Tuesday 26 May, 2020

TTMA pleads: Let all manufacturers reopen from Monday

The Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturing Association (TTMA) is calling for a full reopening of the manufacturing sector from next Monday.

This, as the Association expressed concern that T&T stands to lose export orders, totalling millions.

TTMA President Franka Costelloe has written to the Recovery Committee, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health to support this call for urgent relief of its members.

In a statement, she said the sector is well-positioned to generate much needed foreign exchange at a time when the energy sector is under-performing due to prolonged suppressed oil prices.

She said: “It seems the prudent thing to do at this time, is to leverage the capacity of the sector to bring about much needed economic stimulus.”

Costelloe noted that 13 other neighbouring countries have fully reopened their manufacturing sector (including Jamaica, Barbados, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic), but the manufacturers deemed non-essential in T&T are awaiting re-opening to fulfill outstanding export orders.   

Among the membership of the TTMA as of Thursday, 19 non-essential manufacturers have export orders totaling TTD $103 million.

A comparison of the 2020 figures for the period 28th March -29th April against 2019 figures for the same period shows a decline in exports of 66 percent (just over TTD $283 million).

She warned that a continued loss in export revenue for T&T cannot be sustained, especially with the current TTD $934 million spent by the government on COVID relief as of May 12.

Costelloe believes that the delay in the reopening of the rest of the manufacturing sector is also weakening T&T’s hold on trade and earning much needed foreign exchange for this country.

She said there is an urgency of securing jobs, stabilising the economy and keeping families protected, and added that workers are eager to return to the workplace.  

She noted that the sector has been put to the test with half of its members - food and beverage, agro processing, cleaning products, hygiene, pharmaceutical, food packaging and PPE manufacturers – still operating throughout the shutdown of non-essential businesses.

Taking note of the rate of recoveries from the virus in T&T, the TTMA President said with no known of COVID-19 spread in a factory setting, the remaining members be allowed to open and operate – especially given that they are bound by the same guidelines and protocols under which the essential businesses have been operating. 

She said the essential manufacturers who have been working over the eight-week lock down period have provided a blue print of safety protocols which includes: hygiene control, provision of shuttles where possible to minimise the use of public transport, no external visitors to the factories, working from home with the necessary platforms made available to employees, implementing a shift system for employees coupled with social distancing, use of proper personal protective equipment – complemented by training of staff according to the new protocols.

She said these standards are to be adopted by non-essential members to incorporate into their HSE compliance processes, understanding the weight of responsibility and the impact on business sustainability.

Costelloe believes that there is no solid for sustaining the closure or for denying her remaining members the opportunity to go back to work and to put their people back into employment.

It is estimated that some 52,000 persons work in the sector.

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