Caribbean Cement workers protest over concerns on domestic declines

Caribbean Cement workers protest over concerns on domestic declines
Published: 04 April 2013


Union members of the Caribbean Cement Company Ltd (CCCL) have staged a demonstration amid concerns on continued declines in the domestic cement market.

The one-hour protest took place outside the company’s plant in Rockfort, Jamaica. President of the National Workers Union (NWU), Vincent Morrison, told the Jamaica Observer that the demonstration was triggered by a number of issues, including the failure of the company to address proposals made by workers to arrest declining revenues.

While Morrisson admitted that there is no immediate threat of job losses or cuts in benefits, in the current economic climate concerns are mounting that reductions will be made. "We have met with the management and discussed responses to the problems facing the company and we have had no response to our proposals," he said.

Last year, cement consumption in Jamaica was 0.78Mt and domestic needs are met predominately by  CCC which is the island’s sole cement plant. As local sales of less than 50 per cent of capacity combine with significant cement imports, CCCL has aggressively been trying to expand its export markets. The Dominican Republic was one target, and company shipped 192,500t in 2010 with plans to raise the level another 78 per cent. CCCL also has high hopes for growing exports to Venezuela, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama and other Latin American countries.

As well as trying to tap new markets overseas it has increased prices a number of times over the past two years with the latest increase being a 15.4per cent cement price hike in January of this year. The company said it had to increase its prices in order to generate enough money to meet debt payments.

However, the company has been surviving on financial support from its parent, Trinidad Cement Limited (TCL). CCCL Chairman Brian Young admitted last year in a news report that without continuing support from TCL it would have been unable to continue. "Cement demand in the critical domestic markets of Trinidad, Jamaica and Barbados has been disappointing," he commented.

Jamaica’s economy is struggling to recover from the recession. GDP growth at constant prices is running at only 1-1.2 per cent per year. Inflation exceeds 6.6 per cent and the unemployment rate hovers stubbornly around 13 per cent. The country’s two main export goods, bauxite and alumina, have fallen on world commodity markets, while tourism remains subdued. Total debt is 145 per cent and Jamaica’s debt service takes over half the government’s budget. With this economic forecast, Jamaican cement consumption and production are expected to increase only 2.6 per cent in 2013 and 2.5 per cent in 2014.