Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Minority Leader Kelvon Morris said the use of performance appraisals would have been a better alternative to the firing of workers and would have addressed inefficiency within the assembly.
He was speaking on the Minority Report programme, which was shown on Tobago Updates social media pages on Tuesday.
At a post-Executive Council media briefing in April, THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said that several units in the Assembly required some restructuring in order to make them efficient. To date, three units have been restructured with the latest being Cepep, under the Division of Community Development, Youth Development and Sport. Other units are the Monitoring and Evaluation Unit, under the Division of Infrastructure, and the Community Partnership Unit, under the Office of the Chief Secretary.
Morris said while he understands the need for action, it could have been dealt with in a different way.
“We are saying that there are other ways. We were willing to work with them, come up with the programmes and the policies that would ensure that they expand the Tobago economy that we can include more Tobagonians.”
He said if there was a need to treat with efficiency, then a performance-management system would have solved that.
“Create a performance-management system that would flush out the persons who are not performing, because once their contracts come up for renewal and they did not perform to the standard and the expectation, then the performance-management system would kick in and therefore you would have grounds not to renew and proper grounds founded in proper industrial-relations practices.”
Augustine has defended the firing of the Monitoring and Evaluation Unit, saying staff there were not qualified for the jobs they were required to do. Secretary of Community Development Terance Baynes said the restructuring of Cepep had become necessary as it was "top heavy" and the programme was not achieving its objectives.
Morris has described the firing of workers as “heartless.”
He said, "These people are Tobagonians, first and foremost; and more than that, a number of these said people really voted for the PDP because they believed the assurances of the PDP that no public officer, no contract officer would be affected. They are on record saying that to the contracted workers, that they have nothing to worry about – the Chief Secretary himself gave that assurance and then you turn around in the same breath and these innocent, hardworking Tobagonians, you are sending home by the droves.”
He said the contract workers should have been offered a severance package.
“You’re not even giving them something to cushion – some kind of separation package that would allow them sometime to ketch themselves and put them back on their feet. You are sending them home basically with one month’s salary to go and live an entire life.
"People have children, they have bills, they have their loans, they have rent to pay and all this happening at a time where you’re not seeing the food cards as you’re used to. People can’t get rental assistance. So it is really disheartening.”
He said that the new “Minority report” show is another avenue for the members of the PNM Tobago Council to reach out and stay connected to the people.
“As a minority, we would have said from very early we want to be very inclusive, very accessible, and we want to ensure that every step of the way that we take the interest of the Tobago and the views of Tobagonians on board.”
Minority Councillor Petal Daniel-Benoit said that the minority would continue to be an advocate for all of Tobago.
“We are not only advocate for persons who would have supported the People’s National Movement in the last election, but we are advocating on behalf of every single Tobagonian.”