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Fired URP workers collect service $$$

Published: 
Tuesday, August 21, 2018
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Former URP Material Supervisor Margot Joseph, right, is presented with her cheque from Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus during yesterday’s cheque distribution ceremony at the CLR James Auditorium, Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies, Valsayn. Photo by:Shirley Bahadur

Labour and Small Enterprise Development Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus yesterday accused the former People’s Partnership government of terminating the contracts of 529 Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) workers for political revenge and retaliation.

Baptiste-Primus made the announcement as the former URP workers collectively received $21.9 million for their years of service at a cheque distribution ceremony at the Cipriani College of Labour in Valsayn.

The workers, who were sent home in December 2010, took up the matter with the Banking Insurance General Workers Union (BIGWU) and the issue went before the Industrial Court in 2013. In June 2017, a settlement between BIGWU and the ministry was arrived at to pay each terminated worker for their years of service.

Yesterday, Baptiste-Primus said the PP wanted to give each worker a meagre one month’s salary, which was never honoured during their term in office. Some of the employees had given upward of 16 years of service while others had worked less than six months, she said. The lowest payment ranged from $4,000 to the highest being $179,000.

In an address to the former workers, Baptiste-Primus said, “It has been a journey of eight long years. Eight years of patience, hardship, tolerance and I dare say eight years of endurance…you who were the unfortunate victims of political retaliation and revenge. You are about to be blessed with what has been for many years your just and rightful due.”

Expressing similar sentiments was worker representative JoAnn David, who admitted that following the 2010 general election the URP workers went through their own political turmoil.

“Every time there is a general election and the government of the day is changed hundreds of workers are sent home because you support a particular political party….that is your right,” David said.

On the eve of Christmas in 2010, Baptiste-Primus said the workers’ services were “maliciously and uncaringly terminated by an administration on the basis of nothing more than false, misleading and downright presences.”

However, she cautioned that some employees may not receive payments for their entire years of service, as the URP records were in a mess. She suggested, however, that if the former workers have records of their own they should bring it into the ministry so they received their correct benefits. She also advised the workers to put the money they received to good and productive use.

“Save and invest. It’s a pity the date for the National Investment Fund has gone. Do not run out and spend what you are getting on consumerables…you want a new fridge…no! What you have is enough. Save and invest wherever you can,” Baptiste-Primus pleaded.

Former URP regional supervisor Christine “Twiggy” Livia, who collected upward of $100,000 for her four decades of service, said she was not satisfied with her payment. “They supposed to put $200,000 again with this,” she said, pointing to her cheque.

She, however, thanked the PNM for the money, which she said would she said would come in handy.

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