the factory were mysteriously severed.

The company believes the disconnection of electricity supply to the mill was an act of sabotage by workers who went on strike six weeks ago.

TCL general manager, Satnarine Bachew, said the incident caused a sudden halt in production of bulk cement. And trucks could not be loaded with cement at the factory in Claxton Bay.

Bachew told the Express "There was some interference with the plant this weekend. The electrical wires were cut and we were unable to start the plant".

Bachew said about 80 per cent of the problem was corrected yesterday. The plant was restarted, and production of cement on the mill and roller press mode resumed. Bachew said trucks were being loaded with cement yesterday.

Using a skeleton staff of strike breakers and managers TCL restarted the factory and the production of cement almost three weeks after workers began strike action.

TCL's production manager, Keith Ramjitsingh, said the plant was running on "mill and roller press mode" and did not require a large number of workers.

He said in six hours, 370 tonnes of bulk cement was produced on the first day the plant was restarted.

Bulk cement is used by ready-mix and concrete block companies. In the interim, the bagged cement will continue to be imported from TCL's subsidiaries in Barbados and Jamaica.

TCL withdrew its offer of a seven per cent wage increase to striking workers last week, and has refused to continue negotiations with the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU), blaming the union for acts of violence and terror tactics against the company.

The company reverted to its initial proposal of 6.5 per cent. The union, however, stated that it was willing to accept 12 per cent, down from its 16 per cent demand. Minister of Labour, Errol McLeod, has been holding separate discussions with the parties.

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