The Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) has accused Government of being too silent about issues threatening more than one thousand jobs at West Indies Alumina Company (WINDALCO) in Ewarton, St Catherine.
He expressed concern weeks after the union representing workers at the company told our news team that a part of the workers’ pay has been delayed because WINDALCO is facing cash flow issues, which result from sanctions imposed recently by the United States.
The sanctions were imposed directly against Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska, who owns UC RUSAL, the parent company of WINDALCO. His companies are affected.
PNP spokesman on Mining Phillip Paulwell, during a press briefing yesterday (May 29), said Government can help address the cash flow problem temporarily if it writes to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
“It is just for them (OPEC) to say to the Jamaican banking community ‘do not worry if you deal with RUSAL’. That’s all they need to do now to get the company to have a cash flow to save the jobs and to continue operations,” Paulwell said, adding that countries including Guyana already did what he is recommending.
He stated that the opposition, in fact, will write to OPEC about the issue, adding that he does not think any protocol would be breached.
“We have a vested interest in the Jamaican workers being employed. So, in the absence of Government of Jamaica moving forward, we are going to take that responsibility on,” Paulwell told journalists.
He noted that the Union of Clerical, Administrative and Supervisory Employees also dispatched a letter to OPEC yesterday.
Paulwell said the ‘inaction’ by Government seems to reflect a ‘level of insensitivity to the plight of Jamaican workers at the plant’.
He continued: “It is high time that the government breaks its silence on this matter and protect the WINDALCO workers as well as the wider national economic interest.”
Meanwhile, Chairman of the PNP Fitz Jackson, who also attended the press briefing, weighed in on the issue. “What we are seeing is dead silence in the midst of a crisis…” he said.
The PNP said it hopes the Minister of Mining, Robert Montague, will shed more light on the WINDALCO issue when he makes his sectoral presentation this afternoon in parliament.
The minister, in April, outlined a raft of measures that he said were being implemented to minimize any fallout for WINDALCO workers and the general economy.
He also noted that, should the Ewarton plant be closed, the loss of export earnings to the Jamaican economy would amount to approximately US$164 million per annum.
The minister said WINDALCO employs approximately 1,200 people.
By Horace Mills