Dealers association head: Scrap iron ban impacts Caricom too

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Scrap Iron Dealers Association president Allan Ferguson, from left, MSJ political leader David Abdulah and OWTU chief education and research officer Ozzi Warwick at the association’s public meeting at Seafoods supermarket car park, Claxton Bay on Friday. – LINCOLN HOLDER

SCRAP Iron Dealers Association president Allan Ferguson has claimed the six-month closure of the scrap iron industry could have a negative impact on trade in Caricom.

Ferguson made this statement at a public meeting held by the association in Claxton Bay on Friday night.

“We will be writing a letter to Caricom on Monday.”

He said people from other Caricom countries come to TT to sell scrap iron to earn revenue to take back home.

Ferguson reiterated the association’s statements condemning the scrap iron industry’s closure, its negative impact on poor people, and calls for its immediate reopening.

“Something big is coming. We have to get organised.”

He also reiterated the failures of both the PNM and its UNC-led People’s Partnership (PP) coalition predecessor to regulate the scrap iron industry. The PP closed the industry between 2012 and 2013.

Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) leader David Abdulah said the meeting was the first of many that would be held across TT by the association and other groups.

“The Government doesn’t care.”

Abdulah reiterated claims made by the labour movement of plans by Government to retrench workers at different state enterprises.

Carli Bay Fishermen’s Association president Imtiaz Khan agreed with Abdulah about the need for groups in TT to unite to deal with common issues.

At a post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s on July 7, Dr Keith Rowley had said, “As a matter of national security, I have asked the Attorney General whether we should prevent, for a restricted time, the marketing of used metals in Trinidad and Tobago… Manhole covers, they selling that. They cut the cable. Now they cutting the water lines.”

Rowley said the purpose of the measure would be to deny the incentive of sale as the materials being stolen for sale are imported. He said without a resale market, the theft of copper could be thwarted.

A Cabinet sub-committee chaired by Energy Minister Stuart Young subsequently met with the association and other stakeholders to examine issues related to the theft of scrap iron. Other members were Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon and National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds.

At a news conference at his ministry’s office at Abercromby Street, Port of Spain on August 15, Hinds announced that Government would impose a six-month ban on the export of scrap metal.

Under the Customs Act, the ban on all scrap metal exportation came into effect on August 12, after Cabinet met last on August 11 and agreed to accept the recommendation of a prohibition order brought by Armour.

Once Cabinet is satisfied and persuaded by his proposals, the ban will be lifted.

If not, the restrictions will remain in effect for the following three months to give the government more time to draft practical legislation.

Hinds said, “It’s a very reluctant decision the Cabinet has come to. We have attempted to keep it within proportion, that is to say, six months, to February 23, and to allow for an even shorter period of three months if the AG is able to persuade the Cabinet.”

There have sporadic protests in different parts of Trinidad by scrap iron workers since the industry’s closure last month.

When workers blocked the northbound and southbound lanes of the Solomon Hochoy Highway on August 29 with debris, Rowley condemned the action in a Facebook post on the same day.

“So they have made their move. Dump truckloads of sand and debris on both sides of the highway and block traffic!

“What a wonderful idea of leadership from Roget and the followers including the UNC!

“The marauding gangs of metal thieves threatened to but did not complete the job of shutting down the country, so the leaders are helping them to get that done.”

Ferguson and Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) president Ancel Roget publicly distanced themselves and their association from the August 29 protest. They also said they did not condone any illegal protest action.

On Friday, Ferguson reiterated that any action the association takes in its efforts to reopen the industry will be within the ambit of the law.

Roget has since initiated legal action against Rowley for what he described as defamatory statements that Rowley made.