THE Trinidad and Tobago Contractors Association (TTCA) has asked Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young to allow construction workers to qualify for the Salary Relief Grant for individuals who lost their income during the current restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of covid19.
TTCA president Glenn Mahabirsingh told Newsday this on Thursday.
The TTCA had first called for help for these workers on May 19, days before the restrictions on employment and business had been due to end on May 23, but instead the Prime Minister extended the restrictions to July 4.
Mahabirsingh said the association made its request on Wednesday during a virtual meeting between business groups including the TTCA and a Cabinet team led by Young.
"He said that within one week, he would come back to us."
Mahabirsingh also said he had again written to Finance Minister Colm Imbert to plead the case of construction workers, after a previous letter which he did not think had yielded the desired results.
On May 19, he had written to Imbert to ask for construction workers to get the grant – as they were entitled to during last year's restrictions – as he noted that this time the ministry had invited applications from workers in the food/restaurant, cinema/entertainment, amusement parks and retails sectors, but not construction workers.
"We are kindly requesting a review of this listing to include workers in the construction sector as many of our contractors and by extension their subcontractors will not be able to compensate these workers during the month of May," he had said, lamenting the workers had worked for just one week in May.
Last Friday at a virtual briefing, in reply to a reporter's question, Imbert said he had not yet made any decision in favour of the construction workers, but was open-minded. However, he said it was hard to determine which workers had been employed at the time the restrictions were imposed, and that these workers were too numerous.
Mahabirsingh on Thursday repeated to Newsday the view he had expressed last Friday that many workers (especially in the larger construction firms) were registered to pay income tax, NIS and health surcharge, and so should be recognised to receive the grant. This included workers such as carpenters who move from job site to job site, he had added.
Mahabirsingh showed Newsday a copy of his second letter to Imbert, dated May 25, again asking for help for construction workers.
The letter said, "These workers fall into areas like masons, electricians, plumbers, drivers, quarry machine operators, loaders, checkers, roof technicians, welders and many more who will be greatly affected...
"Honourable Minister, it is conservatively estimated that 40,000-50,000 workers and their families would be affected by this measure and workers would be out of an income for over two months."
Mahabirsingh said Imbert had not directly replied to his first letter but had indirectly responded by way of his briefing last Friday.
He said the TTCA was now continuing its lobbying efforts.
"Yesterday (Wednesday) the TTCA was part of a meeting chaired by Minister Young with other Cabinet ministers. We did table again that matter in terms of the Salary Relief Grant for construction industry workers.
"The takeaway was that they would listen to the concern and they would follow up with the minister of finance."
Mahabirsingh told Newsday he estimated TT has 40,000-50,000 construction workers of all categories, of whom he estimatned about 30,000 regularly paid income tax, NIS and/or health surcharge.
Newsday sent a text to Young for an update on any decision but up to press time he had not replied.