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Bags of cement roll off the production line at TCL in October last year.

GEISHA KOWLESSAR-ALONZO

[email protected]

Faced with questions about the basis for which the government allowed Trinidad Cement Limited (TCL) to resume operations while many other manufacturers were left waiting to return to operations, TCL told Guardian Media that they expect to play a key role in the revival of the T&T economy.

The company said construction requires cement and points to examples like the United Kingdom which is using construction to try and kickstart the economy as they move from the COVID-19 lockdown to resume economic activity.

“Our local and export customers are in desperate need of cement for building essential infrastructures such as hospitals, roads, etc. As a responsible company concerned with regional development, we are well poised to contribute to progress in these critical areas,” TCL said.

The company added that it is also confident all infrastructure has been put in place with its COVID-19 protocols to ensure the safety of its employees operating under pandemic mode.

“This is aligned to what has been done in their respective re-opening road maps, resulting in positive impact on the economy with relatively low risk when proper safety and hygiene protocols are in place,” TCL said.

The TCL Group is the main supplier of cement for the region and exports to over 20 countries across CARICOM and beyond.

Group-wide, the company has about 800 employees with 400 permanent employees and contractors based in Trinidad.

On its role in the wider construction sector TCL said it plays a key role in the by providing a reliable and adequate supply of cement and concrete (through its Readymix operation) and generating upstream and downstream employment.

Economists and the Contractors Association of T&T have noted that the construction sector and its value chain is an essential industry which can quickly contribute to economic recovery amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2017, Mexican cement giant CEMEX gained control of 70 per cent and counting of TCL, the Claxton Bay-based regional cement producer.

As countries continue to cautiously lift restrictions to reopen, the T&T Government recently gave the green light for the restart of Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL) ahead of other manufacturers.

On its Facebook page, TCL noted that the construction industry keeps communications systems functioning, creates and maintain critical transport infrastructure, and keep society’s basic needs running – and during this time, it has proven essential to repair and build healthcare centres, as well as to help out in any way it can.

As the only cement manufacturer in T&T the company added, “We also have a talented team of T&T construction experts, lab personnel, engineers, architects, chemists… who play a key role in developing new housing and paving solutions based on CEMEX experiences worldwide.”

As a general note, the Group said it has had to adjust its cost base, including headcount, to reach competitive and international productivity benchmark levels.

TCL said it has also invested US$100 million-plus in capital projects to improve operational efficiencies, increase reliability and output, reduce maintenance, and ensure business continuity across the Group.

“The TCL group’s strategy is a holistic one that focuses on identifying opportunities across all areas,” the company said.

Foreign exchange

In 2019, the group earned TT$252 million in foreign currency.

The company reaffirmed it is a net earner of foreign exchange via its

exports, adding that a constant positive net USD flow is generated.

Some of this, it added, is converted to local currency to pay local contractors and employees.

Summary of economic contributions:

800 jobs (98 per cent local)

1200 plus suppliers

Capital Expenditure – TT$852 million (2015-2019) /TT$140 million (2019)

FOREX – TT$252 million (2019)

CAPACITY – 2.5 million-plus metric tonnes

Taxes and customs paid to Government – TT$272 million (2015 – 2018)

Investments in corporate social responsibility and community projects –

TT$ 34.7 million (2015-2019)

Position paper

The company also released its position paper on the key role its industry plays and safety guidelines.

It noted that in times of physical distancing, the cement, concrete, and aggregates industries are inherently safe due to the low worker density they require.

TCL said its COVID-19 protocols are focused on maximising the protection of employees while fostering operational resilience.

It noted that multiple countermeasures have been implemented including thermometer/temperature testing at access points; the CEMEX ‘health check’ mobile phone app to help the company monitor the health of its workforce; a medical isolation room and enhanced communication of safety tips with employees and all relevant stakeholders.

The company has also implemented increased cleaning procedures throughout the facility; reinforced physical distancing measures and personal hygiene; remote work where possible according to job responsibilities; and keeping of main doors opened.

Teams have also been activated throughout the operations as the company continues to implement preventive measures to reduce the risks to the CEMEX TCL Group community.

In his message CEO Fernando A. González said the company’s full-service digital platforms, like CEMEX Go, also play a pivotal role in its ability to safely serve its customers by reducing the need for physical contact.