Union leader slams cement import waiver

Union leader slams cement import waiver
Published: 18 March 2010

National Workers Union (NWU) President Vincent Morrison has knocked the Government for allowing the importation of 60,000t of cement, saying it is providing unfair competition to Caribbean Cement Company (CCC) and undermining tax revenue.

"We believe that the policy of the Government of Jamaica to allow waivers to import cement at this time is flawed and counterproductive to what is really needed to stimulate the local economy," Morrison said in a letter Monday to Commerce Minister Karl Samuda.

According to Morrison, whose NWU represents workers at the CCC, Government’s decision is ill-timed and could eventually "lead to the destruction of the Cement Company" as the construction industry is at its "lowest ebb" in more than 40 years.

"It baffles the NWU leadership, its delegates and the Cement Company that Government could, at this immensely difficult period, give a waiver for the importation of 60,000 tonnes of cement to unfairly compete with the Caribbean Cement Company," Morrison said.

He argued that last year Government granted waivers on over 146,846t of cement, resulting in tax losses amounting to some US$4m, which he said could be used for payments to public sector workers.

Government recently granted a waiver to hardware suppliers Tank-Weld for the importation of 60,000t of cement, a move which Samuda contends will provide competition in the market.

The commerce minister has repeatedly defended his position that 15 per cent (120,000t) of the local cement demand would be allowed duty free to provide options for local consumers.

Source: Jamaican Observer