PORT OF SPAIN –– Employees at the Rural Development Company (RDC) in Couva have not been paid for the entire first quarter of the year and are owed more than TT$.75 million in salaries.
In addition to the 23 workers, whose salaries range from TT$3,500 to TT$25,000 a month, directors at the cash strapped company, as well as service providers, have not been paid. Phones have reportedly been put on one-way operation until an outstanding bill is paid.
The extent of the financial woes at the special purposes company, an agency which reports to the Ministry of Local Government, is highlighted in a March 24 memo in which employees were promised their outstanding salaries by this month end.
It states: “In the absence of receipt of funding from the Ministry and the current cash position of the company, please be advised that salaries for March 2016 will not be paid by the 26th of the month as customary.
“It is expected that funds to meet operating expenses including salaries and allowances will be received in April 2016. Upon receipt of the funds, salaries for February and March 2016 and arrears for January 2016, will be paid.”
Contacted for comment, chief executive officer Tajelal Sarwan did not give a direct answers and would only say that the company continues to operate.
“The company is okay. It is operating. We have not laid off any staff and the workers continue to work,” he told the T&T Guardian. Asked if employees could be retrenched in the near future due to the financial situation, Sarwan said: “I have not been instructed to retrench workers.”
An RDC employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the workers are very worried but are hoping for the best.
“Many of us have our families to see about and have medical emergencies. Our bills are piling up. Some of us have loans and the interest is going up because we cannot reach paying our bills. This is frustrating and disrespectful all around,” the employee said.
The dire financial situation at the RDC has reportedly affected the TT$201 million Moruga Fishing Port project, originally scheduled to begin in November but now put on hold. However, Sarwan said he is not aware of any such development and is standing by what Minister of Local Government Franklin Khan said at the launch of the project in Moruga last February 25.
Khan had announced then that arrangements were being made to invite tenders for construction of the facility. Efforts to reach the minister for comment yesterday were unsuccessful.
Established in 2005, the Rural Development Company of T&T has been mandated by the Ministry of Local Government to improve living conditions of residents in rural communities.