Workers for the Centres for Socially Displaced Persons (CSDP) said they have not been paid their salaries in two months and are also awaiting backpay and overtime payments from as far as April of last year.
Speaking to Newsday by phone, an attendant working at the Port of Spain centre, Rounelia Shallow, said this is affecting all workers, including supervisors and managers.
The CSDP is operated by the Society of St Vincent de Paul. She said when staff spoke to administration at the society, they were told that the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services handles the payment of workers for the centre.
Shallow said workers then visited the ministry and were told that a subvention cheque is usually sent to St Vincent de Paul to assist with salaries and that the society is solely responsible for paying workers.
“We want to know who is lying to us,” said Shallow. A small group of 12 workers gathered outside of Express House on Tuesday to protest.
“We’re trying to let (administration) know we have bills to pay.”
Shallow said one member of staff was recently put out of his apartment because he was unable to pay his rent.
The CSDP provides social work services, including counselling and intervention. Shallow said the centres care for the homeless, fire and flood victims, and mental patients.
In a statement, the Minister of Social Development Donna Cox said the government provides a quarterly subvention to assist with recurrent expenditure.
“St Vincent de Paul is an autonomous non-governmental organisation with its own governance structure,” said the statement. “The staff at the CSDP is the sole responsibility of the St Vincent de Paul Society.”
Cox said workers approached the ministry’s office on February 26 claiming it did not pay them for the months of January and February.
“It should be noted that the State remains committed to supporting institutions for the socially displaced via the payment of subventions, but there has been some unforeseen delays with regard to payment of subventions to all non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
“The (ministry) humbly regrets this situation and is working with the relevant authorities to address the matter within the constraints brought about by our country’s financial realities following covid19.”
She added the ministry would meet with the Society of St Vincent de Paul to address administrative and financial challenges faced by the institution.