Out of luck
Former NCC workers desperate for outstanding monies
Cynthia Ifill broke down in tears, overcome by emotions as she spoke of struggling to cope since being laid off by the National Conservation Commission (NCC) seven months ago.
The single mother explained that she was the only breadwinner in her household at the time of her retrenchment since her 30-year-old daughter was laid off a month earlier from one of the hotels.
“It has been very hard and I try to cope because if you don’t try and get things in place and ask God for help, you will sit down and begin to think about it and wonder why things are being unfairly done to you without any reason,” said the Ellerton, St George woman, who was visibly upset.
Ifill worked at the NCC for six years, most recently in the maintenance department.
She was among close to 200 employees at the statutory body affected by the retrenchment which formed part of the Freundel Stuart administration’s plan to cut the public sector workforce by 3,000 due to fiscal constraints.
With her daughter and 10-year-old grandson to support, Ifill said it is only her faith in God that was keeping her going.
Compounding her problems is a foot injury which, she said, resulted from falling down twice within weeks while working at NCC. Additionally, she requires regular medical check ups after having her thyroid removed some time ago.
“I am trying, I am trying. Some days you could eat a good meal and the next day you have to compromise with whatever little bit there is to eat,” she said.
“I have bills to pay, I went and took out a loan, I wanted to start to build my home. What am I to do? I need my severance, I need it.”
A similar picture was painted by Barbara Clarke, a ex-general worker at NCC.
“Things aren’t good because I’m the only breadwinner. My mother gets pension but I still have two children to support so sometimes it does be tough. Right now the unemployment benefits is over so I’m just barely holding on,” said the 58-year old woman who worked with the commission for five years.
Clarke has a 19-year-old son and a 14-year-old-daughter, both of whom are in school.
“The best thing about school is that I don’t have to pay bus fare for her (my daughter) but my son has to get bus fare,” she explained, adding that the situation is tough.
Her attempts to find a job, including at the recently held Sandals job fair, have all been unsuccessful, so far.
“I’m just trying different places but some people have called back and [said] they have no vacancy as yet. In the hotel industry where I used to work [I’m being told] that things slow and if things pick up they will try to call but that’s just hopes,” she said, stating she did not know what to do with the Christmas season fast approaching.
“Just yesterday my daughter asked me ‘mommy when we’re going to shop for Christmas’? I say ‘we can’t shop for Christmas because I don’t have a job and I can’t just take up money and there’s nothing to put back and then eventually you don’t have any,” said the 58-year-old.
Another displaced worker, Troy Nicholls, does not have his 18-year-old daughter living with him.
However, he said he was hoping to fund a course in cosmetology so she could pursue her dream.
“At the end of the month is when I have to do the majority of things like pay bills and buy food so it’s really hard trying to cope and keep my head above water,” he explained.
The St Thomas resident has had difficulty seeking employment since he suffers with sickle cell, which causes him a lot of pain at times.
At this point, he believes the answer to his problem is to work on his own.
“I’m in the process of looking to either deal with agriculture because theres a brethren that has lands and our intention is to plant on the land and make that work for us for the time being.”
Nicholls also sent a message to the administration, which is yet to pay severance to the former workers.
“We’ve been lied to from the beginning. It’s time that the authorities take us seriously and be more transparent when it comes to matters that directly affect poor people . . . I would like all the displaced workers who have been sent home this year to join together with NCC and let us take this fight to the Government,” he added.