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$636M BACKPAY

COREY CONNELLY Sunday, April 16 2017

click on pic to zoom in

An Easter blessing has been bestowed on an estimated 16,000 regional health authority (RHA) workers, following Government’s decision to pay them $636 million, the remaining 50 percent of arrears owed to them for the period 2011 to 2013-

A three-paragraph statement from the corporate communications unit of the Ministry of Health yesterday said Government had agreed to settle the balance owed to employees in the multi-million dollar payout-

“Over 16,000 workers in the health care system benefited from this payment of the remaining 50% of arrears of salary which amounted to approximately TT$636,000,000,” the ministry said-

The ministry thanked all health care workers for their patience and dedication to duty “as together we strive to deliver quality health care services to the people of Trinidad and Tobago.” Among those who will be smiling to the bank on Tuesday are doctors, nurses, ward attendants, clerical staff, lab technicians and other categories of workers-

The development, however, is not sitting well with president of the Public Services Association (PSA) Watson Duke, who described the long-awaited move as “disappointing and hurtful.” Duke insisted the money should have been paid pronto-

“When you owe people, you pay them immediately or else you pay interest and if you can’t pay interest, they should not have taxed the money. So, it is no win for us,” he said-

“The money has been devalued-

In 2013, the money was actually TT$6.15 for US$1. Today, it is now TT$7 for US$1-

“The amount of money that TT$60,000 could buy was about US$10,000 in 2013. However, the same TT$60,000, try to buy US dollars with it now and you will get about US$8,000. So, it shows that your money, though the digits are the same, you have to compare our dollar against the US dollar.” While the development is likely to brighten Easter for the workers, Duke told Sunday Newsday the money actually reaching employees will be affected by inflation-

“Inflation has grown exponentially since the rise of the PNM administration in Trinidad and Tobago in 2015. And so you pay more for transportation, you pay more for food, you pay more NIS. You pay more for importing stuff with your credit card-

“You pay more right around the clock and they are now hell bent on telling us 0-0-0 in the future-

So, this may very well be the last increase and they are threatening the man who owns a house with increased taxes, which in turn, will redound to the very same employees.” Duke added: “So, we should not have been in this position-

They (Government) should have been settling now the 2017 to 2019 negotiation. This should have been paid out now. But they have a hole missing. They are now treating with 2011 to 2013, as if it were a morning matter-

No, we are dissatisfied with that.” Duke said the first 50 percent was paid out last July for Trinidad RHA workers while their Tobago counterparts were supposed to have received theirs in September 2016, but they are still waiting-

“We are extremely concerned about the disparity that exists between workers in Tobago compared to their counterparts in Trinidad-

Those workers in Tobago are comparable with their counterparts in Trinidad in every single way - education, ability, and even experience-

They are on par. Why is it that they are treated less than their counterparts? Why is it that they are always second in line to receive their pay?” Duke, who is also Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Minority Leader, said when the Health Ministry receives money from the Ministry of Finance, it receives money for all of the RHAs-

“Why is it, then, that Tobago RHA is not paid? he asked-

However, leader of the newly- formed United Protectors of the PSA, Oral Saunders, who is seeking to unseat Duke as president in the November election, yesterday welcomed the Government’s payout-

“In spite of the payments coming almost two years later than our counterparts in the public service, we are thankful for the Government honouring its commitment to the workers,” Saunders told Sunday Newsday-

“We recognise that the economic situation facing the country has changed rapidly from the past couple of years to the present time and we are extremely happy for the payment.” Saunders confirmed workers assigned to the Trinidad-based RHAs have been paid, “but I have not heard any feedback from Tobago.” “If it is that they have not been paid, we hope the Government will do all in its power to ensure that that payment is made and that the new collective period for 2014, 2015 and 2016 begins.” Saunders said if the United Protectors assumes office later this year, “we will be engaging all public officers to really be a part of the drafting of those proposals that will be sent to the Government-

“Unlike what is happening now where Mr Duke has asked for people to come out and protest and they (public officers) do not know what they are protesting about. We have been seeing the collective agreement, they were never consulted on it and it is of no surprise to the United Protectors that Mr Duke would have been publicly humiliated by public officers, who are refusing to follow him along his perilous path,” he said-



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