As member of parliament for Pointe a Pierre, and given that the Claxton Bay area accounts for 50 percent of the scrap iron industry, I am calling on the government to have a heart for scrap iron workers and their families who are facing severe economic turmoil, suffering as well as a total collapse in their ability to meet the cost of living as a result of the government’s imposed six-month ban on the export of scrap iron.
Government must have compassion and act now to prevent the destruction of thousands of lives.
On Wednesday, at the request of scrap iron workers in Pointe a Pierre, accompanied by my opposition colleagues MP Rudy Indarsingh (opposition shadow for labour) and MP Dinesh Rambally (opposition shadow for the office of the attorney general), I met with the affected workers as well as executive members of Trinidad and Tobago scrap iron Dealers Association (TTSIDA) led by president Allan Ferguson at my constituency office.
Having listened to the 25-plus individuals who were comprised of workers from all tiers of the industry inclusive of scrap iron yard workers, dealers, scrap iron truck drivers and collectors as well as industry stalwarts, it was clear that this rushed decision by the government without any proper consultation of the industry would have brutal consequences on citizens who will now struggle to put meals on the table, send children to school and even repay loans.
Having listened to the executive of the TTSIDA, it is clear that the government has acted totally recklessly by Ignoring the fact that not only will tens of thousands be thrown onto the breadline with this ban but it was done at a time when many of these workers were depending on this income to send their children back to school.
The constituency of Pointe a Pierre has been hit with a “double blow of economic catastrophe” because many of these workers were part of the thousands who lost jobs due to the government’s selfish decision to close the Petrotin refinery. Yet again they are on the breadline and facing a future without hope.
Like the Association and scrap iron workers, we in the opposition condemn any theft or destruction that has occurred with national infrastructure in the past but it is a brazen lack of compassion and abdication of responsibility towards citizens that an entire industry is being punished for the actions of a few. It is a dereliction of duty and betrayal of good governance when an elected government without any proper consultation would allow thousands to go without the ability to maintain their families.
Besides the socio-economic catastrophe facing thousands in the industry, the government’s six-month ban will negatively affect the environment which was provided with a service by this industry as well as National Trade given that this industry was a net earner of forex via the hundreds of cargo containers of scrap iron exported each month.
Government must do better. Government must not simply adopt this lazy approach while abandoning thousands of citizens to socio-economic ruin. They must sit and work with the Association.
We in the opposition will continue to fight for every citizen of this nation to be able to earn a living within the confines of the law and be a voice for equitable treatment to all workers in Trinidad and Tobago.
Dr David Lee
Pointe a Pierre, MP