Facing a backlash from Monday’s blocking of the Solomon Hochoy Highway, protesting scrap ironworkers have decided to hold off on protest action for two days.
Saying they wanted the public to understand their plight, a scrap iron worker from Claxton Bay, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said on Tuesday that they were surprised by the condemnation they had received.
The protesters had put innocent motorists under four hours of distress after the workers blocked both lanes of the northbound lane of the highway on Monday morning.
But the workers said on Tuesday that they had decided not to take any further action for two days.
“We are giving the Government an opportunity of meeting with us so that some sort of arrangement could be made to assist with our children’s schoolbooks. But if they ignore us and our children have to stay home, nobody will go to school on Monday,” the source vowed.
Claxton Bay has over 75 scrap iron workers, some of whom have vehicle loans, rent and mortgages to pay.
The workers want the Ministry of Social Development to set up an office in Claxton Bay so that they could get help in accessing grants.
“We does pick up garbage from the river and from behind people’s latrine. We do not have access to a computer and do not know how to go about making applications for grants online,” a worker said.
Over the weekend, Social Development Minister Donna Cox said scrap iron dealers can apply for any of the grants once they are eligible.
“They can also apply under the Sowing Empowerment through Entrepreneurial Development (SEED) Programme. Anyone can apply for our grants, including the SEEDs grant, which is a grant for small business entrepreneurs to start a business or to grow a business,” Cox said.
The grant offers $15,000 for goods and $7,500 to facilitate skills training at a recognised, accredited institution, with funds being paid directly to the training institution. She also said they can get food support grants.
However, Cox said applicants must pass the standard means test to qualify for this grant.
The qualifying criteria include the applicants being citizens or legal residents of T&T and passing a standard means test to show the net income for the household must be equal to or less than the household poverty line, which is $1,439.
On Monday after the highway blockade, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley accused the president of the Joint Trade Union Movement Ancel Roget and the UNC of helping scrap ironworkers to shut down the country by blocking the highway.
Roget has since threatened to sue the Prime Minister for defamation, while the UNC has denied involvement.
The workers who blocked the highway told Guardian Media they are not affiliated with the Scrap Iron Dealers’ Association or any political group, as politicians on both sides of the political divides had failed them.