Prime Minister Freundel Stuart says he was not entirely happy with how workers from the Drainage Unit, under the National Environment Enhancement Programme, were sent home.
He was speaking to members of the media after he, along with several members of his Cabinet met with the displaced workers this morning at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. “I thought it necessary to meet directly with those affected by the closure of the NEEP programme, with consequential loss of employment, because I didn’t feel that I should leave them exposed to the vagaries of rumour-mongering and all the other perils that flow from a lack of clear communication.
I was not terribly amused at the way in which the matter was handled at the end of the year, but given all that I saw and all of the information that was brought to my attention I fully appreciated that Ministry of the Civil Service and the Ministry of the Environment found themselves in a fairly tight schedule.
“I felt I need to express my regret to the workers that the matter was handled as untidily as it was in fact handled. [But] I gave the explanation and they understood and then I had to explain to them what their rights were in the context [of] persons who were not employed to the programme that they were once attached for the last five years,” the Prime Minister said, adding that the persons, many of who were severed on the last day on 2013, would have been entitled to unemployment benefits.
Stuart revealed that the Ministry of the
Environment was committed to doing, and
had already embarked upon, a restructuring
of the programme aimed at putting the unit
on what he called “a completely different
footing” where funding could be accessed
with a little more convenience than at
He suggested this was necessary so that
in the future “as many as possible of the
persons now involved in the programme can
be absorbed and we can continue with the
work that those workers were doing”.
But tempers flared as many of the
workers were dissatisfied with what was
being placed on the table –– namely their
green papers, entitling them to start
collecting unemployment benefits.
“All they say is that things bad and he
went back with the story ’bout the world
economy and all uh dat. All they tell you is
that you gine get yuh green paper; that is all.
No comfort,” one upset worker bellowed
as she stormed out of the meeting. “People
would like back their jobs. I got four little
children I got tuh sen’ school –– two at
secondary and two at primary.”
Another said she had nothing to smile
“I was working at Drainage from 2008. I
come on on the 8th of October. I had a
contract. I come on as MTW and then it
change over in the NEEP programme. That is
how hard it is.”
One man said: “They ain’t promising
yuh nutting. Why they lash at Drainage so
hard? Why destroy Drainage? We is one
uh de most independent people working
this society to keep it clean. Why they lash
Drainage so cruel?”
“As it stands now, there is hope. The
Prime Minister say it is unfair how we were
treated, and even Mr Lowe says he is not
going to let go down that way and because
there is no money for the NEEP programme,
the way how he is talking it seems like some
people are going to get back their job. So it
seems like there is hope,” said one woman,
who was arguing with another.
“If that is the case, then how comes the
Minister of Finance is not here to represent
what they are saying? Why only Mr [Steve]
Blackette and Dr [Esther Byer] Suckoo and
not he?” she questioned, speaking to the
presence at today’s meeting of the Minister
of Social Care and of Labour and Social
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