With more than 700,000 vehicles registered, and thousands more imported by the month, sooner or later TT will have to adopt the salvage and junkyard system to crush unwanted vehicles. This could be a million-dollar business in the making. So said president of the Steel Workers Union (SWU), Timothy Bailey, as he addressed the Scrap Iron Dealers Association at Signature Hall, Montrose, Chaguanas on Friday.
“If this is the road we heading, then it is clear that there is a plan to eliminate the people that basically built the scrap-iron industry in this country,” he warned. The Scrap Iron Association held a one-day workshop to deal with issues affecting its members. Top of the agenda was the fact that they have not been given licences to operate on the ground that they need certificates of environmental clearance (CEC) from the Environmental Management Authority (EMA).
President of the association Allan Ferguson said no licences have been issued for 2020, though they should have been issued by January 2.
“The association met with Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon in December and she assured us that we will be able to begin work in 2020, and yet we are constantly denied licences to work,” Ferguson said. He called on Gopee-Scoon to intervene and help the industry get off the ground for the new year.
Scrap iron dealers, Ferguson said, employ 25,000 people but are unable to work because of the issue of the CECs and licences. TT’s scrap iron, he said, has a huge export market which generates handsome revenue for dealers. “This is why I believe those in authority are targeting this industry,” he said.
Bailey said the SWU intends to support the dealers, as the two associations are related. “We depend on the dealers to provide a percentage of the raw materials needed for our industry,” he said. Bailey said many people who find work in the scrap iron industry have served time in prison.
“They have no place to find work, and the scrap iron industry has the doors wide open for these persons to get an income.” Those employed inthe industry, he said, are now facing the most difficult times, as they may not able to provide for their families and educate their children.
Bailey also said the industry brings in much-needed foreign exchange. “This industry is one that actually provided employment for the citizens in these challenging times, a time when we are faced with a failing oil and gas sector.”
Bailey referred to the Arcelor Mittal Steel Company, saying this is how civic capitalism operates, and this company built an empire and left the country with many people on the breadline, without any separation benefit or severance pay.
“As a people in TT we must stand and unite as one to ensure that this does not take place in future,” he said. Bailey called on Gopee-Scoon to look closely at the scrap iron industry and give the support it needs.