GOVERNMENT will be paying out more than $22 million to about 450 Unemployment Relief Workers (URP) terminated by the previous administration, and more than $400,000 to former employees of AVM station who have been waiting on gratuity for almost two decades, reported Communications Minister Stuart Young.
He spoke about the two legacy issues yesterday at the post-Cabinet media conference held at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s. He said when the People’s National Movement was in Opposition from 2010 to 2011 the members had heard about the termination in the “most capricious manner” of scores of URP workers by the then administration. Young said the former administration frustrated the process and refused to meet and talk with the workers who had been terminated for no reason and replaced with other people. He said when this administration came into office there was ongoing litigation and two sets of trade disputes.
Young said Government sought advice and hired a Senior Counsel and did the best negotiation for taxpayers. He said consent orders were issued in the Industrial Court in July 5, 2018 and the settlement will cost taxpayers $22.6 million. Young said all efforts were being made to ensure the money is paid by August 20, 2018.
He said the AVM issue came to Cabinet a few weeks ago and disturbed the members.
“This seems to have been intentionally left somewhere hidden amongst the many coffers and under many files a decision taken in the Basdeo Panday era and time between 1997 and the year 2000 to do with AVM workers.”
He said a thorough investigation was done to ascertain why it was not dealt with. He added AVM Caribbean Ltd ceased operations at the end of January 1997 “and it seems that certain persons were hand-picked by someone and not paid their gratuity and not made any ex gratia payments from that period of time until now.”
Young said the people involved were real stalwarts and included assistant production supervisors, transmission operators and very familiar names of people involved in the television industry for a long period of time.
“And they will very shortly be getting their ex gratia payments which they were due since 2000. It has taken almost 18 years for this to be resolved but as soon as it came before this Cabinet we moved very quickly.”