Tobago Cepep worker on firing: ‘This is politics’

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Secretary of Community Development Terance Baynes. Photo courtesy THA

Cepep workers on the island have received their termination letters from the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Division of Community Development, Youth Development and Sport.

Last Friday, several workers were given letters signed by the administrator of the division, Earland Kent, which ended their contracts with immediate effect.

Asked how many employees were terminated, Secretary of Community Development Terance Baynes on Monday told Newsday he was out of his office and did not want to guess. However, he promised to bring clarity on Tuesday.

The termination letters said that “the Cepep programme is a national social mechanism aimed at providing short term to medium-term employment for semi-skilled and unskilled persons within their neighbourhoods.”

It said that the THA has had cause to review the operation and administration of the programme, noting that previous reviews were done in 2008 and 2012.

“In the most recent review, 2022, matters of duplication and repletion of functions between the different categories of staff, irreconcilable remuneration packages, a distortion of the reporting relationship with the programme, and the obsoletion of certain positions within the establishment, among other anomalies were discovered.”

It said that as a result of the finding of this review, the THA has revised the organisational structure of the programme for optimum efficiency and service delivery and as to a consequence, all contract positions had been rendered redundant.

Making mention of a May 10 staff meeting, it added that the staff were informed of the revisions and the intended consequential changes with respect to the programme.

“These changes have now come into effect. You will be paid one month’s salary in lieu of notice. Please ensure that all THA property and equipment in your possession are returned to the office of the administrator immediately.”

Although the termination letter was expected, one fired contract worker, who preferred to stay anonymous, told Newsday it was still a difficult experience.

“I am stressed,” she said. “This would be hard on us; some have rent to pay and loans etc.”

Another fired employee told Newsday she was mentally prepared after the last meeting.

“Somehow, I was mentally prepared because I understand that this is politics.

“It is untimely because I am currently in the process of building a house. I have two children, so it is very untimely. I have a mortgage to pay. It happened, luckily I am qualified so I would be looking for employment elsewhere.”

She said she was more concerned about the workers who were removed from the outside gangs and transferred to do office duties.

“They were taught how to do office work, how to do clerical work, and now they have lost their jobs untimely. I real feel it for people like that.”

She said the reality really struck her on Monday morning when she got up and realised, she had no work to go to.

“I don’t know that they understand the Cepep project, what it is about and what the real mandate is. For me, I wasn’t just having them plant flowers, I literally was working with my workers to help them open bank accounts, get their passports ready, get the IDs. These people don’t have passports, birth paper, IDs and driver’s permit – I spent a lot of time trying to raise the way they live.”

However, she doesn’t intend to reapply to the organisation.

“I would not be reapplying for any position with them because I would always be a victim under this PDP administration. I wouldn’t even be looking for a new job in the THA, I rather to go work in the private sector or work for myself.”

Questioned about the future of the programme, Baynes said the staff who received letters are free to reapply.

“When the advertisements go out, all would be invited to reapply for the positions. The advertisement should be in the print media and on social media by the end of this week, hopefully. The advertisements would go out and then the teams would assess the applications and we would go from there.”

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