Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) deputy political leader Farley Augustine has reiterated his call for the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) to pay outstanding salaries owed to groups of workers on the island. Addressing a news conference at the PDP's Scarborough headquarters on Tuesday, Augustine urged the THA to move with alacrity on the issue, given the coronavirus (covid19) threat.
"We still have several categories of workers that have remained unpaid for several fortnights in a row," he told reporters."And, if, in this season, there is a need for us to even shut down the country more as we have seen in Italy, Spain or in New York, that has implemented a curfew, if we have to go to that direction in this country, people must have money in their bank accounts to be able to go to the supermarket and ensure their families have stuff to eat."
Noting schools and universities have been closed temporarily until April 20 because of covid19, the minority assemblyman said: "We have parents who have children at home. And we all know when you have children at home they eat ten times more than they eat when they are at school. Every couple of seconds they want a snack or something to drink."And, it is unfair to these categories of workers for them to work and when they are due their payments, which isn't a lot because they are at the bottom of the food chain in terms of salaries range, they can't get it to do what they need to do with their families."
Augustine raised the issue during a PDP meeting on March 7 at Milford Court, Bon Accord. On that occasion, he had accused the government of giving out monthly disbursements as opposed to quarterly subventions to the THA for the payment of wages and other expenses.
The Speyside/L'Anse Fourmi/Parlatuvier representative said, then, the situation was causing hardship for various categories of workers as they were repeatedly being paid late.Augustine told reporters on Tuesday, several groups of workers, including those in an agricultural development programme, still have not been paid.
He said given the covid19 pandemic, the THA should be more considerate."So, I am begging the THA on their behalf. In fact, I should not be begging. This is vexatious. It is unfair. It is patently unfair to have people three and four fortnights without their salaries."
Augustine added: "If they get sick then they will need to purchase medication, they may need to purchase foodstuff to put in their pantries at home, they will need to ensure that WASA does not cut their water and T&TEC their lights during this period. Let us be fair to these categories of workers please."