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Suruj defends $69 a day offer: It’s more than minimum wage (with CNC3 video)
Local Government Minister Dr Suruj Rambachan says the $69 a day being offered to workers under the People and Projects for Progress programme is on par with other part-time jobs falling under his ministry. Rambachan was speaking with reporters yesterday during his visit to the Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation, Centenary Street, Tunapuna.
He was commenting on protests over the past two days by residents of east Port-of-Spain who became angry on learning they would be offered $69 a day for work under the new programme. National Security Minister Jack Warner launched the programme last Wednesday at the St Paul’s Street Gymnasium, saying it was aimed at job creation, poverty eradication and crime reduction in the district.
“It is not $69 per day and we expect a URP (Unemployment Relief Programme) worker to give four hours of work,” he said. Rambachan said labourers were to be paid $17.25 an hour, which is $5 more than the minimum wage. “As far as I know, CEPEP workers get $89 a day and they work six hours a day. Nobody told them they are going to work eight hours a day and get paid $69. It is for four hours,” he said.
Rambachan said there were 4,000 other people who get the same amount of money for working between four and five hours a day. “We are reforming and revitalising the URP programme whose subvention is $389 million,” he said. He said $253 million of that was being paid in wages to URP workers which averaged approximately $1 million a day.
“The corporate sector and other businesses contribute to the fund, and as a result, there will be value for the money being spent and you will add value by infrastructure,” he said. “It was a total misconception to say they are working for $69 a day. The difference is that the projects will be managed by the army and that is for several reasons, because the engineering battalion wants to develop more skilled people as a community outreach and do supervision and mentoring.”
He said the workers could be certified to get better employment which would allow them to graduate to the private sector and earn more money. When questioned about $69 not being enough to take care of a family’s daily expenses, he said: “We are trying to develop people to go into the private sector and get higher wages.
“It is an empowering programme where they can graduate into higher-paying jobs...The URP programme was never meant to provide sustainable jobs and they developed a culture to come back and work a fortnight (rather) than have jobs with greater longevity,” he said. Rambachan said the PPP programme fell under the URP, despite previous claims that it did not.
“I spoke with them (residents) and Minister Warner (National Security Minister Jack Warner). It falls under the URP programme, and I maintain that. It was never said to them that it wasn’t at all. That is where the funding comes to do that,” he said.
Meanwhile, he said the councillors on the San Juan/Laventille Regional Corporation have been working hard and there were many projects available. “I have been in touch with the councillors and most of them are working hard and in the last few months they have managed to up the ante on development work for 2011 and 2012,” he said.
“For the first time, local government corporations are already advertising tenders for 2012 and 2013 and they are ready to go out and work. They have finished all the detailed estimates for their jobs from at least 12 out for the 14 corporations.”
Rambachan said 297 road-paving jobs are now up for grabs, along with 293 drainage projects.
“There the councillors have their development programme going and we are going to the Ministry of Finance for the assurance of funds and then all the work will start,” he said. He said 600 projects in 600 communities would be available before Christmas, as well as 125 community projects and 100 construction projects. “It demonstrates the Government is delivering and have brought about a substantial change,” he said.
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