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Trade minister denies union claims: T&T no dumping ground for steel
Trade Minister Stephen Cadiz has acknowledged that there is a problem with substandard steel products entering T&T. And while he refused to describe T&T as a dumping ground as is being charged by the Steel Workers’ Trade Union (SWUTT), the minister said it is a problem engaging his attention.
“I would not say it is a dumping ground but there are steel products, for instance rods used in foundation, burglar-proofing that are of substandard specifications coming into the country, and which has a price advantage,” said Cadiz. “There is a problem if it does not meet the Bureau of Standards specification. We don’t have the capacity to test everything,” he said.
President of SWUTT, Lex Lovell, is claiming that 100 jobs at Central Trinidad Steel Limited (Centrin) were in jeopardy because T&T had become “a dumping ground for steel.” Lovell’s charge followed the temporary closure of Centrin, effective June 18, and the laying off of close to 100 permanent and casual workers for one month, initially.
Human Resource Officer Wayne Wong, in a letter to the union, said the company had to take this action due to the prevailing unfavourable market conditions for steel products and their high inventory of finished products. Cadiz said Government cannot stop the importation of products coming in because T&T is an open market,
Noting the worldwide glut of steel, he admitted that the low prices from companies much larger than Centrin, were more attractive to local retailers. “Anybody in a position to import steel can do so and the tax is low, just ten percent.” Cadiz said Centrin was a reputable company, and a lot of hardware stores carried their products.
Cadiz said while he was aware that steel workers were continuing to protest the closure of the company, neither party had sought his intervention. However, Lovell had called for his intervention, but Cadiz said he has not been contacted to date on the issue. Noting that Centrin was a private company, Cadiz pledged as Trade Minister to do all he could to ensure that there would be minimum interruption in employment for workers there.
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