National Security Minister Stuart Young says all 50 Tobago fire-fighting trainees scheduled to commence training today (Friday) will do so as planned.
The announcement came on the heels of 26 trainees being told last Tuesday, during their orientation session, that they will not be allowed to continue, while trainees from Trinidad would be sent to Tobago to take their places without any valid explanation. The revelation did not sit well with the disgruntled trainees, who felt they were being disenfranchised.
The group had received confirmation letters as well as the go-ahead to purchase approximately $5,000 in gears in preparation for training before they were told the training was scrapped. Others in the group were concerned about their futures, as some of them had resigned their jobs and sold valuables in order to take up their new roles.
But speaking at the post-Cabinet news briefing on Thursday, Young said he was made aware of the matter at the opening of the newly-built Shirvan Road Police Station earlier this week and immediately contacted Acting Chief Fire Officer Kenny Gopaul and the matter was addressed.
Tobago MP Ayanna Webster-Roy, as well as THA Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles, who were made aware of the situation, also made representations to Young to have the matter resolved
"I am happy to say today all fifty recruits going forward, going into this batch of recruitment in Tobago will come from Tobago, because certain persons had received letters of offer, offering them to come training and when they arrived for orientation, they were told they would no longer be absorbed into this batch and that had created some level disconcertment as you would expect,” Young said.
“That has now been resolved. The full batch of 50 persons who are being recruited in Tobago will be taken in Tobago, there are 15 extra fire recruits who were going from Trinidad to Tobago, they will now be absorbed in Trinidad, so the full batch of recruits in Tobago will be Tobagonians."
In September 2018, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Fire Service, Division of Community Development, Enterprise Development and Labour and the Argyle Village Council was signed, signalling the start of a relationship among the three parties to have 50 Tobagonian trainees desirous of joining the Trinidad and Tobago Fire Service train on the island. The new agreement was developed so that more persons from Tobago would participate in the training but also diminished the added pressure of being in an unfamiliar location.
The Argyle facility has the capacity to accommodate 80 recruits at any given time. Plans are also underway to construct two new fire stations at Roxborough and Black Rock. However, Young said going forward the ministry will try to maintain the system and as the new fire stations are opened there would be additional employment.
He also reminded recruits that due to limited vacancies on the island, when their training is completed some would be assigned to work in Trinidad
"What I'm going to put on the table at this stage, is for those recruits being trained in Tobago, understand that at the end of your training once you're successful there may not be 50 job positions for fire officers in Tobago, so some will have to work in Trinidad, but the good news is all who were made the offers are being absorbed in Tobago," he said.
The recruits are scheduled to commence training at 0600 hours on Friday.