The cries of pregnant cancer patient Melissa Evans echoed throughout the Port-of-Spain Magistrate’s Court yesterday after she was told she had to spend a night in prison after being denied bail in
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Ministry workers fear for their jobs
The Government yesterday agreed to delay putting to a vote legislation to abolish the Town and Country Planning Division and establish a new National Physical Planning Authority (NPPA). The Planning and Facilitation of Development Bill 2013, which was presented by Planning and Sustainable Development Minister Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie, was instead referred to a select committee of the Senate after a short debate.
This was done after Opposition senator and former planning and development minister Camille Robinson-Regis made the suggestion during her contribution.
The bill seeks to create a new system for physical development and provides for the National Physical Planning Authority (NPPA) to work with the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) to ensure the preservation of the environment as an integral part of the planning process. The legislation also provides for the decentralisation of certain decision-making powers to local government bodies.
Robinson-Regis said yesterday workers of the ministry were concerned about their job security as the Government moves to establish the NPPA to replace the Town and Country Planning Division. She insisted that the Government should not seek to have the legislation passed hurriedly, so that subsequently the President would be unable to proclaim it for years to come. Robinson-Regis stressed there were issues to be sorted out in the bill, which she claimed was flawed.
Tewarie said under the proposed legislation, the municipal authorities would approve about 90 per cent of applications for construction. Tewarie said an official of the ministry would address staff issues arising from the proposed legislation but Robinson-Regis insisted that “absolutely nothing is taking place with regard to the staff.” She told legislators workers in the Planning and Sustainable Development Ministry were “highly uncomfortable about what may happen after this bill becomes law.”
Tewarie had said earlier that ongoing discussions were being held with the union representing the ministry’s workers with respect to possible changes caused by the new legislation. But Robinson-Regis said the meetings with the PSA were “quite secret,” because the staff were totally unaware of how they will transition to the proposed new authority.
Robinson-Regis wanted to know if the 36 employees likely to be affected by the new legislation would be deployed to the municipal corporations, hired by the NPPA or employed elsewhere. She said the new bill was “silent on any transition clauses and consequently there is a certain level of fear that exists at the ministry because people do not know about their job security.” She told legislators the workers “are concerned that after this bill is enacted they may not have a job.”
Tewarie then insisted from his seat: “There is no such fear in my ministry, absolutely none.” Robinson-Regis responded: “Mr Minister, there is a fear of you in the ministry.” She maintained the workers might not have told Tewarie about their concern, “but there is that fear existing in your ministry.” Robinson-Regis insisted the fear was real because there were no provisions in the bill dealing with the issue of transition and “There is a history of your Government getting rid of people for less than this.”
She told the Government not to appoint the person she said it wanted to appoint as Director of Planning at the NPPA. Earlier, Robinson-Regis criticised the Government for not providing a copy of the bill to the Chamber of Industry and Commerce for its consideration.
“It is inconceivable that a bill of this nature could be brought to the Parliament and the Chamber did not have sight of it,” she said. Tewarie said the Town and Country Planning Division was outdated and irrelevant to the needs of society in 2014.