Ferguson: No government relief for scrap-iron workers

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

President of the TT Scrap Iron Dealers Association Allan Ferguson.

SCRAP Iron Dealers Association president Allan Ferguson has dismissed a statement by Social Development and Family Services Minister Donna Cox that relief is available from her ministry for people affected by Government’s decision to ban scrap-iron exports for six months.

Addressing the issue at a news conference in Kelly Village, Caroni, Ferguson declared, “That is totally false.”

Reiterating the association’s position that it does not condone any illegal acts, Ferguson said he met with scrap-iron workers in Claxton Bay in recent weeks to appeal to them not to stage protests.

He added that they asked in response whether he can feed them or pay their bills for six months.

“I can’t do that.”

Steel Workers Union president Timothy Bailey, who represented the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) at the conference, also questioned if Government was giving any relief to scrap-iron workers or their families since the industry was closed.

“You have young black people, citizens of TT, who are on the breadline.”

Scrap-iron worker Nancy Pierre said she has been working in the industry for ten years.

“I drive a van and my husband is the loader.”

She said since the industry closed, they have not had an income. Pierre is concerned about being unable to pay her mortgage.

After hearing she could get a grant from the Social Development and Family Services Ministry, Pierre said, she called the ministry in Port of Spain and was told to go its Chaguanas office for assistance.

She said staff there told her there was no relief specifically available for her and she would have to apply through the regular channels.

Pierre said she had been told this process could take two months.

“I need money now. I have no idea what to do.”

On August 27, Cox rejected claims made by Chaguanas East MP Vandana Mohit on August 25 that people displaced by the ban on exporting scrap iron were ineligible for state grants.

“Scrap-iron dealers can apply for any of the grants once they are eligible.”

Any member of the member of the public can apply for the grants offered by the ministry.

Cox said, “The Food Support Grant is offered to all eligible citizens and legal residents of TT. Scrap-iron dealers in need of food can apply in the event that they are in need of food.”

Applicants must pass the standard means test to qualify for this grant. The qualifying criteria include being citizens or legal residents of TT and passing a means test to show the net income for the household is equal to or less than the household poverty line of $1,439.