WORKERS employed in the national reforestation programme and based in Tobago have not been paid for up to six fortnights, but Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat has promised they will be paid "shortly."
Tobago House of Assembly (THA) minority councillor Dr Faith BYisrael raised the issue as she addressed the media during Tuesday’s weekly media conference at James Park in Scarborough.
BYisrael said she had been bombarded with calls from workers who preferred to remain anonymous and who are appealing for their wages.
“I was contacted by a young lady who lamented that this is either the third or fourth fortnight that they have not gotten paid. Those who are in Tobago and in charge of the programme, they are been told that they are still awaiting word from the Central Government as to when they would get paid. They thought like everyone else they would have received something just before the budget...but for many of them, that did not happen."
She said the workers understand that this is a programme directly under the Central Government, even as they call for help from the assembly.
“We are asking the members of the Tobago House of Assembly, even though this is a Central Government programme, during the elections they told us several times that with PNM in Tobago and PNM in Trinidad, they would have a very close working relationship and we do not need to worry.
“So this is an opportunity for the PNM in Tobago to reach out to the PNM counterparts in Trinidad and remind them that there are workers in Tobago, a part of that programme, who need to be paid.”
Contacted by Newsday Tobago, THA Secretary of Food Production, Forestry and Fisheries Hayden Spencer said he was unaware of the situation but would look into it.
Minister of Agriculture Clarence Rambharat acknowledged there was an issue.
“Normally at the end of every financial year there is a delay with paying reforestation workers,” he said. "We have to get the budget approval first. When the budget was approved at the end of October, we did in fact…up to now, we have six fortnights due. We settled two already, and the Ministry of Finance is working to give us the approval to settle the remaining four. They would be paid very shortly.”