PLANNING AND Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis says sending home workers at the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA) is the Government’s last resort.
However, she said, the CDA’s financial situation is grim.
“The CDA board is meeting with the three unions this week to discuss what would be the best way forward because we obviously don’t want to send home workers but the situation is getting very tight,” Robinson-Regis told Newsday.
The minister’s statement came two days after Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke warned of job cuts at the CDA. Duke said he would seek the permission of Police Commissioner Gary Griffith to stage a march from the CDA to the Prime Minister’s Diego Martin West constituency office to highlight the workers’ plight.
Robinson-Regis said she has already spoken with officials of the Estate Police Association “and they indicated certain things to me which look like a way forward in their case.”
She has also asked for a meeting with the PSA and the National Union of Government and Federated Workers Union “but they were not able to meet when I was able to meet.”
The minister issued a release dismissing as “false” statements made by former planning minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie, saying if the PNM had followed through with plans put in place under his tenure for the development of the Chaguaramas peninsula from 2012 to 2015, the CDA would be in a much better place today.
“The simple fact is that under Dr Tewarie, CDA’s debt increased by 15 times, exploding from $6.7 million in 2010 to $118 million in 2015,” Robinson-Regis said.
“In fact, under Dr Tewarie’s watch the CDA deteriorated to the point that the current staff rationalisation programme is inevitable.”
She said that under Tewarie’s term as minister, the CDA had incurred a debt of $118 million.
Robinson-Regis said her ministry and the CDA’s board and management have since taken prudent steps to improve its financial health and bring it to “a stable state of recovery.”
And while this is still a work in progress, the Government is trying to hold on to the authority’s existing staff, she said.
The minister said she intends to hold a news conference soon to discuss the situation.
“But I just wanted to reiterate that the salary expenses went up almost triplefold under the last administration and we have been trying to keep as many members of staff on. We have not let go anybody but the situation is becoming quite grim.”
Robinson-Regis said some members of staff, particularly those close to retirement, have said they are willing to leave if they get a good package. “So, we are working on all of these issues but you know we don’t want to send home anybody at all. When the board meets with the union, I am sure we will come up with a good solution that benefits both sides,” she said.
In the statement, Robinson-Regis said the CDA’s established structure of 132 employees, approved by the Chief Personnel Officer and recognised by the Ministry of Finance, should comprise 24 estate police, 44 monthly-paid and 62 daily-paid.
“All expenses, including staff costs incurred by the CDA, must, therefore, be covered by income generated by the CDA...The CDA has, therefore, made all efforts to hold on to its full staff during the period 2016 to 2019. But this has now been made difficult as rental arrears as a source of income is exhausted and creditors continue to file claims against the CDA to recover debt,” Robinson-Regis said.