The international Industrial & Commercial Workers' Union (ICU) fully supports a Ghanaian government proposal to make the export of scrap metal a criminal offense in order to protect the local steel industry.

Ghana’s new Minister of Trade and Industry, Haruna Iddrisu, has proposed a bill to make the export of scrap metal a criminal offence. The initiative is an effort to clamp down on ferrous scrap exporters that ignore the administrative ban that is in place.

Despite the ban, scrap metal continues to leave Ghana, whilst the local steel sector is under strain operating at only 30% capacity. ICU reports that a large steel company, Wahome has recently had to shut down resulting in 700 job losses.

Ghana has no iron ore. As a result, metal scrap serve as raw material to the steel industry, which would otherwise need to be imported.

“The export of metal scrap from Ghana leads to scarcity of raw materials hence a huge threat for the survival of the steel industry in Ghana,” says General Secretary of ICU, Solomon Kotei. “Countries like China, Thailand, Malaysia among others, offer attractive prices for metal scrap which the local industries cannot afford to pay. As a result, redundancy is what has befallen workers in the steel industry.”

Exporters of scrap are appealing to government to put an export levy on scrap rather than criminalise it. Exporters advance funds to scrap metal suppliers in order to secure supply while the local steel industries need time to effect payment for the supplies, putting local industries at a disadvantage.

The proposed bill will not be enough, even if the government makes every effort to enforce the ban as this value chain for scrap metal is peculiar to Ghana. Additional support for local steel industries will have to be considered, especially access to finance, so that raw material suppliers can be promptly paid. Ensuring good working conditions, including health and safety and social protection in the supply chain is another area that will need to be examined. ICU is aware of these issues and plans to discuss these with the Minister.

"The export of scrap metal from Ghana will virtually collapse the steel industries if no drastic national policy is put in place to ban it,” says Kotei “It is for this reason that the ICU- Ghana associates itself strongly with the statement made by the Minister of Trade and Industry. We are therefore collaborating with the honourable minister on the ban of exportation of scrap metal.”

Founded in June 2012, IndustriALL Global Union represents 50 million workers in 140 countries in the mining, energy and manufacturing sectors and is a new force in global solidarity taking up the fight for better working conditions and trade union rights around the world.

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