Trinidad and Tobago Scrap Iron Dealers’ Association president Allan Ferguson says scrap iron dealers are now feeling cornered as the scrap iron laws, meant to regularise the scrap iron industry, continues to languish on the desk of the President.
“My membership is begging me to take to the streets,” Ferguson told Sunday Newsday in a phone interview.
“They feel the government is not picking up for them because they are poor people. Their backs are against the wall and when someone’s back is against the wall you never know what will happen.”
Ferguson said that up to last Thursday, he had requested an update on the proclamation of the act. It had not yet been signed.
“Nothing is happening so far to say that we can open back our industry,” he said. “It’s been more than four months now. My members keep calling me and asking what they could do. There's chaos in this industry right now.”
He said about 90 per cent of the industry is still closed down, with only a few yards and a few scrap iron dealers operating. However, he said these dealers are taking on heavy risk as, with the industry closed down, scrap iron is being traded at a fraction of the price it was sold at before the ban.
“There are one or two yards, three at the most that are buying,” he said.
“But they wouldn’t buy at the regular rates because they don’t know when the industry would re-open. Some of the van men go out and continue buying and collecting scrap but when they have to pay for their vehicles – most rent their vehicles – it doesn’t work out for them because of the price of materials.”
Asked if he was aware of complaints of scrap dealers storing scrap metal in residences instead of official scrap yard sites, he said that because the act wasn’t proclaimed and that part of the law would not be enacted until April 14, scrap iron dealers with materials stored would have time to get rid of it before it is considered an offence.
Section 16, part 5 (C ) says that scrap dealers shall not off-load, pack or sort scrap metal at any premises that are not a scrap metal site specified in a scrap metal dealer’s licence.
In August last year, Attorney General Reginald Armour announced the ban on all operations in the scrap metal industry amid rampant criminal activities, resulting in some instances in death.
The ban was expected to be six months long. It was expected to arrest the issue until the government was able to work out the legislative framework to regulate the industry.
The ban was lifted on December 31, with all operations except the trade of copper being allowed. The bill was passed in the house and in the senate, but it is still waiting to be fully proclaimed by the president.
At the beginning of January, Ferguson in a press conference expressed confidence that the bill would be proclaimed soon, but still called on the president to act as quickly as possible.