TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO Contractors Association (TTCA) president Glenn Mahabirsingh on Friday called on Finance Minister Colm Imbert to reconsider his denial to construction workers of the Salary Relief Grant which is given to workers who are prevented from working in May during the restrictive period designed to stop the spread of covid19.
Mahabirsingh spoke to Newsday an hour after Imbert announced aid at a virtual briefing, but in reply to a reporter’s question had specified that construction workers would not be ineligible.
Imbert explained their exclusion from the grant by describing the nature of their job as itinerant and said there were simply too many of those workers. “It is difficult to determine if someone was employed,” he said.
Imbert said he had taken note of concerns about this position but had taken no decision to alter his stance.
Mahabirsingh told Newsday that many workers had been contacting his association to champion their cause, saying, “Everybody is anxious to know their status.”
He said on Wednesday he sent Imbert a letter requesting a revisit of his stance.
The letter said the TTCA had noted 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.”
Mahabirsingh told Newsday these workers had worked just for one week in May but had been out of work for three weeks and if the strictures went until the end of June they would be out of work for almost eight weeks.
He made the point that many construction workers especially in the larger construction firms are in fact registered to pay tax, NIS and the health surcharge.
He said even workers such as carpenters who might move quickly from one job to another often were registered with the authorities.
“Yes, they move around, but they are part of the system.” Saying the country could have 30-40 construction firms each with as many as 700 employers, he calculated that the number of construction workers registered to pay tax, NIS and/or health surcharge could be as many as 30,000.
Mahabirsingh noted that in last year’s lockdown construction workers had been allowed to apply and he personally knew such workers who had received the grant.